Top tips for when you’re learning to scuba dive

While I was travelling in Australia I spent six months working on a scuba diving island called Mackerel Island. Before this, I’d never intended to learn to scuba dive because:

a)    I’m a total wuss

b)   I’m not very good at swimming

c)    I’m scared of fish

d)   It’s expensive

e)    I hadn’t realised how amazingly, incredibly, epically awesome scuba diving is

Working on the island meant I could learn really slowly and practice in my own time. I also had a hefty discount on my PADI course and I was always around fish, so I slowly began to get over my fish phobia.  With all these things considered, it would be rude not to learn to scuba dive, and after a few months I was an addict!

Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to scuba dive in some of the most incredible places in the world, like Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Maldives and Egypt. I’m hoping to squeeze a scuba diving and yoga holiday in this summer so I can combine two of my favourite activities and go somewhere beautiful and exotic.

If you’re learning to scuba dive, here are some of my top tips for learning to scuba dive that I picked up from my work on the island and generally through being a scardy cat.

Top tips for new scuba divers

Cover your mask in toothpaste to avoid it fogging up

When you first learn to dive you will be nervous. Even if you’re the bravest person in the world, it is terrifying the first time you sink to the sandy bed of the sea. If there is one thing that makes it even more terrifying, it’s not being able to see.

Even good quality scuba diving masks can fog up, so to avoid this I recommend smearing a thin layer of toothpaste over the inside of the mask. Leave it there for about half an hour and you’ll have clear vision for your whole dive. Some people recommend spitting or washing it with baby shampoo but I found toothpaste to be the most effective.

You will be taught how to un-fog your mask while you’re underwater but you’ll want to do this as little as possible so you can enjoy the dive.


Snorkel first

I was a very nervous diver to begin with, but I found that once I’d mastered snorkelling, I was much more confident diver.

I know you might think that snorkelling is just floating on the surface, but there’s actually much more to it.

You need to get used to wearing fins, diving below the surface and using your breath to control yourself. Practice breathing out and emptying your lungs so that you’ll sink and generally get used to being underwater.

Top tips when learning to scuba dive

Don’t drink too much the night before

Scuba diving and beer go hand in hand. There is nothing better than spending a day diving and then returning to the shores where you’ll drink a few icy beers while watching the sunset.

‘A few beers’ inevitably turns into a messy night and before you know it it’s 7am and you’re hurling over the side of the boat as you desperately try to sober up for your next day of diving.

Scuba diving is all about breathing slowly while staying calm and relaxed. This is virtually impossible when you’re hungover (trust me, I’m speaking from experience) so it really isn’t worth it.

Remember that when you’re sick, you have a reflex to then take a huge breath and suck in as much air as possible. If you do this underwater you either have to be sick inside your regulator (the thing you breathe through) or risk sucking in a lung full of water. Just. Not. Worth. It.

Focus on your breathing

When you’re underwater you can hear the steady, rhythmic inhale and exhale of your own breaths. I find this to be incredibly relaxing and whenever I start to panic I focus on my breath and it helps to calm me down.

Little kicks

It’s all about the little kicks when you’re breathing to help conserve your energy and your precious oxygen.

Whenever possible you should swim with the current, but when you’re swimming against the current, try using lots of tiny kicks. You’ll find you’ll move much faster and will use far less energy.


Make sure you’re comfortable with your instructor

Most scuba diving instructors are super friendly and chilled out and I’ve never come across one I don’t like. But if you’re learning with an instructor you don’t feel comfortable with then you’re really going to struggle. You should literally trust them with your life and feel like you can comfortably follow all of their advice and instructions.

Make sure you meet your instructor before signing up to a course.


If you have any more tips for anyone learning to scuba dive, please share them in the comments below!




Monica is the founder and editor of The Travel Hack. She began the blog in 2009 when she left the UK to travel around Asia and Australia for two years. She's now a full time blogger and has travelled around the world in search of affordable luxury travel experiences.Monica lives in Wales with her growing family and now also blogs about travelling with young children!

SHOWHIDE Comments (22)
  1. Hello fellow Throwback Thursday buddy! Looking forward to seeing more of your tips. I absolutely loved scuba diving when I have done it in the past (the last time over 10 years ago now, cry) & shamefully I always forget about it when planning a holiday. I’d love to get back in the deep water in the near future, there’s nothing like feeling that cool clear water & feeling like you’re in a bubble.

    1. I haven’t dived for ages either. The thought of having to do a refresher course really puts me off but I know I should just do it. I agree, you can’t beat that feeling like you’re in a bubble underwater!

  2. I’ve never tried scuba diving, mainly because my ears are super sensitive to changes in pressure and I’m really nervous about that. It wasn’t a very pleasant sensation when I went sky diving, and I find even going to the bottom of a swimming pool to be uncomfortable.

    Maybe one day! But awesome suggestion to go snorkeling first. I’m hoping to do that when I’m in Australia later this year.

    Thanks for the great tips!

    1. I also find that my ears are a bit sensitive when I dive, especially if I do 2-3 dives in a day. I think the trick is just to take it really slowly and go as slow as possible when you descend. Definitely try it out as much as you can in a pool before you fork out for a PADI course or maybe try a ‘scuba taster session’ when you go out for about 20 mins to see if you like it.

    1. AlainSojourner, it is good that they think about your safety more than anything else. The reason why dive centers take no non-swimmers for a course is because panic is beside them as soon as they are in the water. This is not a bad thing, if you really want to do scuba diving, learn to swim, you do not need to be a competitive swimmer to scuba dive but to be comfortable in the water is vital. If one gets scared when they cannot feel the bottom of the ocean, can you imagine them underwater? I hope you’d learn to swim and finally be able to scuba dive. Heads up 😀

    2. You don’t need to know how to swim to scuba dive. When I was learning to be a Scuba Instructor many in my course did not know how to swim and were fine, and training to be an Instructor! The vest keeps you buoyant and even if you sink you have air to breathe. Understandably some companies don’t like the risk but a confident instructor shouldn’t find a problem with your swimming abilities. It is the most amazing thing to do and no one should hold you back because of your swimming abilities. You aren’t supposed to use your arms anyway so all you’re doing is kicking a little. Good Luck and I hope you find someone to take you out

    1. My boyfriend was actually a bit nervous about swimming in water where he couldn’t see beneath him and diving totally helped him get over that fear. When you’re under the water and you can see what’s around you, you can see that it’s not that scary at all.

  3. Great post…and also a rather timely one. Having just arrived in Koh Tao, Thailand, I did my first dive this morning…my first tropical water dive in well over 15 years! 🙂

  4. Ah! Great location to do these kinda things. Better than flapping around murky British waters! Funny how you mentioned being frightened of aquatic beings. I didn’t realise I had an issue until I was face-to-face with a turtle, underwater, which was looking to run me down. Thanks again for the tips!

  5. I wrote a blog post with my scuba diving tips after I did my PADI course in the Cayman Islands. I think the most important thing is to take it slow and stay calm. I’m still a bit of a nervous diver and having an instructor you’re comfortable with is essential. The last time I went diving in Sydney we had a great instructor and I was a lot less nervous than I was when I did the PADI course.

  6. Mastering snorkeling seems like a great way to go when it comes to learning to dive. Starting out small and working your way up would definitely make things a bit easier. My husband has been a big scuba diver for the past few years and he finally talked me into getting my certification. I would love to be able to have those neat experiences so I can’t wait to get started!

  7. Great post Monica! My boyfriend tried scuba diving for the very first time last year and I know he had the same thoughts as you with regards of not being a great swimming and also being scared of fish! He loved the experience and now can’t wait to get certified!

  8. That’s exactly what I am looking for. Thanks for this post. I love your blog and all the ideas you shared about outdoor experiences. Keep it up!

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The Travel Hack is a blog about stylish adventure travel and affordable luxury.

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