Beware Unscrupulous Dive Centers

It has been peak season teaching English, so I have, sadly, been too busy to dive for too long. However, I have had quite a few students try scuba diving and even get certified during their respective stays in the Philippines. This has allowed me to at least talk about scuba diving during my extended surface interval.

While it is understandable that students would seek out the least expensive dive centers, I have discovered that there are some outright dangerous dive centers around. I actively warn my students about these dive centers, but seemingly to no avail. Fortunately, no one has drowned yet. Unfortunately, I think this is merely because luck has been on their side.

Of most concern, is learning to share air with a fellow first-timer. I learned to share air with a professional instructor, who was ready for every eventuality. Consequently, I had a safe experience. Many of my students, however, told me stories of swallowing considerable water because they and their inexperienced partners made mistakes.

Perhaps you could argue that it is good to train with others, because you never know who you might have to share air with in the real world. I agree. However, I would counter-argue that you should practice first with a professional, become comfortable with the exercise first, and then practice with others. The fact that they swallowed considerable water and I swallowed none indicates to me that my training was considerably safer than theirs.

I think the number one sign that you should avoid a dive center is when you see photos of guests molesting marine life. Whether this means removing sea stars from the ocean or agitating pufferfish or whatever, violating the “don’t touch anything” rule is a good sign that they only want your money. And if money is priority one, safety necessarily isn’t.

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4 thoughts on “Beware Unscrupulous Dive Centers

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  1. It’s incredibly frustrating to see divers (or guides) touch the marine life, whether on purpose or accidentally. It’s also incredibly scary when it’s clear that safety is not a top priority. We went on a dive once where our guide took his own personal camera with him on our dive. He was more into taking his own pictures than watching out for our group of divers that he was supposed to be leading. It’s instances like this that reinforce the notion that you are responsible for yourself (and your buddy) while diving.

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    1. I’ve met professionals who lament the opposite: they never get to take photos because they are busy being professional.

      Conversely, I met a “professional” who somehow lost his novice dive buddy. The “pro” wasn’t leading the overall group, but he let his dive buddy lose track of his depth. So while the group drifted along a wall at 20-25 meters, this novice went down to 45 meters before realizing how deep he was. Then there were a million questions back on the boat regarding his time at depth, his ascent rate, etc. I saw him hours later and he still looked OK, but there was a lot of concern over whether or not he might develop DCS symptoms.

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