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Scuba Diving for Kids by Ima Deville

Bali’s wonders extend beyond the shore. The waters around the island are teeming with undersea creatures, such as clownfish, turtles, octopus, cuttlefish. With easy diving conditions all year round and the possibility to dive from the shore, Bali is the perfect place for kids to be introduced to Nemo’s world.

Children can begin to scuba dive in a fun way as young as 8 years old. PADI is the most widely recognised scuba diving institution worldwide and they have designed several programs to teach the basics of breathing underwater and essential safety rules for children. If they like the experience, they can become certified from 10 years old.

Marie from Atlantis Dive is an experienced instructor and she particularly enjoys working with kids because, she says, they are ultimately better divers than adults. Kids love watching the underwater world and its inhabitants. She recommends that parents let their kids discover by themselves the wonderful universe of the big blue. Parents don’t need to be with their kids and children, if left with a good instructor, will learn fast and be responsible.

In Bali there are many dive operations and kids should always dive with a fully PADI certified company offering children’s programs. Instructors should have experience of working with children and have a good rapport with them. A look at their equipment often tells a lot and with children, it is essential have masks, regulators and BCDs in kids’ sizes.

Families can decide to join a kid’s program or if they have enough time for a full course or want a taster, they can opt for an introduction dive. After some basic theory and a session in shallow water, you will do two dives in the sea. Instructors choose shallow diving spots. It is a full day program and by the end of it, you’ll know if you’d like to take it further. Most families come back totally amazed by the experience. Kids from 10 years old can do an introduction dive.

For a soft introduction, PADI offer the Bubblemaker Experience for kids from 8 years old who can already swim, even if they are not super swimmers. A session will last around one hour and kids will learn about the equipment and take their first breath underwater. It is done in a swimming pool and the maximum depth is only 2 metres/ 6 feet. Feeling at ease in the water and having fun in a safe environment are the main objectives of this program. They can even organize Bubblemaker birthday parties.

Seal Team is the next PADI course for kids 8 yrs+. It is for young divers who are looking for action-packed fun in a pool by doing exciting scuba AquaMissions. Have you ever wondered what it’s like to dive with flashlights, take digital pictures underwater or float effortlessly like an astronaut? These are AquaMissions that introduce you to wreck, navigation, buoyancy, underwater photography, environmental awareness and more. (http://www.padi.com/scuba/padi-courses/diver-level-courses/kids-courses/default.aspx).

This course is the best preparation for an Open Water Diver certification. Kids learn the basics of diving principles and the skills of scuba diving such as how to control their buoyancy, clear their mask or recover their regulator. It only takes place in a pool environment.

The Open Water Diver course is open to kids 10 yrs+ and it leads to a certification recognised worldwide. Children do not need to have done the previous two courses to embark on this one. There are three stages to this course. You start with the theory in a classroom at the dive centre or now also online. Then kids will do a series of confined water dives to learn the basic scuba skills and finally they will do proper open water dives to practise their skills. In total they will make at least five pool dives and four dives at local dive sites. They will receive the Junior Open Water Diver PADI card.

The next stage is the Junior Advanced Open Water Diver (12+/15+), for kids who want to get more dives under their belt while continuing to learn under the supervision of a PADI Instructor. This course builds on what you’ve learned and develops new capabilities by introducing you to new activities and new ways to have fun scuba diving. Kids under 15 years old obtain the Junior Advanced Open Water and it will automatically become an Advanced Open Water certification when they turn 15. They will just need to ask for another card from PADI. The new skills in this course are underwater navigation, deeper water diving from 18-30 metres/ 60-100 feet and three adventure dives.

The adventures dives can be chosen from various activities that are offered by the PADI centre you are training with. Although not all options may be available, depending on the location, the broad range of types of dives makes this course exciting and more varied. Some of the common options include drift dives, night dives, wreck diving, underwater photography, under water naturalist, boat dives and sometimes combine two as in the fantastic night dive on the Tulamben wreck!

If by then, your children are hooked by diving, they can continue to do a Junior Rescue Diver (ages 12-14) or even the Junior Master Scuba Diver (ages 12-14). What parents often do not know is that any of the last four courses described above can make your children earn hours in their school’s service program or college credit.

We asked Marie from Atlantis what were the best dive spots for young divers in Bali and she recommended Tulamben, Amed, Padangbai and Menjangan. All these spots are relatively easy to dive without too much current, have great coral and heaps of colourful fish. Exploring the WW2 Liberty wreck of Tulamben is a great attraction that kids will not forget.

Diving often opens the eyes of kids to the reality and fragility of our planet. Good instructors will show kids what dead coral looks like, explain to them why it happened and raise the awareness of kids towards the responsibility of humans to preserve our environment. Several dive companies take part in environmental initiatives such as Coral Watch, reef conservation programs, world reef cleaning day and other local initiatives. A good example is Reef Seen Aquatics in Pemuteran, North Bali who have a turtle hatchery, the Reef Gardeners program of reef restoration.

More diving spots can be found around Bali for certified divers and families enjoy day trips on a boat combining a cruise to Nusa Lembongan with snorkelling and diving on two spots there. Watersports companies based in Nusa Dua also offer diving trips at various levels on Nusa Dua reef. Families going to Menjangan island usually combine diving and snorkelling and thus family members who are not diving can still enjoy the day, stop on the small beach and snorkel on amazing seascapes.

Families who love scuba diving often like to plan holidays on a liveaboard to access some of the best diving spots in the world. Other scuba diving holidays combine day trips out at sea and accommodation in various towns or villages to also do some tourism and be introduced to the culture of Bali. A company such as Atlantis International Diving Centre offers sea safaris around Bali lasting from one night to 2 weeks.

Scuba diving is a great activity that kids can share with their family or do on their own with a professional dive operation. The success of it will largely depend on the quality of the company you choose and it is important to check their credentials, experience and meet the instructors. If done in the right context, scuba diving is a skill that your children will have for life and can take anywhere in the world. When we think that three quarters of the world’s surface is ocean, wouldn’t it be a shame not to know what is going on under the surface?

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