So you’ve found yourself with a day or two off and a few bucks and you want to go diving. How do you choose your next local dive trip for maximum fun, ease and experience? Below are some items for consideration.
Of course this will be your first factor to consider. The good thing is there are options not only on the weekends but for midweek as well. For mid-week options look at Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.
Multiday dive trips to the Channel Islands are an excellent value. While they may seem more expensive per day at first, consider that you’ll get in more dives per day, accommodations, and sumptuous meals. In my mind, they are a bargain.
Speaking of dollars spent, how do you get the most bang for your buck? As previously mentioned, consider a mutiday trip if you can scrape together enough days off. Even consider a mini-dive vacation of 3, 4, and even 5 days. Several dive boat run them especially during the summer through mid-fall. Book yours well ahead of time.
Another way of making your diving dollar go further is to dive mid-week. Several of the Southern California dive charter boats run mid-week trips that are an excellent value.
And you can compromise on destination. Trips to closer in destinations are obviously less expensive but I am not a big fan of this option. Don’t compromise your diving experience because of a few dollars.
Also when it comes to budgeting, know what is included in your trip. Some boats now include tanks and weights, which could save you the cost of renting these items.
Experienced dive charter boat divers will tell you there is nothing quite as aggravating as being an experienced diver on a dive trip with a bunch of brand new student divers. Odds are your dive will be in a location far below your experienced level. Worse yet is the novice diver finding themselves on a dive trip meant for advanced level divers. Either you sit out the dive(s) or you could put yourself in danger diving beyond your level of expertise. The solution: simply ask, “What is the experience level of this trip?” and get a straight answer.
If you are nitrox diver, make sure it is available onboard. Nitrox fills are not available on all California dive charter boats. Tech diving requires different dive plans than ordinary dive plans. Make sure your needs fit with the boat’s plans. Also of note: Some boats prohibit the use of rebreathers onboard. Always check first.
GOALS/EMPHASIS ON THE TRIP
Mix together on a boat hunters and photographers/sightseers and somebody is going to be unhappy. I was on a 3-day trip recently where the emphasis was on photography/sightseeing. There was one lone spearfisher onboard and he either was not informed or did not ask as to the focus of the trip. Several marine preserves were visited during the course of the trip. As you can imagine, he was not happy.
LOCATIONS TO BE VISITED
Dive spot locations to be visited are important to many divers. While a destination may be specified, it is always at the discretion of the skipper with regards to wind, seas, currents, visibility and so much more. Even so, if you want to dive wreck, book a trip that specifies wrecks. Also, if you are in the vicinity of a particular underwater feature or dive site that you’d like to visit, ask. Yours is not the final say on the boat but it will likely be taken into consideration.
Refund and cancellation policies vary greatly among dive charter boats and those operating dive charters. Check carefully to make sure the refund policy will work for you.
Picking the dive trip that is right for you need not be an art form, but you will want to take several factors into consideration for maximum safety and enjoyment. One final point: book your trip as far in advance as possible for the best trips.