A cursory check of a dive shop’s web site and skimming a travel app isn’t enough to verify good dive standards and find a shop that also meshes with your diving style. Talk to the staff in person or via phone/email, using the questions below to choose the best dive shop for your vacation.
Research the shop’s reputation
Unfortunately, bad dive shops abound. Ask around for recommendations and then review the shop in detail.
- What do your dive buddies say about the shop?
- How well-reviewed is the shop on travel sites such as TripAdvisor and Undercurrent?
- What do people on dive-centric social media sites and forums such as Scubaboard say about the shop?
- Are official complaints lodged against the shop, such as those in the consumer alert from the Better Business Bureau recently in the news for a Florida shop?
- How do the local dive clubs rate the shop?
- Do multiple trusted sources recommend the instructors?
Keep in mind that even the best dive shops have bad days and a diver occasionally leaves unhappy, regardless of how the dive shop performs. If someone writes a bad review, evaluate its validity in comparison to other reviews.
Confirm whether the shop can deliver your ideal dive experience
What excites me as a diver is probably different from what excites you. Ask the questions important to you, verifying that the answers match your specific preferences.
- How does the shop conduct dives and what is the dive schedule?
- What is the maximum number of people per dive? How many DMs per diver?
- Does their boat type and the distance to the dive sites work for you?
- Do the dive sites/types match your experience and preferences at the time of year you’re there? Do they require a minimum number of divers to dive specific times or sites?
- How are dive-site requests handled?
- Do they have the brand and size of equipment you prefer if you’re renting?
- What constitutes acceptable facilities and amenities to you, and are they available at the shop?
- Will the shop meet your specific needs and avoid things you dislike? For instance, I hate smoking and unhappily discovered it common for the captain and DMs to puff away on my small dive boat in between dives at one shop.
- Do YouTube videos from different visitors depict a day of diving at that shop which you’d enjoy?
Determine the dive shop’s approach to safety
Accidents occur, but an unsafe shop sometimes presents warning signs.
- Is everything clean and well-maintained upon close inspection?
- How experienced is the shop and the staff? You can also verify the shop’s dive agency and instructor’s affiliation via an agency’s site such as PADI’s Pro Chek tool.
- How new is their rental gear and how often do they service it?
- Can you review the latest certificates and are they up to date?
- What is the shop’s safety record?
- What emergency equipment does the shop maintain?
- Where is the closest hyperbaric chamber and are processes in place for emergencies? Some great dive sites are far away from help, but the shop should have a plan in place for problems.
Jaded staff and a shop fixated on quick cash do not create an enjoyable dive environment. A good dive shop will make you feel happy.
- Is the shop enthusiastic about local diving?
- Are they helpful in answering your questions?
- Does the staff make you feel wanted?
- Are they flexible?
An ideal dive shop should make you feel welcome, safe and excited to dive. If you have any doubts, even if it’s just a funny feeling, find another shop.