Scuba diving lessons, which organisation do you choose and why?

The fact that you have opened this page means it is likely you are considering scuba diving lessons, or want some information for someone else to take scuba diving classes.

For me this is almost like saying – welcome to the opportunity to explore part of the other 75% of our planet! Personally I believe the more people we can introduce to scuba diving, the more people there are to spread the word about that facet of our world and will join in caring for and protecting it.

There are some important things to understand about scuba diving lessons and why –

Your safety

This is paramount and should not be under-estimated. Going through the various scuba dive instruction which is available, and some of which is mandatory, will ensure you are conversant with the scuba diving facts which will protect you and your fellow divers from harm in most circumstances.

The scuba diving lessons are designed to enable you, through further experience, to understand scuba diving, the risks involved and the methods or practices in which you carry out the sport to ensure you have the foundation upon which to build your experience.

Marine protection or conservation

There are statistics which indicate high levels of damage inflicted upon coral reefs as a result of diver related activity.

Part of this is as a result of poor discipline on the part of some divers and part due to poor diver competence - divers poor buoyancy resulting in scuba divers bumping the reef and breaking corals.

Scuba diving certification means what?

On completion of a scuba diving certification course, a student is issued a Certification card, or as you will often see reference to - a C-Card.

When you arrive at a dive resort or centre, they will ask to see you card to confirm you are suitably qualified for the dives you wish to undertake.

Scuba diving is largely self-regulated and through the affiliations to the various organisations such as SSI, PADI and NAUI, standards are maintained in diving safety as well as quality of service offered by the various dive operations. The organisations play a role in advancement of diving medicine, marine conservation and safety standards.

The pros and cons of the various organisations are hotly debated – often getting very heated in the forums online – I think if you filter through the emotion, very often the selection of the agency you are going to deal with amounts to a personal decision based upon a rapport you have with the Dive Centre and mainly who the instructor is. The instructor must make you feel you are being trained properly, without short cuts.

This is vital, you would not believe some of the things you see when you are diving, people diving who have seem to have either had a minimum of training or shouldn’t have qualified.

Examples of poor training

I recall a woman ‘walking’ along the bottom – buoyancy control was non-existent.

Another person nearly drowned the dive master getting tangled in his equipment, she having lost one of her fins earlier in the dive. In the current she was now hanging onto the dive master's buoyline while her legs were in amongst his high pressure hoses

A couple diving and continuing their dive while sharing air – no intention of surfacing when the one ran out, which in itself is an absolute no-no!

All of these incidents have the potential to endanger the other divers’ lives, when someone suffers an accident, others will often have to put their own lives at risk attempting to save them.

There are several organisations through which scuba certification can be gained



National Association of Underwater Instructors

NAUI are a North American based organisation started in about 1960 in Los Angeles. They were the first Scuba certification group and remain a non-profit organisation.

Their scuba diving instruction courses are very similar to PADI and opinions differ quite strongly from person to person as to which is better.

A common opinion is that NAUI tend to be more flexible in their training material. Their training is of a high standard.

Professional Association of Dive Instructors Logo


Professional Association of Dive Instructors

PADI are the most common and indeed popular organisation in the industry, originally based in the United States. They were started in 1966 and unlike NAUI, are a commercial entity. Their founding strategy was to improve the quality of Scuba diving lessons by providing a wider variety of courses. The emphasis in their scuba dive instruction is on the practical aspect. Scuba lessons are now commonly available online – that is the theory side of things obviously!

They provide a foundation of understanding the physics of breathing underwater and the effects upon the body at depth along with many aspects of diver safety. Their programme includes a variety of specialty courses ranging from wreck diving, cave diving to underwater photography courses.

Statistics say they have certified 55% of divers worldwide and certainly in my experience they appear to be the most widely affiliated organisation.

British Sub Aqua Club Logo


British Sub Aqua Club

This is a club in origin and was formed in 1953. It was formed in the United Kingdom and is reputed to have over 50 000 members with over 1100 dive clubs. They have diving schools all over the world. BSAC offer several specialty courses as well, much in the same vein as the other organisations.

Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques


Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques/ The World Underwater Federation

A subtle difference here in the claims to be first at something – CMAS were the first international diver training organisation

They were founded in 1959 and organised under the direction of Jacques Cousteau.
They are represented in more than 100 countries and claim their scuba diving lessons are based upon a theme of simplicity, clarity and an emphasis on avoiding ‘marketing hype’. Something you can understand as I have to be honest - certainly PADI are there to make money and the more scuba diving lessons they can offer and encourage their divers to subscribe to the longer they stay in business – and good luck to them!
CMAS are in operation to maintain a philosophy geared towards maintaining standards in quality of education.

Scuba Schools International


Scuba Schools International

This is a United States organisation with representation around the world, with 27 Regional and area offices.

Their scuba diving lessons have a good reputation and strong following both amongst Dive Centres/shops and resorts.

For more detail on the specific courses and what they entail, click on the links below:

Open Water

Now you have an idea what scuba diving lessons have to offer, click here to see where you can dive

Read about advanced diver certification

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