The ultimate guide for planning diving holidays

Written by Sam Van den Haute aka CheckOutSam

A diving holiday is something on a wish list for many travelers. It's the best way to discover a big new world: the underwater universe. Whether you go diving with dolphins, whale sharks or manta rays, it'll become a unique experience. In this practical guide, I explain to you what a diving holiday entails, what the best destinations are and what certifications you can get. Whether you're an experienced diver or have to learn to dive still.

Sam Van den Haute CheckoutSam

Hi, I'm Sam, the blogger behind CheckOutSam!

Sam Van den Haute has been a full-time world traveler for ten years and has therefore gained a lot of travel and lifestyle inspiration on all continents. Do you still have questions after reading this blog? Ask them in the comments section or send me a message at [email protected] and I'll be happy to help you wherever I can!

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learn to dive

I myself learned to dive in Phuket, Thailand. Want to know more about diving? Read on!

The best diving destinations

How unique your diving holiday will be depends on the destination you choose. Are you going for a diving holiday in Europe? Or would you like something a bit more exotic? Here are some of the most renowned diving destinations in the world.

SS Thistlegorm, Red Sea, Egypt

The Red Sea in Egypt is perhaps the most popular destination for those who want a diving holiday in Egypt where they can dive to shipwrecks. The SS Thistlegorm was a British transport ship of about 128 meters (420 ft) long that was attacked and sank in 1941 when it was on its journey from Glasgow to Alexandria. On board is still a lot of army equipment including weapons, armored cars and even a locomotive. The shipwreck lies at a depth of about 30 meters (98,5 ft) and is located at about three hours from Sharm el Sheikh.

Blue Corner Wall, Palau

Undoubtedly, Palau is in the top ten diving holidays. Diving here feels like you’ve been sucked into your computer screen into the screensaver. From hammerhead sharks to barracudas and even giant jellyfish. You’ll find it all here in Palau. And if that isn’t enough, besides the large selection of marine life you’ll also find many coral reefs that make the experience absolutely breathtaking.

Great Barrief Reef, Australia

The Great Barrier Reef is not only the largest coral reef in the world, but is probably one of the most famous diving destinations in the world as well. The coral reef is so popular that you can even take a diving course on the spot. The Great Barrier Reef is also considered one of the natural wonders of the world.

diving holidays learn to dive

Before you go on a diving holiday you have to learn how to dive of course…

Great Blue Hole, Belize

The Great Blue Hole in Belize was formed during the last Ice Age and is a large underwater cave of about 124 meters (407 ft) deep. It’s a diving place that is only intended for experienced divers. Belize is one of the best diving destinations in Central America, because besides the Great Blue Hole you’ll also find the Belize Barrief Reef, which is considered the most impressive coral reef in the world.

Sardine trek, South Africa

If you want a diving holiday where you want to see one of the world’s most impressive animal migrations, South Africa is the place to be. The sardine trek takes place every year between May and July near Cape Agulhas. Despite the fact that you swim between the little sardines, you’ll feel tiny when you dive between this school.

Night diving between the manta rays in Hawaii

When shining lights underwater, you’ll attract large quantities of plankton which in turn attract the large but breathtaking manta rays. The mantas sometimes come so close that you have to dive to the side every now and then, because otherwise they accidentally hit you. You can witness this spectacle when you book a diving holiday in Kailua, Hawaii. Nightly diving sessions are held at this location.

learn to dive diving holiday

Breathing underwater first feels a little strange, but you get used to it quickly!

Navy Pier, Australia

A diving holiday in Australia? There’s plenty of diving locations here. The Navy Pier is not an easy place to go to. Not only is it forbidden to fish here, but you can’t even get there without showing your passport. Yet this dive destination is very popular with divers. Not least because you can dive here for five days without getting bored. Here you can spot sharks and octopuses, but also barracudas, scorpion fish and much more.

Silfra Gorge, Iceland

Anyone who goes diving in the Silfra Gorge in Iceland will have a unique experience and this won’t be because of the marine life. No, the Sifra Gorge is known as the only place where you can swim between two intercontinental plates. To enjoy this unique place, you’ll have a very refreshing dive. The water here is only about four degrees celcius or 39 Fahrenheit . Because of this place, Iceland is seen as a real must in diving holidays in Europe.

President Coolidge, Vanuatu

This virtually intact shipwreck is perhaps the most dreamed diving holiday for experienced divers. The 198 meter (650 ft) long ship was built to cross the ocean with. During the Second World War, however, it was used for other purposes and it soon sank because of sea mines. Until today, this is one of the best preserved wrecks in the world. The wreck offers opportunities for novice divers as it is located just fifty meters (164 ft) off the coast of Vanuatu, but also for experienced divers who can explore the wreck rooms.

The Cenotes of the Yucatan

Diving in the cenotes of Yucatan near Playa del Carmen in Mexico is another one for the bucket list. The underwater caves are in fact one the biggest attractions in the region. Yet diving here is not for beginners, because in some places it can be very narrow.

diving equipment learn to dive

The diving equipment weighs heavily above water, but once you jump into the water … It’s light as a feather!

Which different types of diving certificates are there?

At most diving destinations you need a license to dive. A diving course honestly isn’t that difficult and can be achieved quite easily. Often even during your diving holiday you can take a PADI course to learn how to dive. Below you’ll find an overview of the different diving certificates that can be obtained and the costs of the diving certificate.

What is a PADI course?

Perhaps you have already heard of a PADI course. PADI stands for Professional Association of Diving Instructors and is in fact a globally recognized diving organization. Although there are several diving organizations, you will most often see PADI as the standard, because they also focus on recreational divers. In this guide we focus on the various certifications of this organization to learn how to dive.

Beginners courses

Everyone who wants to learn diving will have to start with the Open Water Diver certification, the beginners course from PADI. This basic certificate is often what is asked if you want to go diving at a particular location during a diving holiday. In some cases you can take an alternative and shorter course (Scuba diver course) on the spot, with which you can take part in the course and finish it later.
The requirements for following this diving course are fairly straightforward. Anyone older than ten years of age and is in good health and can swim may enter the course. Anyone who has completed the course and has earned his or her C-card can dive up to 18 meters (59 ft) without an accompanying instructor. Those who have only done the Scuba diver course can dive up to twelve meters (39 ft) with a supervising instructor until he or she has completed the entire course.
The course consists of a theoretical part where you learn about the technical aspect of diving, and a practical part where you first have to master the base in a closed environment (swimming pool / 5 dives) after which you end up in an open water area (4 dives) to further develop your diving skills.

Advanced courses

To get an advanced certification, you have to take another three special diving courses. You can choose for yourself which ones you choose. Some fun ones are for example underwater photographer, night diver and underwater navigator.

However, in order to obtain the diving certificate of Advanced Open Water Diver, you must complete a total of five specialized dives. Two of these are mandatory (deep-sea diving and underwater navigation), the other three can be freely chosen. These teach you about the psychological effects of scuba diving and teach you how to navigate well under water. To start this diving course you must be at least twelve years old and have completed the Open Water Diver certification.

Diving courses for experts

Those who want to fully focus on learning to dive can still refine their skills. With an expert certification you can go for rescue diver. For this you have to be at least twelve years old and get the Advanced Open Water Certificate with underwater navigation as a specialty dive. In addition, you must have followed a first aid course in the last 24 months.

Even more extreme is when you get the chance to become a Master Scuba Diver. Less than two percent of the divers reach this elite group. For this you need a lot of underwater experience. You must have followed all courses up to the Rescue Diver qualification, followed by another five additional special diving certificates and completed a total of at least 50 dives.

diving certification padi

Everyone can learn to dive! Getting a diving certification is not that difficult.

What does a day of diving look like?

When you’re on a diving holiday, you usually have one or more days where you go diving in the most beautiful locations. If you don’t have experience with diving, you may have to follow the Scuba diver course that gives you an introduction to diving in a day. Assuming that you already have an Open Water Diving license and just have to board a boat, your day will probably look different.
The boat often leaves the port of departure quite early to take you to the best places. Depending on the destination of your diving holiday you’ll sail to one or more places to hold a dive session. There are day trips where you can dive into the water up to three times.
Those who have no previous experience with diving will probably follow the introduction Scuba Diver course during their first day. In one day you then learn how to deal with the pressure on your ears, what effect the depth has on your body, how to breathe under water and how to blow water out of your mask and oxygen device.

scuba diving certification

You would never expect that there is a very beautiful underwater world living just below you.

Where can you find cheap diving holidays?

Divers love to travel. Sometimes because the water at their home is a bit on the cold side, but often just to discover new underwater worlds. Diving may not be the cheapest sport, yet there are some wonderful cheap diving holidays that won’t immediately attack your bank account.


A diving holiday in Egypt is one of the best destinations. The Red Sea has various locations where you can dive to shipwrecks, coral reefs and a large biodiversity in marine life. The warm water and climate is a pleasant plus. Diving is possible from $75 / £50 / €60 per day.


Those who want cheap diving holidays should definitely think of traveling to Asia. Fortunately, there is a good climate for diving here and there is still a lot to see. Flights to Indonesia don’t necessarily have to be expensive and life here is in general really cheap. With more than 17,000 islands and many interesting dive sites, it’s a paradise for divers on a budget.
Price: $61 / £40 / €50 per day.


Thailand is known to be a very cheap destination. Ideal for a diving holiday. Although the tourism here sometimes dares to drive up prices a bit, you’ll find a number of locations that are interesting if you don’t want to spend too much money to dive. Price: $75 / £50 / €60 per person.

The Philippines

Another island group where it’s very interesting to dive are the Philippines. A lot of impressive fish, coral reefs and wonderful temperatures. Diving can start from about $50 / £35 / €40 per day.

sharks diving destinations

And while you learn to dive, you might see some of these cuties swimming along!

More expensive destinations

For those who’re not limited to a budget, there are many destinations that are more exclusive. Not only is it a lot less touristy, but you’ll also be able to visit the most unique dive sites of the world. The Galapagos Islands are a must for anyone who loves wildlife but there is a serious price tag attached to it. The most popular dive destination, the Great Barrier Reef, may be a unique destination that is on the wish list of many divers, but you’ll soon have to pay 500 euros for a three day diving trip. Perhaps the most expensive destination is the Fregate Island on the Seychelles, where you pay not only 360 euros per dive, but also have to stay in one of only 40 accommodations that will cost you around 2000 euros per night. But perhaps the whale sharks, anemones, manta rays and the rare Aldabra giant tortoises make it well worth all that money.

diving holidays

Are you convinced and do you want to learn to dive now? Good idea! It’ll be an experience that you’ll never forget anymore!

Are there any questions unanswered? Please let me know in a message on this post or via the contact page. And if everything is clear for you… Enjoy your diving holiday!

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Hi, I'm Sam Van den Haute. The last three years I've been traveling the world almost constantly. Heading out for an adventure and visiting the most beautiful places are what I love to do! Let me inspire you with great stories, beautiful pictures and handy tips from my adventures and travels. On my facebook page and instagram account you'll get to see the latest updates and photos to inspire you for your next vacation.
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