You Can Learn Scuba Diving In Sydney? Here’s What It Looks Like!
Did you know you can learn scuba diving in Sydney? That’s right! You don’t need to head up to the Great Barrier Reef to learn to scuba dive in Australia! With plenty of incredible places to go scuba diving in Sydney, I decided it was time to take my snorkelling skills to the next level!
We are surrounded by water, so rather than snorkelling at the surface, get your scuba diving certification so you can see the coral up close and swim alongside marine life such as turtles, gropers, seals and even octopuses – all found right off the beaches in Sydney!
The Open Water Course not only lets you go scuba diving in Sydney, but it is also an international license that lasts a lifetime. So you can scuba dive in world-renowned dive sites like the Great Barrier Reef, the Maldives and Thailand to name a few.
I took my Open Water scuba diving in Sydney course with Pro Dive which has centres in Alexandria and Manly. Having been a complete beginner and only ever snorkelled before, I’m going to let you know what was involved, how difficult it is, my top tips and everything else you need to know about scuba diving in Sydney.
Table of Contents
What the Scuba Diving Certification Course looks like
I completed the Open Water Scuba Diving Course with Pro Dive in Alexandria and they offer both weekday and weekend courses over two days. The course includes:
Online study and Quizzes
Gear fitting and set up
Pool swim and water treading test
Scuba diving skills lesson in the pool
4 open water dives at two dive sites
Certificate celebration lunch
You will need your own transport between the centre and dive sites or you can pay $50 for membership which includes the transport
I opted for the weekend course and it was structured as follows:
Online study to be completed before the course, 8 modules and 5 quiz exams.
Friday evening 6:30-9:30 pm course introduction, some gear fitting and quiz study
Saturday 7 am – 6 pm swim test, pool diving skills, two relatively easy dives at one dive site
Sunday 7 am – 3 pm two dives at a second dive site, certification and celebration lunch
Once you are certified, you will be able to hire dive equipment or join shore and boat dives and dive up to 20 meters underwater. If you didn’t have a certificate, you can join some trial dive sites but you can’t go down as far and the majority of people on these tours have never dived before so most of the tour is going over skills. With a certificate, you have so much more freedom to actually swim with aquatic life.
Can anyone do an Open Water course in Sydney?
In order to complete the course you need to be able to swim any stroke without stopping for 200 meters and tread water for 10 minutes without struggling. You also need to complete a health form and obtain a medical assessment from your doctor to approve you for the course if you have health conditions.
12 years and over can complete the course and it is designed for beginners so you do not need to be a pro swimmer or have dived before.
What to bring with you
A lot of the course is inclusive of gear but you should bring:
Lunch for the first day (make sure this can be eaten cold and quickly such as a salad or sandwich)
2 litres of water per day
Extras I would recommend you bring:
Thongs or sliders – Easier to put on between the pool and dive sites
Warmer clothes for the end of the day as you will have wet hair
Snacks for quick energy pick-me-up between dives
Scuba dive gear provided for the course
All gear to help you dive is inclusive of the course price including:
Mask (There is an option to buy your own fitted mask and use it in the course)
Buoyancy Control Device (BCD)
Tank for each dive
Online study and learning new scuba diving facts
Before you can start the course, you have to complete the online course of 8 modules and 5 quiz exams. Any questions you don’t get right, you have to acknowledge that you understand the correct answer.
The course covers the equipment, hand signals, physics of scuba diving and safety. The study seems a little daunting at first, especially as it has to cover safety and the worst-case scenarios.
Something I was not aware of with scuba diving is; you have to constantly breathe.
This means that even if you take your mouthpiece out, you are breathing out in one constant breath so that your lungs are still moving. This was something that overwhelmed me before the course as I worried that I could just hold my breath when I panic, but I actually found it a lot easier than I thought during the dives.
Another scuba diving fact I was surprised by is that you have to complete a safety stop on your ascend if you are diving more than 15 meters down. This is so that the air bubbles you have taken in can release slowly rather than building with pressure, just like opening a soda bottle. Reading this safety information before doing the course can overwhelm you but during the course, it makes a lot more sense and you ease into it.
Also, you are provided with a dive computer that calculates your air and safety stops so don’t feel like you must be amazing at science and maths in order to dive. Just like any sport, there are safety precautions to take in.
What the course actually looks like with Pro Dive in Alexandria
I’m going to break it down so you can learn about what a scuba diving in Sydney course actually looks like. Hopefully this will help prepare you as much as possible before you do it too.
Day 1: Taking the online quiz
The Pro Dive centre in Alexandria was easy to find and there is a lot of parking around. Arriving in the evening, they had cheese board platters for all students which was a lovely touch.
We tried on wet boot sizes and marked our fit ready for the next day, I was the same as my shoe size but some people had to go a size up as they are tight fitting. We then went into the classroom and did a few introductions, learning each other’s names and our diving experience. There were only a couple of people who had done guided dives before, the rest were beginners like me, so that was a comfort.
The instructor then goes through the online study and explains some more of the physics in context which really helped me understand it a lot more. You then complete another online quiz with similar questions from your online login. Some people brought tablets but it is completely accessible by phone too.
In my first online course, I got an 80% pass result and in this second one, I got 95% so the in-person study does help a lot.
Day 2: Scuba diving pool practice
Day 2 is an early start at 7 am in Victoria Park Pool in Broadway. Come ready with your swimmers as the swim test starts pretty promptly. I was a little nervous about the swim test as I have never been a really fast swimmer and I prefer breaststroke which is always slower, but I shouldn’t have been as it was not a timed swim at all. It’s a 50 m pool so just 4 lengths and you are done and the majority of people did breaststroke.
Then we were back in the pool to do a 10-minute timed water tread test which was pretty easy, just not touching the bottom or sides of the pool for 10 minutes. I will note that there were a couple of people who did not pass these tests as they were not confident in the water.
Make sure you can thread water for 10 minutes before signing up.
Next, we put on wet suits and are guided through our equipment set-up which is then checked by your diving buddy and instructor. It was then into the water to complete some skills tests and learn how to find our buoyancy by deflating our BCD jackets and descending into the water.
The tests include getting water out of your mask, losing and re-finding your mouthpiece while continually breathing and practising helping your buddy if they have run out of air. All the swimming and tests in the pool are really fun and it eased my mind from all the online study safety information.
Under water, you need a neutral buoyancy to stay down and you control this by your breathing and putting air back into your vest. It was the hardest part to achieve but the instructors told us it can take 10+ dives to get it right.
Day 2: Scuba diving first dive site in Malabar
On the first open water shore dive site in Malabar, I panicked in the water, which is very common. It’s very unnatural to breathe underwater and as you descend you need to equalise your ears just like on a plane and it can be very painful.
I struggled to equalise and then I accidentally let water into my mouthpiece in my panic! I forgot I could get the water out with a button so instead, I ascended to the top to catch my breath.
The dive instructor, Ralph, was able to calm me down completely.
If I’m honest, all the dive instructors were more like meditation coaches and scuba diving is so much easier when you are calm and keep your breathing even.
Once I started thinking of it like a meditation exercise, I relaxed into it and was able to think clearly rather than panic. With all the equipment and safety information, you think it’s going to be an adrenaline-pumping sport but it’s not, it’s incredibly chilled.
So if you do panic, don’t worry! It’s much better that you panic while you have a dive guide to talk you through it rather than being out on your own.
Day 3: Enjoying the second shore dive site at Gordons Bay
The second-day scuba diving in Sydney’s open water is where you can really enjoy it and see the most interesting stuff. We headed to Gordon’s Bay which actually has a chained route around the coral specifically for scuba divers, who knew?
This time, all the rules and safety instructions come naturally and I was confident in calm breathing. However, still struggling to get my buoyancy right and as I descended (mission impossible style) I nearly landed down on a stingray walking along the bottom!
We also swam with the site’s signature species like grey nurse sharks, giant cuttlefish, the friendly eastern blue groper and a sea turtle which was so cool!
Swimming with the turtle is so much more exciting than just seeing it from above when snorkelling.
We completed some more skills tests in the water, including taking off our full BCD and tank and putting it back on without dropping it, which sounded a bit tricky but was actually so much easier than I thought. We also went close to the max depth we are allowed under this certification at 18 meters and I discovered that equalising my ears was much easier the second day.
Tips to pass your scuba diving Sydney course
As an absolute beginner who did panic during the course, I would say it was relatively easy to pass and get certified. I’d say to take each day and task as it comes and to stay calm throughout, the second-day dives are so much fun and you will be glad you signed up, especially if you are lucky enough to swim with the marine life!
My top tips would be:
Ensure you can swim 200 meters but don’t overthink your speed
See scuba diving like meditating, deep tummy breathing and staying calm is needed
Study the modules for the online course but don’t let the information overwhelm you
Remember you can solve any problem under water including getting water in your mask and mouthpiece or running out of air
Would I recommend Scuba Diving in Sydney with Pro Dive?
The open water scuba diving certification with Pro Dive is highly recommended! All the instructors were incredibly calm and knowledgable and brought fun into the course, which is super important if you are nervous.
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