Brisbane Dive Academy:
We booked a weekend recreational diver certification course with the Brisbane Dive Academy. We chose the Brisbane Dive Academy for four reasons:
- It got pretty good reviews online.
- It was a good deal because they were having a Winter Special promotion (much cheaper than our local dive shop in Boston).
- We wanted to get certified before our trip to Heron Island so we could dive with our friend Brad, who was already a certified diver.
- They didn't require us to book a medical exam with a doctor which would have cost us additional time and money (many of the other dive schools required this). Since we had both had check-ups before we left on our trip, we were confident we met the health requirements for recreational diving.
Steps to Get Certified:
- Step 1: This step is the least fun - course work. Each of us spent about 8-10 hours taking courses and tests online in Brisbane. You must pass the final exam in order to continue on to the confined water dive.
- Step 2: Complete basic swimming challenges in the pool to prove you can swim.
- Step 3: Learn how to put your equipment together.
- Step 4: Confined dive which consists of several dives in a swimming pool where you prove that you can perform various tasks underwater.
- Step 5: Four dives in the ocean, where you do the same tasks over again in a real world setting.
Our certification course crammed this all into a busy Saturday and Sunday.
We finished up our pool stuff by lunchtime on Saturday and embarked on an hour and a half drive to our dive site. Brissie is surrounded by loads of water, so we assumed that the fact they were bringing us an hour and a half away meant we were going to a really amazing dive site.
We were wrong. We ended up in Tweeds Head, diving in the mouth of some river south of Brisbane, as the tide was going out. This meant you could see for about a foot or two in front of you because of all the silt that was being stirred up. It also meant we had to swim against a serious current. It was a somewhat disappointing (and slightly scary) first dive experience.
The next day we returned to the same spot for our next three ocean dives. Fortunately, the tide was coming in at that point and the water was clear, so we could see a lot more. Anyway, we jumped through a few more hoops and three dives later, we were officially certified scuba divers!
Overall, the program was very efficient and got us our certification pretty quickly. I liked the instructors, especially Ben Hamilton, with whom we spent the most time. He really knew his stuff and we felt most comfortable with him underwater. My only two complaints are:
- I still am not sure why we had to drive an hour and a half to go to one of the worst dive locations in Australia. The good news is that every other dive we will do going forward will (hopefully) be an improvement!
- They ran out of small BCD vests, so I got stuck with a vest that was way too big on me. The air tank attaches to the BCD vest, and since the vest was loose, the tank kept shifting making it very difficult to swim. Therefore, I left this course really nervous about diving again. Luckily, I dove again a few days later in a really pretty dive site, with a vest that fit properly, and it was wonderful!
My recommendations to anyone visiting Australia and wanting to get certified would be:
- Get most of your online coursework done before arriving in Australia. There is no sense wasting vacation time taking an online course.
- Do you certification in an area with pretty dives. It will be more expensive, but at least you'll get to see more interesting things during your practice dives. Typically the best diving is between Gladstone and Cairns, which is where the Great Barrier Reef is located, and chances are you'll want to dive here anyway. I recommend Heron Island which I'll write more about later.
Now we are certified scuba divers, so stay tuned for some recaps of our reef diving adventures as we head up the coast!