I am heading to Cairns in May and want to do the PADI open water course - it will be my first ever time Scuba diving.
Can anyone recommend the best company / course to do?
Ive done some research on the internet and they all seem to offer the same sorts of things but I would like to hear views from people who have actually been on these courses.
I will also be heading to the West coast in June, and want to go diving there again, so any info on places / companies to use there would also be beneficial.
You're right that pretty much all the diving companies in Cairns offer the same thing, the only difference might be the price. I got certified with Down Under Dive a few years ago and everything was fine, so I can recommend them. Try to book through your hostel and bargain about commission. This way you might get the course (liveaboard) cheaper.
In Exmouth on the West Coast it is pretty much the same thing. There are a few companies offering the same thing, but you definitely should dive the Navy pier. One of my favourite diving spots in the world .
I didn't do a course but went diving in Cairns and my biggest piece of advice would be to make sure you get to the Outer Reef, the Continental Shelf! It has far superior dive sites and is so much quieter! It might work out a little more expensive but it is totally worth it!
As for your course - from what I understand, as you say, most companies offer pretty much the same thing however, I'd definately go for a liveaboard as you get so much more time in the water!!
Hope that helps!
Enjoy!!! I miss it soooo much!
My impression with learning to dive in Cairns, is that diving training is highly competitive there. This of course makes the operators compete on price, and the standards drop. It becomes a profit margin and time race, not quality. You might argue that you get the course as outlined in the padi book, but I would be surprised if you thought you could learn all you needed to know in the short time they do it. Its basically a mass production site for dive training.
If I where you, I would learn to dive where I was local, establish a relationship with someone you could trust and refer back to, then go to Cairns with some background knowledge, and be comfortable in the water, knowing what you where doing, enjoying the opertunities, instead of stressing with getting the ticket.
And if you do go, liveabord is the way to do it!
Thanks for the advice, so perhaps it is best to learn in Sydney whilst I am still here and then just do a dive trip in Cairns itself? I did think about doing this originally but it was a matter of costs.