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I'm going to Australia next October and I was wondering if it is safe to go diving (near Cairns) even though it will be my first time doing so. Should I take a course locally before the trip?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

Safe, absolutely! Diving in Australia is some of the safest in the world.

Sensible use of your time on holiday? Perhaps not... I'd suggest that you'd want to do the theory part at home before you go. That way the two days sat inside happen when you're not on holiday. When you get out there, do the open water parts of the qualification as part of your diving experience there.

One possible reason though for learning before you go is so you can get a few extra dives in at home. Some dives in Australia will require some level of experience, and they'll be quite strict on that. If you've only just qualified, you may not be able to do all of the different dive sites (though there will be plenty around Cairns you can do!)

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+1 Indeed it is always better to learn diving at home. On your first dives you need to focus on basic things, which disables you to enjoy the surroundings. –  andra Jun 30 '11 at 15:57
    
As I was unable to take a course before my holidays I had to learn it on the spot and... while it was certainly enjoyable, learing how to work with the snorkel and/or compressed air tubes would really have made the difference. Can't wait to go back there! –  rshimoda Jan 13 at 9:03
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A bit cold currently to consider diving there, isn't it?

There are tons of PADI-certified operators in Cairns that offer day trips or a week-long pass aboard their vessels. We used Tusa Dive. Apparently, they offer maximum flexibility in the reef choice, considering visibility and safety.

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Australia is big. Cairns is tropical, so 23C to 26C this time of winter (73F to 79F). The locals will think that's cold though (-: –  hippietrail Jun 29 '11 at 20:42
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He's also going in October, the weather will be glorious. –  jozzas Jun 29 '11 at 23:22
    
With the right suites you can even enjoy diving at "cold" temperatures. I have done some amazing dives at 8-10C water temp –  andra Jun 30 '11 at 15:58
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As someone from Christchurch NZ who has friends who go diving here, that's not cold ;) –  Mark Mayo Jan 4 '12 at 1:16
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