5 TIPS TO HELP CHOOSE A DIVE CENTRE IN THE UK
You know what, choosing a dive centre in the UK is a pretty big decision! It doesn't matter if you’re completely new to diving, or you’re a salty sea dog looking for their next adventure - picking a dive centre is hard because there’s sooo much choice!
In this article I’m going to help you choose a dive centre in the UK that is perfect for you. You can apply these tips when you’re researching any course (anything from beginner to professional level like Divemaster or Instructor), when you’re looking for a club, a trip, some equipment - you name it these tips will help.
Before we start…
… you need to know that the most important thing is to find a dive centre that you click with. One where you feel welcome and safe - somewhere you really fit in.
The only way to find out is to contact lots of different dive centres and do your due diligence. Research a dive centre in the UK by:
A. Looking at their website - do you like it? Is there lots of info, pics, details about the team? Do they have lots going on in their calendar? Do they blog regularly?
B. Stalking their social media - you can get a good feel for the ethos of the dive centre and how active they are by checking out their posts.
C. Send them an email - what kind of reply do you get? Is it personal or just a standard template response?
D. Give them a ring - ask lots of questions! Do you pick up on a feeling about the people you’re talking to? Do you like it? Are they helpful?
E. Drop in for a visit - go and have a look around the dive centre and meet the team. This has got to be the best way to make sure there’s a connection.
During this research phase, there’s 5 things you should be looking for to help choose the perfect dive centre in the UK…
1. The People
I’ve put this one first for a reason - it really is the people who make a dive centre special over everything else. The dive centre could have the best facility you’ve ever laid eyes on, but if you don’t click with the people then you will never get the most out of it.
There’s two categories of people who hang around dive centres - the team and the regular divers.
It’s super important that you get a feel for the team you’ll be working with. The best way to do this would be on a dive centre visit so they can introduce themselves. You’ll know pretty quickly if you’re going to get on with them.
Connecting with the team is particularly important if you’re looking to do a course with the dive centre. You’re going to be spending a lot of time with your Instructor during your training. You need to find out if they will be a good teacher for you. You also need to get a feel for if you trust them and will feel safe in the water with them.
If you’re looking to take a Divemaster program or Instructor Development Course with the team, it's imperative you find mentors that you click with. They’re going to shape your future career and you need to find Staff Instructors, Master Instructors and Course Directors that you can milk for all they’re worth!
Look for teams that include a mixture of skills and experience levels. Watch how they interact with each other and their customers. Trust your gut.
The other bunch of people you’ll get to hang out with are the divers themselves. Some dive centres in the UK have clubs that go out diving regularly. These divers are most likely pretty independent and organise outings between themselves. Others (like The Fifth Point) have a more hands-on approach where all the dives are guided by a pro and all the logistics, equipment, safety essentials etc. are taken care of by the centre. Check out our diver subscription Submerge to see what I mean.
The best way to scope out the divers is to pop along to a social event or drop by an organised dive so you can have a bit chinwag. They might even have a Facebook group where you can meet virtually too. Look for people who you think you’ll get along with, this way you'll find lots of like-minded buddies.
2. The Culture
It’s not just the people you have to click with. You need to get a feel for the culture of the dive centre to make sure it aligns with your personal values and beliefs.
For example, if you’re mad keen on protecting the ocean and everything that lives there, you're probably not going to enjoy diving with a centre that spearfishes or hunts lobsters during their dives.
You’ll get a good feel for this while you’re looking around their website and social media and you’ll see if this matches when you start communicating with them directly.
Speaking from personal experience and hearing horror stories from my diving buddies, you’ll pick up on the dive centre culture as soon as you walk in the door. So many people say that they’ve found dive centres intimidating and unwelcoming. If you experience this when you visit then steer well clear!
3. The Diving
Where do you want to go diving? A lot of dive centres in the UK are located inland. If you’ve got your heart set on diving in the ocean, you need to do a bit of digging to find out exactly where you’ll be hitting the water.
Often lakes and quarries are regular fixtures of UK diving. While you will absolutely love them and there are some cracking freshwater sites, doing all your training in a silty quarry with limited visibility and limited depth will get boring after a while.
Most people get into scuba to dive in the ocean. Make sure you’re going to get that chance by picking a dive centre that dives regularly in the sea at home and on trips.
And on that note, you also need to find out how regularly the dive centre gets in the water.
- How often do they hit the pool? Is it on a certain night each week or do they jump in whenever they want?
- How often do they go out out? Is it only a couple of times a month? Is it every weekend? Do they dive through the week too?
Whatever the schedule, does that fit in with your life or are you going to struggle to get wet?
4. The Facilities
There’s going to be big differences in the facilities that each dive centre in the UK has access to. You need to have a bit of a nosey around to find out what they’ve got.
- Firstly, do they have a physical location - a bricks and mortar building? Some dive centres don’t have a base that you can visit and instead run everything at the dive sites they visit.
- Do they have a pool on site, or do they use their local leisure centre?
- Do they have a shop that sells equipment?
- Where do they store the equipment? Are their facilities for cleaning, disinfecting and drying gear in between dives?
- And on the subject of equipment - what type of gear do they use? Does it look a bit old and tatty or is it well looked after?
- Do they service their own gear and have a workshop full of tools for when things break?
- How do they get stuff to dive sites? Do they have a dive van or do you need to pick your gear up and take it with you?
- What safety equipment do they have? At a minimum they should have a basic first aid kit and emergency oxygen. Do they have any extra gear like defibrillators, tourniquets, airway management etc?
- And most importantly… is there somewhere you can have a cuppa?!
I’m not saying that the best dive centre in the UK needs to have all of those things listed above. They’re just things that you should be looking out for as they mark a well organised, safety conscious and professional operation.
5. The Price
Last but not least is the price and it's last for a reason! I honestly believe it should be at the bottom of your pile of considerations when you choose a dive centre in the UK.
During your research, you’re probably going to find a massive variation in prices. Believe me when I say that going for the cheapest option is not necessarily the best option!
Cheap diving prices tend to set off alarm bells in my head for a number of reasons:
- Are courses going to be high quality or are corners getting cut?
- Will I be in a massive group of other divers and not get the individual attention that I need?
- Is this diving safe?
- Are they paying the staff? (Yes, this is a massive problem in dive centres in the UK!)
I certainly wouldn't be picking the cheapest option if I was going sky diving or bungee jumping!
There’s no denying that good scuba diver training costs money and when it comes to dive trips and excursions, you really do get what you pay for.
Make sure you ask lots of questions to find out exactly what’s included in your chosen package (watch out for hidden costs - particularly at the professional level). And then use the information you’ve gathered about the people, the culture, the diving and the facilities to decide if you think the price is good value for money.
There’s also a little hack you can employ to make sure your chosen dive centre is right for you. Start off with a taster session to test the water (pun intended). These are usually much cheaper and a great way to see how you really get on with the people and what you think of the facilities.
For example, if you’re a complete beginner, you could start off with a try dive before committing to learning to dive and the full course. It’s a fraction of the price and the great news is that it could even credit towards the full training!
If you’re already qualified then sign up to a skills workshop or a refresher if you’ve been out of the water for a while. You’ll be able to scope the dive centre out without a massive commitment.
I hope that’s helped you choose a dive center in the UK…
I wish I could choose for you, but I can’t because a) I’d be totally biased hah! And b) every diver is different and every dive centre is different. If you spend a little bit of time researching and calling into different centres I promise you’ll find one that is the best fit for you.
And if you’re looking for a dive centre that…
- is full of amazing people who will make you feel welcome
- is passionate about protecting the ocean
- gets salty as much as possible
- Has great facilities
- And is fantastic value for money
… then give me a shout! The Fifth Point will be right up your street! We’d love you to call in, have a look around and meet the team. You can make an appointment to do that here. The kettle is always on plus Haldane and Buoy are waiting for cuddles 😉