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If you’re thinking about getting your feet wet in the world of scuba diving, it can be tough for beginners to know where to start. Your first challenge is understanding the types of certification you need, and then choosing dive sites that are suitable.

While you may be lured by the many incredible scuba diving sites that show up in your Insta feed, not all dive sites are suitable for beginner divers. Some sites are also much more rewarding in terms of guaranteed marine life along with safe and pleasant diving conditions.

Whether you’re in search of wrecks or reefs, planning your first scuba diving vacation can be quite exciting. Not only will you most likely be heading off to some exotic location, you will also be entering a whole new world.

As a new scuba diver who has recently learned to scuba dive with PADI, SSI, or NAUI, it’s important to realize you will be restricted in terms of what dive sites you will be able to visit as a first timer.

While you may wish to visit that dive site on an Attenborough documentary, it may not make an ideal choice for your first dive or you may simply not have the adequate level of certification that the destination requires.

To better help you get started in the world of scuba diving, I’ve offered a few safety tips, advice for choosing a location for your first dive, and a few of the top scuba diving destinations for beginners around the world.

Beginner Safety Tips and Top Locations for Your First Scuba Adventure

Beginner Scuba Diver Safety Tips

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Safety begins with choosing your dive school carefully. A quality school will have a low student to instructor ratio and the latest dive equipment to train with.

Check online reviews before making a decision. I encourage you to also research the differences between the various dive training courses such as PADI, SSI, and NAUI.

Remember to ask questions, with no question being too silly to ask. Scuba diving is entering a new world and you don’t want to have questions while you’re underwater which could lead to serious consequences when not knowing what to do. The whole idea of taking a diving certification course is gaining the knowledge and confidence to head beneath the surface.

As a beginner, you should always get in the habit of carefully checking your dive equipment before heading in the water. You should also research what equipment you’ll need as a beginner, learning to understand things such as why getting a dive computer may be better than an old school divers watch.

Underwater drones are also becoming quite popular with scuba divers. We are all used to seeing those incredible aerial pics and video of the world’s best tropical dive sites captured with the latest drones and incredible video can also be captured of your dives by using an underwater drone.

Pro tip: Acting like small remote-controlled submarines, underwater drones allow you to not only scout out locations for marine life before you dive below the surface, but also capture unique video of yourself diving from all kinds of angles so you can share your experience with friends and family.

Some final tips worth mentioning include looking at practicing yoga before you plan on taking a diving course. This will help you to better focus on your breathing which is crucial for scuba diving. You may also want to remember to pack seasickness pills if your dive site will require a boat ride and you’re prone to getting seasick.

Lastly, remember to treat marine life with respect. Never harass underwater animals in order to get a photo and be sure to not touch sensitive corals and marine life.

You should also look into taking extra environmentally-friendly measures like only using reef safe sunscreen.

Choosing First-Time Dive Sites

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If you’re planning to learn scuba diving as a beginner with PADI, SSI or NAUI, it’s important to understand that you will likely be limited to diving no greater than 60 feet or 18 meters. This means you will be restricted to choosing dive locations with depths that are shallower than 60 feet.

In addition to the depth restrictions, you will also want to ensure your chosen dive destinations don’t have strong underwater currents or poor visibility. You should also stay clear of wall dives as a beginner until you master buoyancy control. These restrictions are in place for your safety as a new diver.

Thankfully, there are still countless dive locations around the world that fall within these beginner restrictions, many offering up fascinating wrecks and abundant marine life in places like the Caribbean, Australia, and Southeast Asia.

Once you progress to higher certification levels, you can tackle dive sites like Malapascua’s Moab Shoal which is famous for its thresher sharks.

While this dive site may offer an incredible experience to see these elusive sharks, you will need an Advanced Open Water certification since the sharks tend to be found at depths roughly double what a beginner is allowed to dive at.

Similarly, places like Iceland’s Silfra Gap in Thingvellir National Park offers the chance to swim between two tectonic plates in ultra-clear water, but is not recommended for a first dive as you will need dry suit diving certification to deal with the frigid water.

Top Scuba Diving Sites for Beginners

Great Barrier Reef

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Being an Australian, I’m a bit partial to my home country’s incredible diving in the Great Barrier Reef.

Regarded as the world’s largest coral reef system, there are countless dive sites on offer including Osprey Reef, Agincourt Reef, and incredible sites off Lady Elliot Island, Heron Island, and Lizard Island.

One of the best diving locations for beginners, you’ll find numerous beginner dives leaving daily from cities like Cairns. A combination of great water clarity, shallow reefs under 60 feet, and light currents all add up to the GBR being great for first dives.

Diving in the GBR gives you the chance of spotting just about every sea turtle species on the planet, over a hundred shark species, rays, dwarf minke whales, and even loveable dugongs.

Witness all the magic via simple day tours from land or by looking into a liveaboard dive boat trips which will allow you to experience more dives per day.


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Maldives is known for its luxurious overwater bungalows where you can explore underwater marine life just steps from your bed. Many resorts feature so-called “house reefs” with dive centers, PADI Dive schools, and dive shops.

While diving from the resorts is convenient and extremely comfortable for beginner divers, don’t expect trips to come cheap. An alternative to staying at an expensive resort in the Maldives may be to book a 1-2 week scuba diving experience aboard a liveaboard boat tour.

The boats on offer will of course vary in terms of the dive locations they visit and onboard amenities they provide, so it pays to do your research. Some offer up en-suite cabins with air conditioning and may visit a number of regions which can be more rewarding than staying put at one resort for all your dives.

While the Maldives offer dive locations suitable for all certifications, not all sites are open for beginners since they may be deep dives or feature strong currents.

You can expect to witness a mix of coral reefs, caves, walls, and pinnacles in the Maldives. Its year-round warm waters are home to beautiful corals, giant manta rays, and most notably enormous whale sharks.


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This small island in the Leeward Antilles of the Caribbean Netherlands offers up what many divers consider to be the world’s best shore diving destination.

There are dozens of shore-access dive sites marked by painted yellow rocks that are available to new scuba divers, with many resorts having on-site dive shops.

Bonaire is perfect if you’re the independent traveler type who wishes to avoid group diving tours or the need to even book a boat. A single major road encircles the island, providing easy access to all its shore-based dive sites.

The dive sites are also open 24 hours, allowing you the flexibility to dive whenever you wish. There are drive-through scuba tank filling stations on the island as well as companies offering unlimited air and diving gear rental for upwards of a week.

No need to book a tour or stick to strict schedules. It’s truly ultimate diving freedom.

As an added bonus, the waters here are usually calm and clear and the island is out of the main path most hurricanes take through the Caribbean each year. There is also upwards of 350 different recorded fish species to seek out in the waters around Bonaire.

British Virgin Islands

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To the north of Bonaire, just east of Puerto Rico, the British Virgin Islands offer more great diving for beginners. The BVI include roughly 60 different islands, but most dive operators are located on just a select few such as Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Cooper Island, and Jost Van Dyke.

The BVI are where you want to go for your first dive if you’re interested in exploring wrecks and most dive sites are luckily open to beginner divers. Shipwrecks include the RMS Rhone and Chikuzen, as well as the deliberately sunk ships found in Wreck Alley off Cooper Island.

The sheltered waters are home to nurse sharks, moray eels, goliath grouper, tarpon, barracuda, and smaller marine creatures in places like Angelfish Reef which makes it a great macro dive site for beginners.

Koh Tao

Consider Thailand’s Koh Tao to be a cheaper alternative to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef. In fact, after Cairns in Australia, Koh Tao issues the second most annual PADI dive certifications.

It’s considered to be one of the cheapest destinations in the world to complete an open water course thanks to an often favorable currency exchange rate and healthy competition between countless dive schools located on the island.

Despite being economical, the schools are still high quality and dive sites around the island well-suited to beginners with their gentle shallow waters. Notable dive sites include Shark Island, Twins, White Rock, and the wreck of the US Navy ship HTMS Sattakut.

When it comes to marine life, you can expect to witness green and hawksbill sea turtles, grouper, eagle rays, triggerfish, sea snakes, and possibly even whale sharks in the months of April and May.

Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 100+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.



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