Planning a dive holiday for the whole family
Many people think that family holidays and diving holidays are mutually exclusive. But we beg to differ. A Family Dive Holiday could be the first step towards a lifetime of quality time together as a family. There really is nothing like exploring the underwater world with the next generation.
Perhaps, like many scuba divers, you have given up on the idea because it’s all too hard with young kids. But with a bit of planning, it’s possible to have a dive trip with kids in tow. And if you introduce your kids to the life aquatic at an early age, hopefully, they’ll come to share your love of the underwater world.
So whether you want to book a family diving holiday, take everyone on a family holiday and get a few dives in; or, teach the kids how to dive and go scuba diving with kids… here are our top tips.
How old should kids be to learn how to dive?
Snorkelling is a good place to start your kids’ underwater adventures. Kids usually start to show an interest in snorkelling somewhere between five and eight years old.
Kids as young as eight can try scuba diving with a Bubblemaker experience. Basic theory and safety are taught in a fun environment, followed by a pool session to learn how to use scuba equipment. Once comfortable, they can enjoy an ocean dive to a depth of 2m. Junior Open Water Certification level is designed for 10 to 14 years. Again, there is a theory component, and lots of practice in the safety of the pool before venturing out to the ‘open water’ of the ocean. Maximum depth is 12m, though in practice – depths are usually 6-9m.
Discover Scuba Diving
Another option for kids (or grown-ups) who aren’t yet ready to commit to a full-blown scuba diving course, is Discover Scuba Diving option, for ages 10 and up. The emphasis is getting people into the water and actually going diving: getting up close and personal with Nemo and friends and experiencing the weightlessness of diving, the nearest thing to flying you can get. This is often the trigger for individuals to go for their first real certification – and will count towards it.
Open Water Diver
This is for ages 12 and upwards and for those who want to feel confident and self-reliant in the open water environment to depths of 18m. The course includes lessons on the physiology of diving, the equipment and techniques for safe, comfortable and enjoyable diving – on-line, in the classroom, in the pool and finally in the ocean.
NB: If you’d like to dive as a buddy pair with your newly qualified 10-year old, some dive centres may insist that you are certified to Rescue Diver (or equivalent), depending on the depth of the dive. Check in with the dive centre first as to what their specific procedures and rules may be – it will largely depend on your child. Either way, watching your child experience scuba for the first time is something you’ll dine off of for a while.
The Best Dive Resorts and Liveaboards for family diving holidays
Fiji is an obvious first choice for a family diving holiday, as most resorts already have excellent ‘kids clubs’ and family-friendly activities, particularly the Mamanuca Island Resorts, including Castaway Island Resort and Treasure Island which both have an onsite dive centre. On the main island of Viti Levu, Waidroka Bay Resort is a great option for families, and watch out for special ‘Family Weeks’ at Beqa Lagoon Resort.
On the island of Savusavu, Jean Michel Cousteau Resort is almost as famous for its Bula Club for kids as it is for the soft coral diving at nearby Namena Marine Reserve (and the resort’s namesake owner). The diving here is spectacular and the resort also has a Junior Marine Biologist course for kids.
A cruise around the Fiji islands with Captain Cook Cruises Fiji is another wonderful option for families. The onboard kids club has a great program for kids of all ages, and each day a new port offers a wide range of day trips and diving opportunities. The bonus for divers is that you’ll visit Fiji’s more remote dive sites such as Makogai and Taveuni (think Great White Wall and Rainbow Reef) in a family-friendly environment.
In Vanuatu, Hideaway Island Resort in Port Vila and Whitegrass Ocean Resort in Tanna are both great choices for families, with easy access to very pretty fringing coral reefs and easy diving conditions suitable for beginners.
In Indonesia, families have the option to explore the Coal Triangle, the world’s centre of biodiversity, by liveaboard, aboard the Pindito, which does a dedicated Family Cruise each July. This special “Family Dive Cruise” departs from Bali, taking passengers into Komodo National Park, a World Heritage Site and location for incredible diving. During the cruise, kids can participate in “Discover Scuba”, instructor-lead diving and snorkelling venues. Meanwhile, parents can explore Komodo’s coral reefs or they can join the kids and instructors during these fun and mellow intro-dives.
Also in Indonesia, Bali Hai Diving Adventures offer diving experiences on Bali’s Lembongan Island, at Hai Tide Resort, also available as a day trip from your chosen Bali resort, with base camp for the day a large pontoon equipped with waterslides, swimming pool, kayaks and semi-submersible coral viewing boats.
Wakatobi Resort in Indonesia’s southern Sulawesi is a purpose-built family friendly, 5-star dive resort, with luxury accommodation, fine dining, and seriously mind-blowing diving.
The luxury resort was established after an extensive search to locate the perfect location in terms of ocean topography, marine biodiversity and climate, and it’s only a short hop from Bali via private charter plane. A pristine continuous reef passes right in front of the resort, easily accessible from the beach to be explored on snorkel, whilst divers are dropped at the most impressive spots, just a few minutes by boat.
They offer the full gamut of childcare too, from nannies for the toddlers to bubble-maker courses for younger kids and Discover Scuba Dives for the bigger kids, while certified junior divers can dive with their parents. Wakatobi Kids Club includes a great range of activities for 5 to 12-year-olds including kayaking, kite-making and flying, nature hunts, palm weaving, treasure hunts and snorkelling. Kids Club Activities can also be personalised, so if you want your child to join the dive boat for a snorkel, or to go on a Land Tour, this can be arranged.
B&J Diving on Tioman Island in Malaysia offer the full range of kids’ PADI diving options including the Bubble Maker program and Seal Team Courses for eight to 10-year old kids, where they can learn basic scuba skills and take part in specialty AquaMissions. They even have kid-size mouth pieces and kid-size tanks.
The Philippines is another family-friendly destination, and Atmosphere Resort in Dauin one of the best for kids, with two separate pool areas, of which one comprises of three shallower pools, and a Kids’ Club. ‘Kids’ Cove’ on Atmosphere’s premises has a range of educational materials and toys, arts and crafts activities and movies. Older kids can snorkel, do a PADI Bubble Maker Dive Course, join the PADI Seal Team program. They also cater to families in the spa with Kid’s yoga and a Kid’s Spa Menu.
Uepi Island Resort in the Solomon Island’s Western Provinces has access to some of the world’s best easy diving. Pristine coral reefs and friendly reef sharks are as close as the resort’s own jetty and there plenty of land-based activities and safe swimming in the lagoon for kids.
An obvious place to take kids for their introduction to the wonderful undersea world is the Great Barrier Reef. The easiest option for a family dive holiday is on one of the Reef’s islands such as Heron Island Resort or Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort.