The Pool Is Open

Think of yourself as an intrepid, globe-trotting traveler that’s been everywhere—and then some? Unless you’re certified to scuba dive, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Turks and Caicos - Salt Kay
WINDOW INTO THE AQUATIC WORLD: Diving the wreck of the HMS Endymion in the Turks and Caicos (PhotoDisc)
Who Is PADI?

When it comes to scuba diving, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors is the industry standard. It’s the most respected and recognized diving certification program in the world. Safety reigns paramount, instructors are the best there are, and holding a certification card will let you dive anywhere in the world.

Plus: Check out our Lonely Planet Diving & Snorkeling excerpts

Think of scuba diving certification as a passport to the other two-thirds of the world, a locale teeming with flora and fauna more brilliantly-colored and vibrant than an Outback sunset, and a geography more dramatic and varied than the slot canyons of the southwestern United States—and that’s just what you’ll see.

If it wasn’t for the fact that you were submerged in water, the weightless, utterly liberating sensation of scuba diving would make you think you’re flying. Instead, you’re defying the physical realm in another (rather obvious) manner: by breathing underwater. But don’t sweat that discontinuity. With the proper training, scuba diving is one of the safest activities going, and one of the easiest to learn.

Initially the equipment alone can overwhelming, to say nothing of the counterintuitive ability of breathing underwater. But don’t feel discouraged by its seeming complexity. Think about the first time you drove a car. You were overly aware of everything. The movement of the vehicle, the speed you were driving, the countless potential for danger lurking at every intersection and turn. But once you got used to it—the steering wheel, shifting, changing lanes, the rear view mirror—you realized you’re in complete control and just drove. Scuba diving works in much the same way.

Under the trained tutelage of a PADI-certified instructor, the chaos of tubes, wet suits, vests, fins, snorkels, and tanks will quickly become secondhand, and that feeling of claustrophobia some experience will dissolve as you get used the activity. Better still, the course itself is performance-based; you set the pace, and don’t advance until you are comfortable with what you’ve already learned.

Learning to scuba isn’t just about diving, either. It’s reinventing the world into a new list of global locales—and then going there. It’s about drinking rum-infused sundowners on the Caribbean coast, catching a glimpse of pilot whales riding the early morning current out to sea, being startled by the explosion of stars across an infinite sky after emerging from your first night dive—in addition to seeing the first octopus by flashlight, letting the current carry you across a forest of vermilion fan coral on a drift dive, or navigating through your first shoulder-width reef fissure at 80 feet below the surface…

And unlike skiing, cycling, hiking, and other travel-centric active pursuits, the end goal of scuba diving isn’t to exert energy; it’s to relax, to enter a near-meditative state with the minimal amount of physical activity while becoming enveloped in the aquatic world. Simplify your movements to the occasion fin kick or arm stroke and your oxygen will last longer, meaning you keep exploring.

But that particular skill comes with lots of experience. To get started, the first step is to sign up for an open water diver course.

Nathan Borchelt is the lead editor for

Published: 30 Jan 2007 | Last Updated: 7 Nov 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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