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Family scuba diving with Borneo Dream in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

Running in the Family: How the whole family can enjoy diving

All parents want to pass on their passions to their kids. They want to see the light of enthusiasm shine from the eyes of their children and be able to share in the joy of activity with those who they love. And so it is with divers. The world of diving is a strong community, full of passionate people. The contact that you make with the ocean and its marine life means that a dive can impact your view of your whole environment. Why wouldn’t you want to share this with your children? With a few considerations to practical aspects, you certainly can.

Rock of Ages

It can seem a bit easier for people whose passion is cycling or skiing to get their kids involved. Children can tag along from a very young age, and you see tiny pedal pushers and diminutive snowboarders as young as 3. Not so with diving, where a child must be 10 to achieve junior certification. However, this doesn’t mean that your children can’t establish a love of water early on. Our Try Dive from 8 years olds allows children to begin their journey to becoming a diver and experience the joys of the ocean.

Tiny Tots

In a family with two parents, the clearest plan on a dive break when children are too young to dive is to alternate dives with childcare and take turns. For the children at this age, exposure to water and the ocean is key so spend lots of time splashing around together. If you hope to pass on your love of diving to your children, then baby steps in the early years are as important as taking their first course.

Snorkelling Skills

For younger children who enjoy being in the water, snorkeling is a great solution. Whether this activity is appropriate for your little people is entirely dependant on their proficiency in the water. A snorkel mask can be used to help children as young as three check out what is on the sea bed whilst they are within their depth. Of course, as a parent, you need to be attendant and vigilant. Remember that this is all about laying the foundations for curiosity in the marine world. It may seem tame to a parent who is used to deeper exploration, but invest time now and you can build the basis to form a diving family.

The Lone Diver

What if you’re the only person in your family to enjoy diving? Despite your best efforts, your spouse and children just aren’t feeling it. The great thing about fabulous diving destinations is that they tend to have plenty of other activities going on and that all-important sunshine what will make shore dwellers smile too.

Starting Out

How about if no one in the family is a diver and you all want to try it together? For families with children over 10 years old, this is a fairly simple process. You can take the PADI Discover Scuba Diving Experience course together. It’s a great opportunity to bond as a family and build great memories together. Or why not initially try a guided snorkeling tour to inspire your next underwater adventure?

Learning the Ropes

For kids that bit younger, 8 or 9, the PADI Bubblemaker course is ideal. The children experience submersion in “confined water conditions”, for example along a protected shallow coral reef. We encourage one or both parents to join their children on a Bubblemaker Experience – it helps the child feel comfortable, and the parents get to see their child’s reactions as they experience diving for the first time. This means you can all chat over dinner about what you saw and how much fun you had learning your dive skills!

Coming of Age

So, why the magic age of 10? Well, there has to be a line somewhere. Diving is an extremely well structured and regulated sport with safety at its heart. For this reason, we want to be certain that children understand dive processes and how to work their gear. The Bubblemaker course restricts the depth that your 8 or 9-year-old will reach to 2 metres. The Discover programme holds a depth restriction of 12 metres, although as most interesting marine life sits at around 5 to 10 metres, it is rare to reach this limit.

Grown-Up Time

Even when your kids are old enough to dive, it’s important to have time to enjoy grown-up diving. If both parents are keen and experienced divers, you could feel frustrated by the limitations that your children may impose. In the nicest possible way of course! How to get around this is often down to your holiday destination and accommodation. Some will offer kids clubs or a babysitting service, so you can take advantage of these to get out there and fit in some more challenging diving. Or alternate your dive time. Just be sure not to let it hinder too much of your family time!

Gearing Up

At what point do you buy gear for your kids? From wetsuits and BCD’s to masks and fins, the bill soon accumulates especially if you have a couple of children or more. A PADI Discovery course typically includes rented gear, and it’s wise to stick to renting until you feel that your kids are fairly committed to diving. Masks and fins are less of an outlay and are great to have on hand so that your kids can enjoy an underwater world daily. When you reach the point of purchasing kit, it’s important to have a secure and comfortable fit for items like regulators or BCD’s, but think about going a size larger for wetsuits as you’ll get considerably more use from it.

Striking a Balance

Vacation diving with a family is all about balance. Remember that children get tired quicker and tend to have a shorter attention span. This means that, however much they share your interest, they need changes of activity to stay focussed. For this reason, it’s advisable to look at planning morning dives and saving your afternoons for other activities. Or just chilling on the beach!

Quality over Quantity

With a family, it is important not to overdo the diving. If you are a couple who would (pre-family) dive repeatedly on a vacation, you will need to reassess your planning. Think quality when organising your dives. It’s not about how often you get submerged, it’s about taking the time to plan when and where you go to ensure that you get the optimum experience. This doesn’t mean to say that you should stay out of the water for the rest of the time. Snorkel excursions, boat tours and beach time will all keep you in touch with the sea. Variety, as they say, is the spice of family life!

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