Q: How do you match the competence of your client with a suitable destination?
Judith Almond, travel consultant, Ryedale Travel, Helmsley, York
You will need to establish your client’s level of experience, whether they are a complete beginner, a novice, or experienced with several hundred logged dives. Rusty divers may need a refresher dive with an instructor, and this can be carried out in resort.
A qualified diver will typically have a good idea of where they want to travel, depending on what type of diving they would like to do and what marine life they would like to see. On arrival in resort, dive centres may ask to see your clients’ dive log book, so it is important that the pre-booked diving matches their level of experience.
Of the major dive destinations, Egypt’s Red Sea is suitable for all experience levels, which is why it remains one of the most popular destinations.
Alternatively, Thailand or the Caribbean are good places to learn to dive. The Maldives offers courses for beginners, but the islands are often better suited to experienced divers as there can be deep drop-offs. The Maldives also tends to be more expensive.
Liveaboards are where clients stay on, and dive from, the boat. Most are in the Red Sea. Liveaboards are not suitable for beginners, but are a fantastic way for newly-qualified divers to build up their experience and log more dives, or for experienced divers to maximise their time in the water.
Q: What are the pros and cons, apart from commission, of booking dives in advance?
Karen Unthank, travel consultant, Kyle Travel Services, Yarm, Cleveland
There are three advantages for your client in reserving diving in advance with an operator.
First, they can be confident that the dive centre they will be booked with is a safe and reputable dive centre.
Second, if they are travelling during a busy time, there is no guarantee that the dive centre will be able to offer what they would like in the timescale they have in mind. This particularly applies to courses, where diver-to-instructor ratios change according to the type of course, the age of people participating and local factors.
Third, in the majority of cases, your client will pay slightly less for their dive package when reserving in advance – particularly once local taxes, bank charges, fixed local exchange rates and credit card charges are taken into account.
In short, booking dives in advance should give your client peace of mind.
Q: At what age can children learn to dive? Should beginners take a course before they go?
Maria Kibble, travel consultant, Travel Club Elite, Birmingham
Diving is something that can be enjoyed by the whole family. PADI has developed fun training courses for youngsters. Children can start from the age of eight with the PADI Bubblemaker, while the full Junior PADI Open Water course is available from age 10.
Beginners can complete part of the PADI Open Water Learn to Dive course before they travel if they wish. This is known as a Referral course. These are suitable for those who have completed their theory and pool training in the UK with a local dive club, but prefer to carry out their qualifying abroad.
Q: What are the best dive destinations at certain times of the year?
Niall Douglas, managing director, Full Circle Travel, Wallingford
There are many destinations that can be dived year round, but if the aim is to see a particular variety of marine life, or experience a seasonal event, then you must travel at the right time.
South Africa is home to the sardine run, one of the greatest marine events on the planet. The sardines are hunted by numerous predators, including game fish, shark, whales, seals and sea birds, and can be seen in June and July.
To witness the unusual-looking mola mola, the world’s heaviest bony fish, visit Bali from July through to October.
And finally, to observe coral spawning in September and October, clients should head to Bonaire in the Caribbean.
Emma Mackenzie is marketing manager for Regaldive
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