Checking a Scuba Dive Shop in Thailand
The reefs beckon, the dolphins and rays and turtles are calling your name. Your favorite airline has just announced a fantastic fare to Thailand.
Each dive area has a kit bag full of dive operations, but which ones are safe? Referrals are best, but you don't have any.
What do you look for when scouting out a dive operation?
David Chandler, PADI Instructor in Pattaya, recommends:
About Dive Shops
Just because a shop has a 5-star rating doesn't mean it is guaranteed to be good. It just means it has met the requirements of the diving agency it represents. It's not unheard of for a dive shop to falsely claim affiliation to an agency and use all their publicity material.
In the case of PADI, the biggest diving agency in the world, all that is required to become a 5-star outlet is; the shop needs to complete a certain number of certifications, produce a monthly newsletter and have it's air quality checked periodically. It can check the air itself!
No agency, has a policy of checking or policing their affiliated shops to see that they are meeting these standards.
General Tips for Checking Dive Shops
- Does the shop look clean and efficient?
- Is the equipment room tidy, clean and efficient?
- Do the staff look as though they enjoy their job - bright-eyed, clean clothes, not hung over?
- Is the shop owner around during the day time when you book in - and better still does he go on the trip or at least be there to see it off?
- Do they insist on checking your certification card and maybe your log book?
- Ask if there is a set time limit on dives or is it down to your air consumption or nitrogen load? It can be frustrating to enjoy a 30 minute dive and have to come up with another 30 minutes of air still in your tank.
- Will the trip have a good ratio of professionals to customers on board? Are they experienced instructors who have moved up the ladder from Open Water Scuba instructor to Staff or Master Instructor?
- What brands of equipment are used? Are they well known names like Scuba Pro, Mares, Sherwood, Oceanic? Is the rental stuff individually numbered? This means they can easily identify and deal with any problems that arise.
- Pick up a BCD and check whether the inflator button is sticky and might lead to a runaway ascent.
- Does it hold air or leak?
- Do the fins look as though they have been walking over coral? Are the foot pouches split?
- Does the shop have it's own repair/servicing department on the premises?
- Take a look at the hydro dates on a couple of tanks to see if they are okay. If not then you might be carrying a "bomb" on your back.
- Do they have a wide range of equipment for sale? If not they might be struggling to survive and that can lead to cutting safety standards such as equipment servicing.