We live and work in the place which is very popular for diving and snorkeling and that’s why the density of dive centers is huge. As the latest data says it’s about 48 dive centers and equipment rentals combined here in Amed and Tulamben! Quite a big number for such a small area. There is always a bright and dark side of it and we can just imagine how hard it is your choice when you have to decide with whom to tight up, so we decided to talk about it. Don’t take it as an advert of our dive center, it’s more a look at the things from the perspective as a customer and also as a dive center owner.
Let’s begin with your perspective.
We are so different – we choose things differently, we have a different budget, different needs and looking for a different quality of service. Some of us book our diving and plan our trips in advance or others never plan anything. Amed has options for both groups. Think originally this place grew up because of the second category of travelers. There were only a few dive centers around this area and if you had plans for diving then you just went there got your scuba and they showed you a couple of dive sites. And that’s how Liberty wreck became so popular because it was used to promote the place which wasn’t known for diving at all. We see a lot of people following old traditions, so they arrive, walk around the dive centers and usually choose the best price or maybe they liked dive center and staff they spoke to. The good thing is that you have a big variety of choices (as I mentioned before it’s 48 shops here). Usually, people choose the cheapest one and it’s kind of our psychology to spend a lot on food but waste an hour to find a free app for your phone while you can get it immediately for only one dollar. There can not be advice on how to choose the best one from cheap ones since you need a bit of luck while doing it. I know very good local guys (been training them) who do their job with full responsibility and passion and they are selling themselves cheap because don’t understand that cheap product can last as long there is no interruption (nature disasters, coronavirus for example) in it and they need a big mass of divers to make a profit. As long they have a continuous flow of customers they feel they are alive. Sure they have no money to buy new equipment or service it but who cares.
So what mainly you can expect in these places is old equipment, tired guides, and instructors who work hard to earn some money (because they get paid little) and are not interested to do something out of minimum (help you to improve or cutting corners during your course to finish it fast and take another course, or just simply not interested to show you something underwater and want to end dive as soon as possible). Maybe they are full of enthusiasm in the beginning but it changes when they see no reward for their input. We can do a lot of things driven by idea and passion but everything has its limits. And I am not talking about how much your risk your life while diving with purely maintained equipment. It doesn’t matter that you got wetsuit with the holes but BCD which fails to inflate (you risk to drown) or regulator which doesn’t work properly (hard to breath so you can get IPE. Don’t know what is it, google it), and tanks which are not serviced and cleaned for ages (physical contamination which can cause lung decease or cause regulator fail). Sometimes wondering -we are very sensitive about where to eat but don’t care where to dive. Most important for many is the price.
Another category of people researches before they choose some dive center. Tripadvisor and Google reviews can be helpful to decide with whom to dive but can not guaranty that you will have the best experience possible. So we offer you some ideas on what to look at.
1) Dive center belongs to some diving association and it doesn’t matter which one. I mean if they seriously thinking about the quality and safety of their customers and students, for sure they belong to some (PADI, SSI, CMAS, NAUI). All these organizations meet International safety standards (WRSTC) and guarantee that they are providing safe diving activities.
2) Are all guides are trained diving professionals. For a good dive center, the minimum level for someone who brings people for diving is Divemaster. Indonesia low says that the minimum level to take responsibility for people and guide them underwater is Rescue diver. In my opinion, someone who’s not the Divemaster level can not take care of divers professionally, just because they have no minimum level to do it. Guiding is not only showing something under or bring divers for an underwater tour but also knowledge about equipment, customer service, and safety.
3) What condition is diving equipment? If we talk about regulators and BCD’s they don’t have to be the latest models but definitely trusted brands and well serviced. Are you going to trust your life to equipment that can malfunction any moment? Cheap places can not afford to do it regularly just because service kits cost money they didn’t earn because of cheap products.
4) If you take a diving course ask what level of Instructor is going to teach you and how many courses he/she done. An instructor who just passed the exam can not provide you with the same quality course as experienced. In our dive center, all New Instructors work together with MSDT level instructors (at least 25 students certified and can teach at least 5 specialties) during their first courses. So there is no chance New Instructor do anything wrong.
5) Look at Dive center status. I am talking about PADI dive centers now. To get this status Dive center needs to meet a list of requirements about facility, pool, equipment and staff level. As higher is rating as more requirements to meet. IDC center, for example, means that this place train Instructors. So if they can teach high-level courses (you will find only a few this level dive centers in any place), they definitely will be good with another level courses. And dive shop who owns this status will never risk losing it because it’s a long way to get it.
6) Look at how busy is the place you chose. There should be some balance in it. If it’s too quiet then it means there’s something with management either bad reputation. Can be 2 in on of course but… The busy place doesn’t mean always quality but their management is at a level for sure. So the balance is somewhere in the middle.
In conclusion, I would like to say: look at the value you get from one or another place and don’t choose something just because it’s cheapest on the beach. Choose an Instructor with whom to do your course or go for a fun dive. Even during fun dives he/she will teach you something new and will improve your skills and level of comfort. Diving is a very safe and enjoyable way to spend time but only if you are well prepared and know what you do.
This is just my personal opinion and yours can differ from it.