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PADI Open Water: A Beginner’s Guide to Scuba Diving Certification

Article by Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah

Posted: March 20, 2023

Have you ever dreamed of exploring the depths of the ocean? Scuba diving can be a thrilling and rewarding way to experience the underwater world, but before you jump in, it’s important to get certified. PADI Open Water is the most popular scuba diving certification in the world, and for good reason. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about getting certified, including the benefits of PADI Open Water, what to expect during the course, top destinations for getting certified, and even how to get certified while volunteering with GVI.

What is PADI Open Water?

PADI Open Water is a scuba diving certification course that teaches you the basics of diving and how to safely explore the underwater world. The course consists of classroom and e-learning sessions, pool sessions to practise skills, and open water dives to apply those skills. The certification is recognized around the world, so once you have it, you’ll be able to dive in any PADI-certified dive centre.

To enrol in the PADI Open Water course, you must be at least 10 years old and in good health. You don’t need any prior diving experience, but you should be comfortable in the water and able to swim 200 metres (or 300 metres with fins) and tread water for 10 minutes.

The course typically takes 3-4 days to complete and covers topics like dive planning, equipment, underwater communication, and safety procedures. You’ll also learn essential skills like clearing your mask, equalising your ears, and controlling your buoyancy. By the end of the course, you’ll be able to dive up to 60 feet (18 metres) deep with a buddy.

The Benefits of PADI Open Water Certification

There are many benefits to getting PADI Open Water certified. Here are a few:

  • Ability to dive independently: Once you’re certified, you can plan and execute your own dives with a buddy, without the need for a professional guide.
  • Opportunity to explore more advanced dive sites: Many dive sites require a certain level of certification, so getting Open Water certified will open up a whole new world of diving opportunities.
  • Access to more dive equipment and dive shops: Some dive shops only rent equipment to certified divers, and some equipment (like dive computers) are only designed for use by certified divers.
  • Enhanced safety skills and knowledge: The PADI Open Water course emphasises safety and teaches you the skills and knowledge you need to be a responsible and confident diver.

What to Expect During the Course

The PADI Open Water course is a combination of classroom and practical training. You’ll start with e-learning sessions that cover the basics of diving theory, then move on to pool sessions where you’ll practise essential skills like regulator recovery, mask clearing, and buoyancy control.

After you’ve mastered those skills in the pool, you’ll head out to the open water for four dives over two days. During these dives, you’ll apply what you’ve learned and practise new skills like navigation, dive planning, and underwater communication. Your instructor will be with you every step of the way, ensuring your safety and providing guidance as needed.

You’ll need to bring or rent some basic equipment for the course, including a mask, snorkel, fins, wetsuit, and dive computer. Your dive shop or instructor will provide a complete list of required and recommended gear.

Top Destinations for Getting PADI Open Water Certification

Scuba diving is a global activity, and there are many fantastic destinations for getting PADI Open Water certified. Here are a few popular options:


Thailand is a great place to learn to dive, with warm waters, beautiful coral reefs, and plenty of dive shops to choose from. Koh Tao is one of the most popular destinations, offering affordable courses and plenty of dive sites for beginners.


Bali is a paradise for scuba divers, with crystal-clear waters, diverse marine life, and a variety of dive sites to explore. The island has many PADI-certified dive centres, making it easy to find a course that fits your schedule and budget.


Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is home to the world-famous cenotes, underwater sinkholes that offer a unique and magical diving experience. The town of Playa del Carmen is a popular base for dive courses and has many PADI-certified dive centres.

Getting Certified by Volunteering with GVI

If you’re looking for a more meaningful and immersive way to get PADI Open Water certified, you might consider volunteering with GVI. GVI is a global organisation that offers sustainable development and conservation projects around the world, including marine conservation projects that include scuba diving.

By volunteering on a PADI diving and marine conservation program with GVI, you’ll not only earn your Open Water certification, but you’ll also learn about marine conservation, work on important research projects, and contribute to the protection of fragile marine ecosystems. GVI offers programs in countries like Thailand, Fiji, Mexico, and Costa Rica, among others.

Getting PADI Open Water certified is a fantastic way to explore the underwater world, enhance your skills and knowledge, and join a global community of scuba divers. Whether you choose to learn in a tropical paradise or through a meaningful volunteer experience, the benefits of certification are many. So why not take the plunge and start your scuba diving journey today?

By Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah is a freelance writer from New Zealand with a passion for outdoor adventure and sustainable travel. She has been writing about travel for more than five years and her work has appeared in print and digital publications including National Geographic Travel, Conde Nast Travel, Business Insider, Atlas Obscura and more. You can see more of her work at petrinadarrah.com.
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