I recently completed BDA's two-day PADI open water course.
The course consists of approximately ten hours of online learning, which is mostly a breeze, and two days of pool and open water diving. Doing the book-learning online is hugely convenient compared to having to show up for two days of classroom learning. You receive an online login upon registration.
The cost of the course is A$479, which was the best price I found in Brisbane. Keep in mind that you need to bring your own snorkel, fins, dive boots, and mask, or rent for a two-day price of A$80. Also keep in mind that you will need to show up prior to your first day to be fitted for a wet-suit, a ten minute process.
Mick, the Academy owner, was very responsive and helpful in getting setup and answering preliminary questions for me. I had an issue with my electronic login, which he promptly solved for me.
Dominic, our PADI dive instructor, was exceptional. He had a friendly and laid-back demeanor but was extremely knowledgeable in the field. I peppered him with all manner of questions, which he happily answered. He understands all levels of recreational and technical diving.
Dominic explained concepts clearly and confidently, and cut no corners when it came to making sure that students understood and executed skills properly. He was also professional when it came to making sure all gear was loaded and unloaded and all paperwork and formalities were taken care of.
Jim, our Dive Master (an experienced student-teacher diver), was also helpful throughout the course.
On the first day of live instruction, which begins at BDA at 7am, you travel 10 minutes to the local public pool, where you first complete a swim test consisting of a 200 meter untimed swim and a ten minute water treading.
After that, you learn to rig your scuba gear and get into the water. You then go through a series of fundamental scuba skills, which you have to demonstrate for your instructor. Dominic was excellent at underwater communication, which made things go very smoothly and kept things calm and stress-free.
After a few hours of in-pool skill development, you pack up your gear and head to Gold Coast for your first open water dive. We dove at a location called the Tweed River. While underwater, you execute a number of the skills you learned in-pool. The first dive lasts about 20 minutes, after which you are transported back to BDA.
Note that while sandwiches and cookies are provided for lunch, you might want to consider bringing a bit of your own food if you are a big eater or have dietary restrictions.
On day two, which begins at 10am or 11am - depending on tides - you travel back to Gold Coast for a series of three open water dives. These dives are used to practice more of the skills you learned in-pool, and also to learn some new ones including diver tow, navigation, and line descent. Dominic and Jim were both enthusiastic and helpful throughout the learning, thoroughly answering questions and guiding students through every aspect of the dive.
While the open water dives are primarily a chance to practice skills, we did see turtles, stingrays, and abundant fish on both days.
One constructive observation that I should note is that the student gear has seen some use. That being said, it was all in proper working order and is adequately maintained and cared for. In my opinion, this is secondary to the professionalism of the organization, the quality of the instruction, and the value of the course, all of which were first-rate. I do, however, feel obligated to include it in the interest of providing a comprehensive review.
In all, everything was done professionally and smoothly. No corners were cut when it came to making sure that each and every student could effectively demonstrate key skills. Instruction could not have been better. The overall vibe was upbeat and fun. The team at BDA clearly enjoy what they do, and they do it well. I fully recommend their two-day PADI Open Water course.
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