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Advice: Dive Ops for Rookie Divers?

In cooperation with: Visit Mexico
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Michigan
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Advice: Dive Ops for Rookie Divers?

The 411:

My Wife and I will be taking our classroom and pool here in Michigan. PADI or SSI, not sure which yet, we are going to interview both shops prior to signing up. In Cozumel, we will be making our check-out dives, and also want to get in 4 or 5 days worth of diving. We will obviously be ultra-new to the sport. I don't want to be "the guy" that ruins a dive trip for 20 veterans due to my inexperience. I also want to be able to enjoy the sport while learning (I don't think this will be much of a problem!) Cost is a minor concern compared to safety & service.

The Questions:

Does anyone have recommendations on a dive operation that caters to "fresh fish"? Any operations to shy away from because they seem to attract the pros?

Would a small-boat operation be better than a large-boat outfit for learning? My inclination is to stay away from cattle boats.

We are staying at Caribe Blu. Anybody have any reports/opinions on Blue Angel?

SSI or PADI? Once again, we will make our decision based upon our personal interviews with each local shop, but I want to get a feel for public opinion on these two organizations.

Thanks in advance for all your help!

Note: I am also posting this on scubaboard.com for what its worth.

Cozumel, Mexico
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1. Re: Advice: Dive Ops for Rookie Divers?

Blue Angel does a fine job, but I must say that for "fresh fish" your best option will be Aqua Safari, they are a great operation for newbies and their Instructor staff is some of the best and respected here.

Phoenix, Az
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2. Re: Advice: Dive Ops for Rookie Divers?

It has been some time since I was a "fresh fish" ('89) but I did go through a period of about 5 years in which I did no diving, but started again in Cozumel. I had similar reservations to rejoining the sport, but participated it at my own limits. (I didn't do swim throughs since my bouyancy was questionable and I didn't want to injure the reef.

As far as which operator... let them know your experience and they will steer you to the right boat with appropriate level diving. After several days your skills will be much sharper and you can do intermediate dives. I would shy away from anything above intermediate for this trip... but don't frett, the reef is so lush in Cozumel that you will still see incredible things.

As far as PADI or SSI... I think it is more a matter of which suits you better. Most people choose PADI as they are the biggest and have the most type of dive shops around. I don't know if there is really any difference in the course work, or content learned, just that they are competing organizations for certification.

I certified PADI because they were the only operation in town where I grew up. So convenience was a factor for me. I introduced my fiance to diving two years ago (PADI)at a local ship and she loved it; she certified her open water dives in Cozumel. That might be the way you make your decision... I do not know how many SSI certified shops there are in Coz for you to do your checkout dives... where as almost every shop in Coz is PADI, and/or NAUI (yes a 3rd certifying agency... sorry if that adds a wildcard to the mix).

As far as sheer number, PADI holds the lionshare of shops...

Good luck and enjoy Cozumel!

Michigan
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3. Re: Advice: Dive Ops for Rookie Divers?

Thanks for the info:

Antonio, Aqua Safari looks good (at least the info on the website), plus they pick up at Caribe Blu which is a bonus...

dimecius: NAUI isn't an option due to the fact that they don't have an operation in my area. Thanks for the other info.

Ottawa, Canada
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4. Re: Advice: Dive Ops for Rookie Divers?

I think you are going about this correctly. It is better to pick your teaching facility by the people you will be dealing with, not which organization they are affiliated to. In Cozumel many of the shops are affiliated with more than one organization, so a referral is easily arranged. As far as Aqua Safari, I have dove with them and they are very safety aware. They have good boats & equipment, and many years of teaching so rookies are a daily thing to them, but that is true of most operators there. Cozumel is a very busy instruction & testing destination.

Ft. Worth
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5. Re: Advice: Dive Ops for Rookie Divers?

I ran into the website of Betsy White (Betsyczm of this forum), and by this reviews of her previous customers, she seems to be the best in the business with beginners. Go to the cozumelmycozumel site and look for a post by Betsyczm. Her web address is listed there. I am happily married man, but I must say she is "Muy Caliente".

Michigan
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6. Re: Advice: Dive Ops for Rookie Divers?

Thanks for the referral. I agree with you assesment of the situation. Muy caliente. Which also could be muy distrayendo. LOL.

Colo Spgs
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7. Re: Advice: Dive Ops for Rookie Divers?

I just became a newbie diver. If I get scared will she hold my hand to reassure me whilest I get used to diving?

Oregon
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8. Re: Advice: Dive Ops for Rookie Divers?

I have only read very positive comments about Alison from scubawithalison.com She was even recommended very highly by another cozumel dive operator. She is supposed to be excellent with beginners and takes a very personal approach to teaching.

While I think that Liquid Blue is an excellent dive op, I don't think they would be a good match for you, as wouldn't Aldora. Both this shops attract advanced divers.

When will you be in Cozumel? We'll be there December 18-24, staying at Caribe Blue as well.

Colo Spgs
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for Cozumel
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9. Re: Advice: Dive Ops for Rookie Divers?

Diveborg, I have many dives with Aldora and Liquid Blue. They do in fact get new divers and treat them well. Personally, once you make long dives with a nice surface interval at a beach club, other dive shops seem......I will say different.

As far as Alison, I have yet to dive with her but have seen her enough in various situations that I recommend her. She is a primo person (primo being very good!).

Michigan
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10. Re: Advice: Dive Ops for Rookie Divers?

I also think that once you pick your dive shop you should ask them who they work with or recomend in Coz. We were refered to Rita and Burak of Albatros Charters thru our dive shop. They are SSI facility. Many people from our dive shop on different occasions have used them so we trust that judgement. We were to do the same as you with our checkout dives thru them. Unfortunatly we had to cancel our trip last April because my husband had to have surgery. But they handled things very profesionaly thru e-mails and phone calls and refunded all of our deposite except 25 dollars for processing fee. Just the professionalism they showed thru all the problems on my end impressed me. Needless to say we got certified here. And will be contacting them for our next trip. Hopefully in Dec.

To my understanding on surface intervals they can take you fishing or snorkeling and they provide food and beverages. Also a group from our dive shop is heading there in Jan and has chartered them for several day with a boat all to themselves for fishing and diving. I can't remember the price off hand but I thought it to be a very resonable rate.