Review Factors of a PADI Scuba Diving Course in Singapore
Finding a dive centre to pick up a Singapore scuba diving course can be a rather daunting experience. Firstly, there are no less than 50 local Singapore websites offering their services as a dive centre, conducting all levels of scuba diving classes.
Most divers resort to checking for reviews on Facebook, word of mouth and reviews on Tripadvisor, which is highly inaccurate.
So in order to help new scuba divers select their dive centre or dive school, we have decided to write this article to aid you.
This article is written on what we deem appropriate and what should be a checklist for all new scuba divers so that they do not fall into the “marketing trap” and ill practises of the diving community.
REVIEW FACTOR 1 – ARE THEY ARE PROPER BUSINESS
You will be surprised that most dive centres here in Singapore are not properly registered businesses. Many of them are home-based or done as a hobby. Scuba Diving Business should be a business run by individuals, who have a passion for scuba diving and managed by proper business partners. Below is a checklist that we deem appropriate, that can be used to see the commitment level of a scuba diving company.
- Does the dive shop have a proper social media site and website?
- Are they are registered business with ACRA?
- Are they registered business dive centre with SSI, SDI or PADI? This is rather important, as each diving agency would have done their respective approval whether the dive company is fit enough to become associated to the agency. For instance, for PADI does audit on the dive centres located on locator.padi.com, each company listed, have to meet a minimum requirement set by PADI.
- Do they have the appropriate travel license issued by the Singapore Tourism Board for them to function as a tour organizer?
- Do they have a proper office, store, or office? Or are they operating from home?
The above is a general checklist, that can show the commitment of the scuba diving business. Many dive business that operates at home, have really bad customer relation management, and some of them have full-time jobs and this is just something they do for fun. The major difference is, there are dive businesses that have operated in Singapore for the last 20 years and their experience can be really intense and good, and then, there are new dive centres, who hardly have any experience but make unbiased claims.
And this will bring divers to be, to the second review factor.
REVIEW FACTOR 2 – THEIR COMMITMENT LEVEL
Everyone is on IG (Instagram), Facebook or some social media platform. And definitely, many of them have a website. This is the minimum operating “tools” that each dive business should have. With the recent growth of new players in the market, we can see more and more marketing effort from such companies, driving older players in the market to follow.
We personally think this is a good thing for the industry. But, we have heard of some horrifying stories in the growth of this social media era as well. So over the past 5 to 6 years, we have came up with a checklist to help new divers check the commitment level of the dive centres.
- The speed of response to enquiries :- This is rather important. The speed of response shows if they are actually doing this full-time or they are doing it as an adhoc hobby. Remember this, scuba diving professionals experience is tied closely to how often they are doing instructing. The more they teach, the more experience they are.
- Proper Operating Hours :- Do they have proper operating hours? Are they conforming to industry practices? Many dive schools think they can be exempted from maintaining a proper image and consistent business operating hours. Dive business should be taken seriously and should not be operated an Adhoc business or a business that remotely seems like it is operated by some chilled out beach bums.
REVIEW FACTOR 3 – EXPERIENCE LEVEL
This is the most common topic discussed amongst divers. Are the experience of a dive centre and their teaching instructors tied to the agency or are experience developed based on the number of years of teaching?
While I cannot discount the fact that agency has a role to play in developing the experience of the dive centre and their instructors, a huge attribute to experience is the attitude of the instructor themselves. Their eagerness to learn and improve.
Thankfully, this attitude has tell-tale signs. And over the years, we have seen how inexperience teaching instructors or dive centres trying to talk their way out.
Any prudent dive centre or teaching instructor has ONE immediate objective. Following the standards and safety of the divers. This is what I classified as logic experience. Take for instance, promoting and conducting courses in Singapore waters.
We all know that Singapore has limited visibility. This increases the difficulty of handling students with problems. Even though most agencies will allow a ratio of 1 instructor to 8 students, an instructor can exercise his decisions on lowering the ratio to maintain the safety of the divers.
Orpheus Dive did many trial runs, with the worst possible scenarios and our instructors played the roles of “students from hell”, to see how we can best organize a course. And that is where we decided, between profits and safety of divers, we need to have a fine line, and that fine line is to have bespoke classes of small ratio.
Small ratio allows us to spend more time with students in the pool and the ocean, allowing the instructors to concentrate and really teach divers on how to dive and not “factory producing” divers based on minimum standards.
REVIEW FACTOR 4 – INVENTORY OF RENTAL EQUIPMENT
A subject that is not commonly discussed, even at professional levels. Till today, we really cannot comprehend why many dive centres do not invest in appropriate and good quality rental equipment. Over the past 20 years, we have seen many scary incidents resulting from poorly maintained rental equipment.
One story worth remembering is a case that we were indirectly involved. A local dive centre came to us for equipment servicing. Upon a visual inspection, our main technician asked the dive centre owner how long has the equipment not been serviced. It was said to be one year. However, based on the salt deposition and corrosion found on the regulators, the regulators would have not been serviced for a prolonged period of time (All training and rental equipment should be serviced annually or more often, depending on the usage).
We decide to open one of the units for a closer inspection and realized the unit has been tampered with and assembled wrongly. Well, we turned the dive centre away and told them we are unable to assist them unless we get the true facts, or we will have to charge a much higher price to rectify the issues. They did not want to pay and the following week, we heard one diver almost drown from a malfunctioning regulator.
Most dive centres or dive schools in Singapore are often caught using some really odd or old or rented equipment from some other dive centre. It goes to show that they neither have the ability to purchase their own rental equipment, and they are not capable of maintaining and servicing rental equipment. Good quality rental equipment is a must for all new divers. Your life depends on it, and attending a PADI Scuba Diving course with a dive company that has a good inventory of rental equipment SHOULD be a deciding factor. You can insist to see their inventory when you sign up for the course with them.
REVIEW FACTOR 5 – PROFILE OF THEIR DIVE TEAM
The profile of their dive team has a lot to say about the experience of their teaching instructors. Most dive centre in Singapore is dependent on freelancers, or the founder is the only full-time staff.
Not many dive centre can maintain their own full-time instructors on a payroll. We do, as we see that as a very important factor to customer servicing.