Theres no denying that diving can be an expensive activity, but the costs can be mitigated if your approach is appropriate to your needs. Take the training. The quickest way to learn to dive is to take a week or two and travel to a destination where you will not be distracted by inconsistent weather.
You will need to pay for flights, accommodation and food, as well as the actual diving course. The total cost usually reflects the degree of comfort provided both in and out of the water.
Typical prices for a week at a location in the Egyptian Red Sea are around £600 per person (half board), according to season.
A compromise would be to complete the theory and pool-work at a diving school near your home in the evenings or at weekends (costing around £150), then take a trip to somewhere with reliable sea conditions to gain experience under a qualified instructor (costing around £400).
Another option is to complete all your open-water training in Britain. However, if you are not lucky enough to live near the coast, this might involve the cost of trips aborted due to bad weather, or visits to inland dive sites. Although economically viable because the diving is almost guaranteed, inland sites give little inkling of the magical experiences awaiting you once you are certified.
Prices charged by schools start at around £200, and tend to include all the equipment you need, though hire of the usually essential wetsuit is often an extra.
A cheaper way to go about things is through a club. Until recently in the UK this meant joining the sports governing body, the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC), or the smaller Sub-Aqua Association (SAA).
However, the international commercial training agency PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) has now started setting up chapters here, usually linked to shops or schools.
The facilities offered by clubs can be variable. The good ones are very good and the bad ones can be very frustrating for new recruits.
The best clubs offer inexpensive training with the clubs own equipment, delivered by reliable and knowledgeable instructors at least one night each week in a local pool, with training dives during club outings to the coast.
Others insist you buy all your own equipment first, even though you may not be sure how you will take to the new activity. Some even charge such a hefty fee for a diving course that it makes schools look like very good value!
Diving clubs are not usually commercially minded, which can mean that trainees are not always treated like valuable customers.
Because club instructors are volunteers who are giving up their free time to train you, it is necessary to understand their motivation for doing so. This too can be very variable. There needs to be commitment and dedication on both the part of the instructor and you, the trainee.
It is also important to understand what equipment you will need to buy straight away, as well as who will be training you, what the course will cost, and how long it will take.
Ask these questions before parting with your club subscription fee or any other money. Some people have literally taken years to learn to dive.
Of course there are those that just like to belong to a club for the social aspect and, for them, getting qualified to dive quickly is less important.
So what diving equipment do you initially need and what is it likely to cost
Assuming that no equipment is provided by your club, and assuming that you get hooked on scuba diving as soon as you have been trained - which is highly likely - you will want to buy your own equipment.
The diving club environment allows you access to people who have second-hand items to dispose of. These usually come with a bona fide track-record.
However, buying life-supporting items from people you dont know often involves an element of risk, and risk is the one thing that dive-training aims to eliminate from the sport.
New equipment spans a wide price range, with the cheaper products usually offering less sophistication rather than reduced efficiency. Happily, Britain is one of the least expensive places in the world to get equipped for scuba-diving.
Masks cost from £20, fins from around £30. A top-of-the-range regulator or breathing valve can cost more than £500, but for a less-sophisticated one you get change from £120, complete with pressure gauge. It will be good enough for pool-training and the depths to which you should restrict yourself during your first 50 or so dives.
A buoyancy compensator (an essential device) costs from less than £200. I will shock some old-timers by suggesting that you buy a bottom-of-the-range diving computer (less than £130) instead of a watch and depth-gauge, as soon as you are out of the pool and into open water.
A computer tells you, among other things, your ascent rate, which is both vital and difficult for a beginner to judge.
There are endless other items that some diving gurus insist that you need and, depending on where you are diving, some may well be essential. However, the only other truly important item is a diving suit.
Of course, like everything else, these can be hired (about £10 per day) but there is nothing like owning your own clothes! Assuming that the swimming-pool water is warm enough to do without any extra thermal protection for that part of your training, a two-piece 7mm semi-drysuit with hood and gloves will give you plenty of versatility.
You put on the bits you need according to the temperature of the open water in which you find yourself diving. It will set you back around £170.
Diving equipment needs little in the way of servicing. It is more a matter of looking after it by rinsing it in fresh water and storing it somewhere dry and well ventilated. Only regulators need to be serviced annually, and that costs between £20 and £50, depending on the type.
Once youve spent around £1350 on training and equipment, what does diving cost from then on
You might have noticed that there has been no mention of buying a diving air-cylinder. Well, you will always need to buy air (unless your club has its own compressor) and in Britain it is usually easy to rent a cylinder from the same place.
Similarly, dive centres abroad provide air (in a cylinder!) and weights as part of the cost of a dive. So you may not need to buy a cylinder of your own.
The cost of an individual dive depends very much on where in the world the diving centre is and whether you buy a package of dives. It varies from as little as £10 to as much as £60 per dive, and a dive can last anything from 30 to 90 minutes. Thats up to you!
Obviously, a dive-trip aboard a private yacht in the Galapagos can work out a lot more expensive than diving from the shore in Malta.
Clubs are formed by groups of people with the idea of sharing both the pleasures and the costs. They may have their own boat bought with club funds, or they may charter a boat for, say, a weekend.
For example, a typical charter-boat trip (two dives) with Hoddesdon SAC, a Hertfordshire branch of the BSAC, costs around £37 per day.
Club dives tend to be in home waters, although if the clubs boat is towable there may be the odd foray abroad.
Of course, there is nothing to stop like-minded club members going on a dive-holiday together, and this is where the line between club diving and private diving becomes blurred.
Diving holidays can often work out cheaper than traditional trips away. For example, an all-inclusive seven-night holiday on a liveaboard dive boat in the Egyptian Red Sea can cost around £700. Take your own gear and there is usually nothing more to pay. Expect to fit in 15 dives of around an hour each.
Putting aside the time you spend eating and chewing the fat with other divers between dives, that works out at 77p per minute for the most exciting time of your life!