First dive in Aruba with a course

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Here it is, my adventurers, a blog about the PADI Open Water Diver course. We did our diving course in Aruba. They say the first breath under water as a scuba diver is one you will never forget. Well believe me, the person who said this couldn’t be more right!

Under every rock, around every reef, a new discovery awaits


Fun fact: you can recognize a diver’s boat or where divers are by the following flag.

PADI say what?

We followed a PADI Open Water Diver course to get a certification, with this certification you can go diving on your own without an instructor. But remember you always need to go diving with two, a buddy.

PADI stands for ‘Professional Association of Diving Instructors’ and you can recognize it by the following logo.

PADI is the most leading scuba diver training organization in the world and you can find their courses and services nearly everywhere. You can look on their website to find where they are located. Their education is diverse, and there are different stages for student divers. In the stages you learn different skills, get knowledge about the local environment and get information that is safety-related. 

The philosophy of PADI is the four E’s, which means that the dive lifestyle requires four elements namely Education, Experience, Equipment and Environmental Conservation. You can read about their philosophy on their website.

All PADI Instructors must follow a lot of courses and perform a lot of dives to get certified, as you can see on their website.

PADI Open Water Diver

The PADI Open Water Diver Course is a course for beginners. You start with an online eLearning course and afterwards you practice your new skills in the pool, or the sea with the conditions of a pool. In the end you do four open water ocean/lake dives. This course is a widely recognized scuba diving course and the most popular. There is also a special course for children which is called Junior Open Water Diver course, but you must be at least 10 years old.

So, there are three main phases in the PADI Open Water Diver course:

  • Knowledge Development: you can do this online, independent study or in a classroom.
  • Confined Water Dives to learn basic scuba skills.
  • Open Water Dives to use your skills and explore.

It’s good that you first must learn the theory about diving to raise your awareness about the sport. I didn’t know that there was so much to know about diving. In the course there are five different chapters, counting around 250 pages in total, which you must learn before you go diving. After every chapter you have to take a test. In the end you also must pass a test before you can go diving.

It’s necessary to learn the theory before you go diving because you learn about pressure, equalizing, buoyancy, the buddy system, the gear, what to do in danger, sign language for divers, seeing and hearing under water, the current, the tides, the influences of the weather, and so on.

So, as you can see there’s a lot that you must know before you jump into the water. Also, the necessary equipment varies, depending whether you’re diving in cold, temperate or tropical water.

We did our tests before we went to Aruba and we started learning those chapters two weeks before we went but you can do it in three days and some places are even teaching the theory in a classroom. All those chapters and all those tests can be done online, so it’s easy to learn from your computer or smartphone.

The information is well explained in the chapters and there are also video’s which makes everything clear. You can do the course in your native language, so we learned it in Dutch. Also, everything will become more clearly when you start diving because the instructor will explain the most important parts again before the dive.

With PADI you also learn about the importance of protecting fragile aquatic ecosystems. They care about the underwater environment and they partnered with Project AWARE. It’s an organization that is dedicated to protecting our planet’s oceans, isn’t that amazing? I believe we can change the world and make every little step count, so don’t ignore what is going on in this world, be aware!

Definitely look on their website to learn more about different courses or what they do for the environment!

Dive center: Happy Divers Aruba

In Aruba we chose for the local dive center ‘Happy Divers Aruba’ because of the excellent reviews on TripAdvisor. For us it was a very surprising and a happy experience. I loved the fact that it was just the two of us with the diving instructor, so everything could go on our pace.

The communication with this dive center went really smooth and it’s easy for us that they speak Dutch. You can also do the courses in English but because we’re from Belgium it’s easier that we could do it in Dutch.

We loved it that they took underwater photo’s and we got them afterwards (for free! How awesome is that?). All the underwater pictures you see in this blog were taken by Lisa de Jong, our diving instructor.

Our diving instructor was the best, she had so much patience with us and she explains everything really clearly. If you have questions, just ask. Lisa has so much experience and could answer a lot of our questions. She lets you discover the sea and gives you the time you need. You don’t have to force anything, do it in your time, at least if you’ve got enough air left in the tank.

All the exercises are clearly explained, and she shows the exercises in the water. She looks at how everything goes and asks what you would like to practice again. She told us in advance which animals we can encounter, and she did everything to show us the beauty of the sea by stopping and pointing at the animals because sometimes you don’t see it by yourself.

All our dives were in the sea in Aruba and it was wonderful, so we didn’t learn it in a pool. We loved that, because that’s the way we learn it the fastest, but I can understand that some people first want to experience it in a pool and want to get used to this new exciting sport.

It’s really overwhelming and when we immediately went in the sea, I panicked a bit because it doesn’t go like you want it to go, there is the current, the sand and rocks. Also, don’t lose your flippers and stuff, I’m a really messy person but luckily I didn’t lose a thing.

Happy Divers Aruba offers different dives and different courses from PADI. You can find more information about this diver center on their website. If you have any questions about this center just contact them, they are really friendly and will love to help you out.

Why doing a diving course in another country?

First of all, look for a dive center that you can trust by reading reviews, look on the PADI website to locate a center where they have PADI Instructors (only if you want that). Look on the website or Facebook page of the center and take a dive center that matches your desires.

Every dive center has its own way and if you’re not sure if it’s your way just send an email and ask for more information, you can ask how they will learn it to you (in the sea, in a pool, etc.). We immediately went for our Open Water Certification (with four dives) but you can also do one scuba dive as a start to see if you like it.

I think it’s amazing to learn it in another country because we are from Belgium. There the water is unclear and cold, so we wanted to do it somewhere hot and with clear blue water.

Watch out that you build up your adventures. If you go diving in a diving paradise where you see everything you wanted, then you might be disappointed the next time you go diving. We learned diving in Aruba and that was ideal, I hope our next dive will be in Egypt (which it was, read about it here).

Our scuba dive experience in Aruba

Scuba diving was an amazing experience and it is hard to explain the experience. If you’re doubting about starting scuba diving, just do it! The sport is so impressive, you’re in another world, it takes your breath away (not literally while you’re diving because that’s dangerous if you’re ascending fast, remember to always breathe under water).

After my dive I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It may be our first dive but it’s definitely not our last!

Tip: if you don’t know whether you’re going to like it, start out with a Discover Scuba Diving course.

First dive

First dive at Mangel Halto in Aruba.

Our first dive, we were away from 1 pm until around 4 pm. Our diving instructor explained how we could set up our gear and how to dismantle it. She showed us how we should do it and then it was our turn to try it.

That went smoothly, now put on your wet suit and it’s time to put on you gear. The gear: your buoyancy control device or BCD, it’s a vest you’re wearing with your gear attached to like your cylinder, your regulator, etc. Afterwards we did a check, does everything work like it should be?

Yes! Okay we’re going in the sea. Say what? This was the time where I had butterflies in my stomach. With my flippers in one hand and my mask and snorkel in the other we went in the water. WOW, this diving gear is heavy! My back hurts and it’s hard to walk in the water. But when you’re in the water and you put air in your BCD you can’t feel a thing anymore, it isn’t heavy anymore, amazing!

We did a buddy check, afterwards the diving instructor explained how to descend in the water and she was telling that we should get used to breathing under water and that when we are ready, we should follow her. You learn the diving signs for under water before you go in the water, so you can communicate with signs under water.

Okay bye, there she goes, our diving instructor put her hand in the air with the outlet of the BCD and pushed the button (that releases air out of your BCD). She was slowly going down in the water. We did the same, pushing that button.

Oooooh myyyyyy goooodddd what is happening I’m becoming heavier and I’m going to the bottom of the sea. I was panicking, what is happening, I am breathing under water. Trust me on this, it’s different than breathing through a snorkel. It was such a weird feeling, it didn’t feel right so I was breathing really fast and was panicking. My whole BCD was empty, all the air was out of the vest, and I didn’t reach the ground.

Oh no this isn’t working out for me. So many emotions, so many mixed feelings. I was thinking in my head “come on, pull yourself together it’s awesome to breath under water, just breath in, count to five and breath out…”.

Yes, I was calming down and when I was becoming calm, I slowly went closer to the bottom of the sea. That’s when I realized that your own body is a part of the diving gear. Our instructor explained afterwards that your lungs are a sort of second BCD, and she’s right! With your breathing you’re controlling a lot. When you take a deep breath, you feel yourself going up and when you breathe out, you’re going down. How amazing!! I was so excited to start exploring.

First, we learned some skills. Our diving instructor showed what we must do and then we each had to repeat what she did, like taking your mask off in the water and then put it back on and get the water out of the mask, finding your regulator when it falls out of your mouth, and many other useful exercises.

The second thing we did was exploring. We saw a lot of fishes and a small shipwreck, which was amazing. I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was so stunning. It’s like I was in another world! I got used to breathing underwater really fast and all my worries were gone. It was only on the first moment we went underwater that I was panicking for a few seconds but luckily once you take control over your breathing everything goes amazingly well, except for the buoyancy. Sometimes I touched the ground and sometimes I was way up. I didn’t know how to control staying on the same level at that time. If you see the instructor diving, then diving looks really easy, but it’s more difficult than you think.

Conclusion after my first dive: I thought diving would be really easy, but it is harder than it looks… but I went diving, only once, and that was enough to fall in love with it!

Second, third and fourth dive

Second dive at Tres Trapi Steps.

Okay after the first dive, the next day I woke up with a lot of pain in my back and I didn’t know what to do. I thought it were my lungs, so I was a little bit freaked out and didn’t know if I should go to a doctor, because that afternoon we should go on our second dive, almost the same time as the first dive.

After a little bit moving and jumping, I figured out that the pain was where the cylinder was and that it was my back muscles that were hurt, so no big deal. I looked it up on google, yeah, I know that you shouldn’t do that because there is so much false information on the internet, but I can’t help myself, I look everything up, haha that’s me. The cylinders are really heavy, so it could be that your back hurts the first time you go diving. It’s important that you keep walking around and don’t stay in bed, and next time you should try training your back muscles. In the afternoon my back wasn’t hurting that much anymore so YES, we were going on a second dive.

Again, we did some skill exercises and learned a lot of new stuff about diving and wow this was going way better than the day before. My buoyancy was going way better, I was so happy, I didn’t want to stop diving. We saw a lot of beautiful fishes and a lot of starfishes, it was amazing! The sea has so many gifts, I love it! We survived our second dive and I’m finally starting to understand how the buoyancy works. This dive was so relaxed.

Third and fourth dive near Mangel Halto

The day after our second dive we woke up early to go on our Third and fourth dive that we did near Mangel Halto. We learned to go in the water from a peer by putting a little bit air in the BCD and let yourself fall into the water on your back, oooooh how awesome was that!

We learned about the last skills of the course and between the dives we checked if we had learned everything we should learn, and we did, so the diving instructor asked if we wanted to practice something specific. We practiced some more on the buoyancy and we dove around the place to look for some turtles. Unfortunately, we didn’t find turtles, but we did see a green moray and other beautiful colorful fishes.

Every dive takes around an hour I think (one tank) but it doesn’t feel like an hour, it passes by so fast. Every time after a dive I was sad that it was over. When you’re in the water you’re in a different world where time doesn’t matter, but don’t forget to look at the pressure gauge to see how much air there is left in your cylinder. You look at all those beautiful things, it’s indescribable.

We did this amazing adventure and yes, we are happy divers!! We have our PADI Open Water Divers certification and we’re already thinking where our next dive will be.

4 thoughts on “First dive in Aruba with a course

  1. Saskia says:

    Hi Birgit, I loved to read your blog. Next week I will travel to Aruba and hope to get my padi open water certification at Happy Divers. Lisa is my daughter and your comments make me feel real proud. Keep diving! Saskia

    1. birgitlostinnature says:

      Hi Saskia, thank you for reading my blog, I’m glad you liked it 🙂. You made my day! Your daughter is an amazing person and she’s a really good diving instructor. She can explain everything clearly so you’ll definitely get your certification, good luck! I hope you have a really good time in Aruba with your daughter.
      Greetings Birgit

  2. Joe Di Dalvo says:

    Loved reading about your first diving experience. I remember my first. I was in such awe of breathing under water and trying to balance that with pure panic. My first actual ocean dive was with Happy Divers Aruba. Jeffery and his team are the absolute best. I’ve been out with them three times for the last three years and can’t wait till next year. Happy Diving.

    1. birgitlostinnature says:

      Thank you very much for reading my blog! I’m glad that I’m not the only one that was in panic of breathing under water. It felt so strange and at that moment I thought I didn’t like it but luckily after a few minutes I loved it and after the first dive I knew I would continue diving. Wow, you already made a lot of dives then? I’m definitely going back there and of course with Happy Divers Aruba. The same for you, happy diving and have a great time in Aruba next year!


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