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SCUBA activities in Abu Dhabi and East Coast Dibba and Musandam, UAE
Vance Stevens, PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor #64181

"Plan your dive, dive your plan"

If you want to dive with us or see what we're up to, view our dive plans here:, Check the logs from our most recent dives here.,
See what the Froglegs are up to:

Open WaterTraining bookmarks: FAQs about training and safety | Costs and What if I have an ear problem? | getting STARTED (get the crewpack) | Getting Wet (pool and ocean training) | Paperwork prior to certification | How to fill in your logbooks | Refresher and courses after beginning o/w
Where to catch the boat | Safety concerns | Sample proposal for o/w training | Weather and Ecology

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FAQs about the PADI Open Water dive course:

General information

I'm an independent PADI instructor with a full time job in education. I do what I can to promote diving and environmental awareness locally. When I receive general inquiries about the Open Water course, I send this letter in reply:, updated in May 2012:

I teach diving in my spare time (evenings and weekends). I maintain several web references pertaining to diving, particularly in the UAE:

Advantages of working with me would be

  • Expertise and experience - diving since 1966;
  • instructor since 1993
  • One-on-one attention, and maximum flexibility.
    • These days I'm doing almost all my courses in one weekend through Nomad Ocean Adventure <== Click on the bookmark
    • I have given the course in Abu Dhabi. Some people take weeks or even months to pace the course. It's up to you :-)

There's more information below. If you wish to arrange training, or if I can help with more information, don't hesitate to contact me.

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What does it cost?

I'll teach o/w divers who will pay my fee plus cover expenses incurred in their training. Just to give you an idea, here are some of the costs involved, in UAE dirhams (3.65 per $, 2012).

Not all students incur all these costs (doubling up on pool sessions or using shallow water off beach instead of pool, for example)

Also, there is an option available in UAE/Oman (May 2012) via Nomad Ocean Adventure wherein the student does the PADI eLearning in advance (about $130 usd)

The students pays only 1800 dirhams fixed price for a two-day course. We meet in Dibba, Oman on Thu night, you do your first pool training there, eat and sleep, more pool training Friday morning, 2 ocean dives Friday, finish pool training Friday/Sat evening/morning, and complete the final o/w dives Saturday. This price includes everything, including my fee, plus 4 ocean dives, all equipment needed in ocean and pool, use of pool, 2 night's accommodation and 6 meals, and certification. If interested, ask me about it.

Otherwise, here is an itemization of expenses

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How long does the course take?

Lately I have been using Nomad Ocean Adventure wherein the student does the PADI eLearning in advance (about $130 usd) and then pays only 1800 dirhams fixed price for a two-day course. We meet in Dibba, Oman on Thu night, you do your first pool training there, eat and sleep, more pool training Friday morning, 2 ocean dives Friday, finish pool training Friday/Sat evening/morning, and complete the final o/w dives Saturday. This price includes everything, including my fee, plus 4 ocean dives, all equipment needed in ocean and pool, use of pool, 2 night's accommodation and 6 meals, and certification. If interested, ask me about it.

Some people prefer to meet once a week for academic and pool work. If you have a deadline to meet we could do it faster than that, and some prolong it more, but assuming you adhere to the once-a-week schedule you can have your PADI open water certification in about 6 weeks. If the course is taken through the hotels, some allow pool use for diving only at night. Also, it is possible to do open water dives only on weekends, so scheduling can be a problem with busy, active people involved.

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When can I start the course?

I encourage people to start whenever they like. I'll take one or more students at a time. We can accommodate trainees at all levels at any pool or academic session. So the simple answer to this question is start whenever you are ready and join others who have already started the course,or others may join you later. You'll find that being in the pool or ocean with more advanced dive trainees will help you; as observing their training helps prepare you for when you reach their level.

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What certification do I get?

On successful completion of your course you will receive your PADI Open Water dive certificate. PADI certifies the majority of divers worldwide (55% according to, which means that the remaining 45% are divided among the many other certifying bodies). PADI certification is recognized almost anywhere, and I can't imagine a commercial dive center where it wouldn't be honored actually. The certificate allows you to participate in diving with dive companies operating at resorts etc throughout the world as well as rent equipment and have tanks filled.

Once all requirements are complete, your instructor will give you a temporary certification card valid for 90 days from completion of your final open water dive (careful here that you don't delay completion of your paperwork too long beyond date of your final o/w dive for the course). Along with your temporary card you will receive a PADI PIC Form (your PIC or Personal ID Card will have your photo on it). Your instructor signs off on the form and you fill in your details, put a photo in it, stamp it, and mail it to PADI Ltd. in UK. Your permanent card should arrive in a few weeks. If you have any doubt at any stage of this process PADI have an excellent track record of expediting and resolving difficulties with their instructors in email; they almost always respond within one or two working days.

This can also be done electronically; in fact in 2012 the paper PIC forms are getting harder to find.

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What if I have an ear problem?

My friend and former student Jay Fortin has done some research on this, which he shared with me.

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OK! Let's get started!

Once you decide to start a course, contact me. I will let you know how to pay the fees and get the 'crew pack' or box containing a book and a green folder. (If you do the eLearning, then these materials are online, and you don't have to purchase the Crew Pack or watch the DVD in addition to that. If you do the course through Nomad Ocean Adventure, all you need to do is the eLearning, complete the medical form, and turn up in Dibba Musandam for your course)

You need to pick up a PADI manual which comes in the 'crew pack' pictured here (2008)

On the folder inside the Crew Pack (used to be green, lately they are coming white) are three forms which must be filled out. One is a medical form. When you fill out the form, if any answer is 'yes' you must have a doctor countersign; otherwise just complete and sign the form (find a copy here: The other two forms are PADI liability release and statement of safe diving practices, which must also be signed. All forms are to be signed and handed over to your instructor before we get wet.

Before any academic session you must view the DVD for that Module. Allow 45 minutes to an hour for this. It is required viewing prior to any academic session. The DVD cover looks similar to the picture at left.

So before meeting your instructor for the first lesson, arrange to view the Module 1 portion of the Padi O/W DVD. As you progress through the course, you'll need to watch the remaining 4 video segments prior to each academic session for that module (in addition to reading the book and answering the knowledge reviews at the end of each chapter - all knowledge reviews must be completed, signed, and handed in to your instructor before he can give you your certification.).

In 2010 or 2011 the DVD has been included in the PADI crew pack; ask about it if making a purchase.

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What do I need to do for the first meeting?

Before meeting the instructor first time, prepare the following:
If you've done the eLearning then you need to bring a printout of the certificate you receive on completion of the course.

During our first meeting

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Let's get wet!

After that you will be ready to join us in the pool. Often we leave this for a second meeting. For Modules 2 and 3 we can sometimes do the academic and pool sessions on the same day. Most people can take the Module 2 and 3 quizzes after watching the DVD and reading through the book. I usually explain the dive tables before my students sit for the Module 4 exam, so we might need an hour for that. After Module 5 is the Final Exam taking about an hour to complete

Incidentally, you can do your first ocean dive after you have completed your Module One academic and pool sessions. Your second ocean dive can be done only after you have completed Module 3 in the pool. Your final two ocean dives can be done only after completion of all academic and pool training.

For more detailed information about the course click here

What do we do during an open water training pool session?

Note: prior to academic training, trainees must watch DVD for each module undertaken and should bring completed Knowledge Reviews to class (or show proof of eLearning)

Open Water Dive #1 (max 12 m) is an acclimitization dive, no skills assessed on this dive.

Skills for Open Water Dive #2: (max 12 m)

Skills for Open Water Dive #3: (max 18 m)

Skills for Open Water Dive #4: (max 18 m)

List of flexible skills: Tired diver tow and cramp removal / snorkel & reg exchange / surface compass heading / remove & replace weights and bcd at surface / compass navigation under water / CESA

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What do I have to do to complete the course?

In a nutshell:

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End-of-course paperwork

This is important, but some students delay the paperwork after the fun part of the course (the diving!) has been completed. Please be aware that, before the instructor can certify you, you need to complete and sign the following items. The instructor will keep all but the last with his or her records of your participation in the course (you retain your logbook of course):

  1. The signed medical form, liability release, and statement of safe diving practices that you submitted before any training was conducted.
  2. Your signed certificate of completion of eLearning OR
    1. your signature at the bottom of any answer key completed for each end-of-module and PADI Final Exam for the course, where it says you understand all questions answered and have had explained to you any that you missed.
    2. Your completed knowledge reviews, originals removed from the book, handed in to the instructor, and signed where it says you understand all questions answered and have had explained to you any that you missed.
  3. Your signature on certain forms where you acknowledge that you have completed the academic, confined, and open water training for the course (your instructor will give you these to sign and then retain them with your records)
  4. You complete your logbook, logged for each dive completed for the course, and have it signed by your instructor.
    Many students ask for guidance on filling out their logbooks. If in doubt what to write in them, read the following:

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How to fill out your logbooks

Each diver on any PADI course has to fill in their logbooks for each dive and have these signed by their instructor. This is a PADI standard and must be done prior to certification for any PADI course.

LogBooks can be creative. In the past I've printed out out my writeup for the dive at and presented that, signed by me, to students who fail to produce their own. The theory is that you would keep these pages in a notebook somewhere and present your logbook to the next person you go diving with. So you need to write there anything that might help the next dive leader assess at a glance your level of training and experience.

For divers on the beginning and advanced o/w courses, the logbook that you got in the crew pack is designed especially for use with these two courses. The logs of your dives with me should have my signature on them (as per PADI standards). Also if you use the PADI logbook I can sign off on each portion of your course, or at least the actual dives (if you'll fill in the dates and details and have me sign those sections).

In your logs, you should record

In addition to recording depth and time, try to record exact clock times if you can remember them, for calculating surface intervals (this is one reason I always announce the time from my watch as we descend on any dive, helps us all to remember it). Beginning divers should work out their pressure groups so they can get a feel for what their norms and tolerances are. I have a good feel for depth and timing from long years of experience, but I still get the occasional surprise when I find I'm pushing a NDL, so it's worth carefully recording time and depth data, and checking these against the tables or calculator for each and every dive.

Also record thickness of wetsuit, amount of weight used, and water termperature to help you figure out how much weight you'll need under similar conditions in the future. Also, it's easy to forget how much weight you had months later, so be sure and write these details down.

Your instructor is happy to help you fill in your logs, but it's most convenient if you can fill in the above details and have your logbooks ready to sign as soon after the dive as possible. This MUST be done before certification, and if you've got that far in your course and diving career, congratulations!

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What does your instructor get out of this?

Considering the time and effort involved, as you will see, the instructor is clearly not in it for the money. Instructors teach in order to

Instructors especially like

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Refresher course

We have many requests for refresher courses from divers who have been certified but who have let their skills lapse. A refresher course involves a pool session for which I might charge 200, including the Scuba Tune-up Guide (65 Dhs). Or if you simply want me to meet you at the pool for a refresher, cost is 100 dirhams plus pool fees. If you want to dive with me, we can conduct a brief refresher before the dive at no charge, unless you want the Scuba Tune-up Guide as well.

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What's the next course after O/W?

Rescue dive course requirements

Academic Open Water
In addition to proof of certification in first aid and CPR in the past year:
  • Mod 1:Overview, Self rescue, and diver stress
  • Mod 2:Diving 1st aid
  • Mod 3:Emergency management
  • Mod 4:Equipment considerations
  • Mod 5:Final exam
  • Ex 1: Approach and tow tired diver
  • Ex 2: Approach and control panicked diver
  • Ex 3: Response to conscious swimmer from boat and / or shore
  • Ex 4: Assist distressed diver u/w and conduct Alt Air Source ascent
  • Ex 5: Find missing diver underwater /
  • Ex 6: Surface an unconscious diver
  • Ex 7: Unconscious diver at surface
  • Ex 8: Egress w/ unconscious diver
  • Ex 9: 1st aid for pressure related accidents
  • Ex 10: Response from shore or boat to an unconscious, floating diver
  • Ex 11: Rescue scenario 1, organize search for missing diver underwater
  • Ex 12: Rescue scenario 2, organize search for missing diver underwater, surface, ventilate, tow victim to boat or shore, egress, rescuscitate, treat, summon help

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Where we dive in Abu Dhabi, Khor Fakkan, Dibba, Musandam:
Here are some places we've dived recently. There's more information including links to zoomable Google maps at

East Coast UAE and Musandam:

In Abu Dhabi:

Wherever you decide to dive, when discussing prices for Scuba courses, be sure get an itemized list of what is and what is not included (manual included? PIC certification card at end of course?), and verify condition of boats and equipment.

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What have we learned about diving safely in the UAE?

On the FrogLegsScubaClub list, we've been thinking about safety issues for changeable weather and sea conditions as are sometimes encountered around Abu Dhabi in the winter months - Dec 2003

Pre-dive Boat Briefing:

It is important that as many of our divers as possible become aware of and pro-active in their role in the pre-dive boat briefing. The briefing is the dive leader's responsibility in particular but everyone's business and when it comes down to it, it's everyone's responsibility to facilitate the safety of themselves and each other by reminding the dive leader if necessary to include the following points in the briefing:

Special considerations for afternoon diving:

In case of currents causing divers to surface in unpredictable locations and vision from the boat being obscured by wave conditions and glare from sun low on horizon ...

Suggested safety equipment on divers

This is in addition to in addition to required safety equipment such as a timing device, depth guage, pressure guage, redundant second stage or octopus ...

Wish list for safety equipment on boat

Safety equipment on many dive boats operating in UAE waters is typically minimal to non-existent. The boat should carry oxygen to treat diving emergencies and the following safety equipment is recommended:

Device needed Reason
Marine radio with specific instructions as to how to call the coast guard Iin a wind at sea, a mobile telephone cannot be heard.
a pair of binoculars to find divers at sea in poor conditions
flares and a foghorn to signal other boats, helicopters
space blanket treating hypothermia
oxygen on board treating decompression sickness and other diving related accidents

Weather and Ecology

Abu Dhabi Weather: Windguru, - Windguru can also be searched for other parts of the east coast UAE and Oman, most reliable as of 2012 (site unreliable in 2010, link broken in Sept 2010)
Northern Emirates: Wind and temperature forecasts for Fujairah are reported here and for the Emirates here: but I have yet to find a sea state forecast.
Weather in Oman: Climactic conditions including winds and seastate for Muscat and Salalah:

As of 2012 Dibba Rock has still not recovered from when Gonu hit the East Coast UAE in June 2007. The damage is being compounded by construction and development taking place there, seriously encroaching on the marine eco-systems. In 2009 devastation was further caused by red tide which stayed in the area for 6 months and more.

For June 8/9 2007 adverse conditions due to Cyclone Gonu:
Aftermath: June 18, 2007 - reported severe destruction on reefs on East Coast, especially Dibba Rock. This article was not found Sept 17, 2010 but all other articles cited here were still available at that time.

For comments, suggestions, or further information on this page,
contact Vance Stevens, page author and webmaster.

Last updated: May 31, 2013 at 08:00 GMT

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January 18, 2007

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