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Which diving operator has the best PADI (or SSI) instructors in the Andaman islands?

I'm planning on taking an Open Water course (either PADI or SSI) there and would like to know which company has the best (and most fun) staff. I know it sounds subjective and it most certainly is but I read at some forums that it's not the course that matters, it's the instructors so if anyone tried scuba diving at Havelock island, please help me choose the most appropriate operator and the one that is the most responsible, safe or that can be described by any of the other diving-related adjectives.

These are diving operators that are listed in Lonely Planet's guide:

If you know any other, please don't hesitate to recommend them.

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Recommendation questions like this are off topic, I believe. –  DJClayworth Mar 15 '12 at 16:55
    
As I said, this is subjective but since the quality of the course depends mostly on the instructors, the only way I can get an answer is if I get a subjective one with details why a person thinks certain operator is better than the other ones. –  John Doe Mar 15 '12 at 17:39

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I can't give you specific advice on dive shops in the area, as I've never been, but I can offer some general advice that should help.

Firstly, you should be aware that most dive shops (generally all except the smallest) that teach courses have multiple instructors. It's no good us saying "Jim Smith at Acme Dive is the best instructor ever!" if he's doing the Advanced course that week, and you get someone else. What's more, you may find you have one person doing dry side, and another leading wet, so again there may well not be a single instructor to look our for.

Next, different dive schools can operate in slightly different ways, which suit different people. Do they do all the dry side first, then wet? Alternate every few hours? Half a day of each? Do they always do the open water dives in the same place? Or do they tend to bring the open water divers our with day divers to wherever has the best conditions that day? Depending on how you like to learn, and how confident you are, different styles will suit different people.

Another thing to consider is class sizes, and trainee instructors. Some places have lots of trainee instructors, which means you can get loads of help and attention in the water, others do small classes which gives something similar (but without as many people to chat too between things)

So, I'd suggest you go and visit the dive shops if you can, and have a chat with them. Speak to the instructors, look at the centre, look at some kit, hang out for a little bit. Ask them about the course, then decide if you feel they're a good fit for you. If you don't have time to do that when you're out there, or you're worried about courses filling up, ring them for a chat. Ask some open ended questions about the course, and try to get an idea of if they're for you.

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Next up, it might be worth (though maybe too late...) doing a referral course. With that, you find a dive centre near you at home, and do the theory and pool work with them. That way, you don't have to sit inside in a classroom when you're on holiday somewhere nice, you get it out of the way first! Instead, you turn up, do your open water dives immediately (no days inside), and you're a qualified diver (able to go do fun diving) that much quicker.

Alternately, do the whole course at home before you go. That way, you can find a really good dive centre you like, with no rushing about - you're at home so plenty of time to find them. Next, you don't mind being inside learning nearly so much when you're at home, and you may even pay more attention. Finally, the open water dives are likely much tougher (colder and poorer vis). If you can learn to dive in 10 degree (C!) water with visibility of only a few metres, you'll find it really easy in warm clear water. As you'd be qualified, you can go straight out and do day dives, no need for courses for days when you arrive. If you learn somewhere cold, you tend to get more leeway from dive places ("We wouldn't normally let someone with your experience out with us on this, but if you learnt in water that cold I'm sure you'll be fine!")

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+1 for the advice of getting certification out of the way first. –  jpatokal Mar 19 '12 at 22:01
    
Great suggestions. I will mark this one as the correct answer and comment on it once I check out all the diving centers at Havelock. I'll change the correct answer in case someone with first hand experience answers with a good enough answer. –  John Doe Mar 28 '12 at 7:02
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I took diving courses in Andaman Bubbles and our instructor was great and quite friendly. It was easy to learn by listening to him and he gave as an extra dive for free after our course was over... –  John Doe Nov 2 '12 at 19:37

I dove with Dive India in 2009 (casual dives, not certification) and was not particularly impressed with their setup. The boat was tiny, cramped and had a seriously underpowered engine, and other divers described running out of fuel and/or having engine breakdowns on previous days and spending hours drifting or getting towed. I also seem to recall the scuba gear itself looking like it's had better days; fortunately I used my own gear.

They well may have improved, and I understand that use of converted fishing boats like the one I was on is no longer allowed, but I'd still look at the other options first if I was planning to dive there again.

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Great, one down, two to go... –  John Doe Mar 19 '12 at 7:57

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