10 scuba diving courses on offer in the UAE: from beginners' training to expert exploring

From diving with sharks to learning about marine conservation, the country offers exciting underwater experiences

The UAE offers a range of diving courses and experiences. Courtesy Padi
The UAE offers a range of diving courses and experiences. Courtesy Padi

Whether you are making your first foray into the depths or are a seasoned diver looking to hone your skills, there are countless diving courses and experiences on offer in the UAE.

Most dive centres in the country offer a range of courses by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (Padi). This is the most widely recognised certifying body internationally, with its Open Water qualification being a global entry point into the world of scuba. But other organisations, such as the Rebreather Association of International Divers (Raid) and Unified Team Diving (UTD), offer equivalent courses.

The seas off Fujairah are teeming with marine life. Courtesy Freestyle Divers
The waters off the coast of Fujairah are teeming with marine life. Courtesy Freestyle Divers

Fujairah is the centre of the UAE’s diving scene, acting as a gateway to the Indian Ocean and its warmer waters, thriving marine life, colourful coral and potential whale shark-spotting opportunities. But there are options to learn and practise the sport across the UAE.

From introductory sessions that will give you a taste of underwater life to diving with sharks in The Dubai Mall and learning more about marine conservation, here are some of the courses available in the country.

1. Padi Discover Scuba Diving

Discover Scuba Diving offers a first taste of the sport. Courtesy Padi
Discover Scuba Diving offers a taste of the sport. Courtesy Padi

Those looking to dip their toes into the world of diving, without committing to a full course, can opt for the Padi Discover Scuba Diving experience offered by centres across the country.

These introductory sessions can be done in a pool or in the sea, and offer a snapshot of what it’s like to breathe underwater and view aquatic environments up close.

The experience can last between two and five hours and can include single or several dives. While you will not receive any kind of certification at the end, this a great way to find out if diving is a good fit for you.

From Dh295 at Divers Down, Dubai and Fujairah; from Dh231, Al Boom Diving, Dubai and Fujairah; Dh665, Al Mahara Diving Centre, Abu Dhabi

2. Padi Open Water Diver

Diver's Down conducts training sessions in pool custom-made from shipping containers, at its Dive Garage facility in Al Quoz. Courtesy Antonie Robertson/The National 
Divers Down conducts training sessions in a pool custom-made from shipping containers, at its Dive Garage facility in Al Quoz. Antonie Robertson / The National

The world’s most popular and widely recognised diving course, Open Water Diver is the first rung on the Padi certification ladder and, once completed, allows you to go to maximum depths of 18 metres.

The course starts with a bout of e-learning, during which you will be schooled in the fundamentals of scuba. Generally, you’ll then spend a minimum of two days practising these skills in a swimming pool before heading out to sea.

In Dubai, Divers Down offers instruction at its Dive Garage premises in Al Quoz, where it has converted two shipping containers into a one-of-a-kind training pool. Evening classes are offered until 8pm on weekdays for greater flexibility.

Dh1,995, Divers Down, Dubai and Fujairah; Dh1,974, Al Boom Diving, Dubai and Fujairah; Dh2,100, Freestyle Divers, Fujairah; Dh1,950, Sandy Beach Dive Centre, Fujairah; Dh1,500, Abu Dhabi Marine

3. Padi Seal Team

The action-packed Padi Seal Team course is designed for young divers. Courtesy Padi
The action-packed Padi Seal Team course is designed for young divers. Courtesy Padi

The action-packed pool-based Padi Seal Team course is designed for young divers, and is the perfect way to get them engaged in scuba.

Divers over the age of 8 are invited to complete a series of “aqua-missions”, from diving with flashlights to taking cool underwater snaps, which will teach them basic diving skills, but also introduce concepts such as wreck diving, buoyancy and environmental awareness, in a safe and controlled environment.

The course generally consists of five sessions, each lasting 90 minutes.

Dh1,575, Scuba Shade, Dubai; Dh1,490, Divers Down, Dubai and Fujairah

4. Core Marine Conservation

A turtle in Dibba, Fujairah. Courtesy Freestyle Divers
A turtle in Dibba, Fujairah. Courtesy Freestyle Divers

Freestyle Divers sets itself apart with its focus on conservation. The dive centre has created a marine conservation academy at its premises next to the Radisson Blu Hotel in Dibba, Fujairah, where it offers educational and experiential classes for children, families, individuals and corporate groups.

The academy offers marine biology classes, laboratory facilities, coral nurseries and artificial reef creation activities, as well as tailored marine conservation internships.

The Raid Ecological Diver course offers a one-day introductory session focusing on the goals and challenges of marine conservation, human-caused threats to marine environments and conservation strategies.

Freestyle Divers's coral nursery. Courtesy Freestyle Divers
Freestyle Divers' coral nursery. Courtesy Freestyle Divers

For a more in-depth understanding of these complex topics, Freestyle Divers offers a five-day Core Marine Conservation course, which was created by the centre’s in-house marine biologist and focuses on what can be done to turn the tide on marine degradation.

From the dangers of climate change, microplastics, marine pollution and destructive fishing practices, to the importance of coral reefs and artificial reef propagation, the Core Marine Conservation Course is as relevant for those simply looking to broaden their knowledge as it is for those hoping to pursue a career in marine conservation.

Dh3,000, Freestyle Divers

5. Diver Propulsion Vehicle Diver

While dive purists may tut in disapproval, there is no denying that zipping around underwater attached to a diver propulsion vehicle is a whole lot of fun. It’s a great way to cover a lot of “ground” in a short amount of time, whether you are gliding over reefs, exploring a wreck or simply scooting about for the sake of it.

This one-day course, open to anyone with an Open Water qualification, will teach you how to control the motorised scooters safely and responsibly.

Dh1,050, Divers Down, Fujairah

6. Shark Dive at Dubai Aquarium

Divers swim with sharks in the Dubai Mall aquarium. Courtesy Lauren Lancaster / The National  
Divers swim with sharks in The Dubai Mall aquarium. Courtesy Lauren Lancaster / The National

If guaranteed encounters with sharks are more your speed, Al Boom Diving offers experiences in The Dubai Mall’s record-breaking aquarium, which is home to 33,000 marine animals, including rays and the world’s biggest collection of sand tiger sharks.

All diving gear is provided, as it is cleaned specifically to ensure that the aquarium’s inhabitants are protected. You’ll get to fully explore the 10 million-litre tank, ideally with a Go-Pro in situ for maximum bragging rights.

Dh790, Al Boom Diving, Dubai

7. Digital Underwater Photography

Photographers can take their skills underwater. Courtesy Padi
Photographers can take their skills underwater. Courtesy Padi

Photography enthusiasts can take their skills beneath the surface with Padi’s Digital Underwater Photography course. You'll receive hands-on training from a Padi professional over the course of two dives, with a focus on the composition of striking underwater images, choosing the right camera equipment and developing other practical techniques.

You’ll also be schooled in Padi’s Sea (shoot, examine, adjust) methodology, which promises to help you get great underwater shots, fast.

Dh1,250, Freestyle Divers, Fujairah; Dh1,200, Al Boom Diving, Fujairah

8. Underwater Crime Scene Investigator

Whether you are into tech diving, wrecks or night-time exploration, Padi offers a number of speciality diving courses and experiences, which can be enjoyed at most dive centres in the UAE.

But for something that’s extra-niche, Al Boom offers an introduction to Padi’s Underwater Crime Scene Investigator course. From scene safety evaluations to search patterns and underwater mapping techniques, this course aims to familiarise divers with the skills, planning, procedures, techniques and hazards of UCSI diving. It is open to those with Advanced Open Water, Rescue Diver and Underwater Photography certifications.

Dh1,573, Al Boom Diving, Dubai

9. Life Changer

Diver's Down Life Changer Elite course includes a series of Padi qualifications. Courtesy Padi
The Divers Down Life Changer course includes a series of Padi qualifications. Courtesy Padi

Divers Down’s Life Changer course is for those who recognise early on that they want to learn as much as possible about scuba diving.

Only for the truly committed, the Life Changer Elite course includes a series of Padi qualifications: Open Water Diver, Advanced Open Water Diver, Rescue Diver, EFR, Divemaster and Master Scuba Diver, taking you from novice to pro in one fell swoop.

From Dh9,500, Divers Down, Fujairah

10. Human Factors in Diving: Essentials

Developed by Gareth Lock, author of Under Pressure, The Human Diver programme focuses on a core truth: to err is human and even the most experienced divers can make mistakes.

So, rather than focusing on the technical elements of diving, the organisation hones in on the human factors. Through a series of courses, including Human Factors in Diving: Essentials, it aims to impart skills that improve decision-making, situational awareness, communication and leadership.

Training is designed to help divers of all experience levels understand how accidents happen, and how they can be avoided.

Dh356, Freestyle Divers, Fujairah

Updated: June 6, 2021 12:13 PM

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