Kids Learn to Dive OnThe Great Barrier Reef

Stop the bubble! Much excitement as our 10-year-old learned to scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef! As scuba diving parents, it’s been a long time between dives, but over these past years we’ve snorkelled our way over many coral reefs and gardens, with our son in tow (sometimes quite literally). Now that Ethan is a certified PADI Junior Open Water Diver, we can’t wait to take it to the next level and show and share the amazing underwater world with him. So, if you’re like us and want your kids to learn to dive on the Great Barrier Reef, then read on to see what’s involved and what it’s all about – including some notes from Ethan.

Ethan Diving

Your child can learn to scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef from 10 years of age with PADI Junior Open Water Diver certification.

At What Age Can Kids Complete a PADI Open Water Course In Queensland?

10 years old. That’s the magic number and make no mistake about it. Some people – many people in fact, including those on some reef boats – will tell you that a kid needs to be 12 years old to learn to scuba dive. This simply is not true. To enrol in a PADI Junior Open Water Diver program your kid needs to be 10 years old. That’s the enrolment part. From there, to become a certified diver, they need to complete all the same theory, tests and skills as an adult Open Water Diver and that’s (potentially) where the story becomes interesting.

“When we started researching where Ethan could learn to scuba dive, I naively assumed it would be a modified course for kids. This is not so. To become a certified Junior Open Water Diver, kids have to learn and pass all the same theory, pool and dive tests as an adult. Needless to say, this can be difficult (even for adults) but it makes complete sense when you realise that if they successfully complete the course, that’s them certified. They never have to do another course again and when they turn 15 years old, the depth and buddy restrictions default to the same as a ‘regular’ / adult Open Water Diver (more on this below). So that’s the official age – 10 years old – but whether your child is ready or not, depends on so many more factors, which you should really consider before enrolling them in a course.” – Julie Johnston

Let’s Get This Party Started In The Classroom And Pool

Once our son turned 10 (and for a few months before if we be honest), we started to investigate where he could learn to scuba dive. As Cairns locals, it made sense to do it here – what better place, with the Great Barrier Reef right on our doorstep. Interestingly, we could not find any operators in Cairns willing to provide the service, unless we paid for a private dive guide on top of the course fees, which would have cost over $2,000 more than it needed to be. Then we discovered Quicksilver Dive in Port Douglas, and everything fell into place, thanks to the excellent assistance of Simone and Chris in the shop and awesome Dive Instructor, Haylie Bennett.

The PADI Junior Open Water Dive course is the same as the adult course, except it has smaller teacher-to-student ratios and shallower dive depth limits (maximum 12m / 40 feet). When we called Quicksilver Dive Port Douglas, Simone let us know they had a course starting the very next day, with just 2 other students enrolled – a 14-year-old and an adult – so we booked it in and drove north. Day 1 was all about theory, spent in the classroom watching videos and completing quizzes and tests. It was a big day of learning for a 10-year-old (Grade 4 at school), starting at 8.30am and ending around 5pm with a 30-minute lunchbreak (so longer than a school day). Day 2 was similar duration; it started with the theory test (which everyone passed) and flowed on to learning essential dive skills and becoming familiar with the equipment, in the purpose-built, heated dive pool. The pool even has a perspex / glass viewing area, so we could watch Ethan learning to breathe underwater for the first time! Very cool! Day 3 and 4 were at the reef – so it was ‘go time’ and we couldn’t wait.

The Great Barrier Reef Was Awaiting Our Arrival

We enrolled in the 4 Day Open Water Course with Quicksilver Dive in Port Douglas, which included 2 x 1 day trips to the Great Barrier Reef and 6 x scuba dives. During these day trips, the students completed the training dives and skill test requirements of the course in the open water. As parents you were not allowed to dive with your child during the training dives, but we were able to snorkel above and watch the training and skill development unfold. At this point, we want to give a massive shout out to Dive Instructor Haylie Bennett – as well as being a thorough professional, she was also kind and patient, teaching, caring and supporting all 3 of her students – who all encountered different ‘pressure points’, at various times throughout the course.

All of our kid’s learn to dive days on the Great Barrier Reef were completed on Agincourt Reef, off Port Douglas. While the weather wasn’t ideal, blowing 20 knots with intermittent rain, the water temperature was a comfortable 28 degrees Celsius (this was in December), with underwater visibility of around 15m. The first 2 dives of Day 1 were ‘Open Water Training Dives’, at the ‘3 Sisters’ and ‘Stonehenge’ sites respectively. The 3rd dive was at a site called ‘Circus’, where they practised cramp release, transition from snorkel to regulator, BCD inflation and tired diver tow. Our boat was Silversonic and all the equipment, including a 5mm shortie wetsuit, was included and provided in conjunction with the course. Day 2 was at the same sites (in a slightly different order) with travel on Poseidon. On training dive 4 they completed their dive flex and compass skills and on dive 5, BCD removal and reapplication on the surface (which given the choppy conditions, was a challenge). The last dive was Ethan’s first dive as a certified scuba diver and a very proud Mum and Dad were right there by his side, excited to get our underwater adventures together, underway.

“It was a massive 4 days and Ethan worked hard and was both tenacious and persistent. We were proud and most importantly, he was super proud and excited about his achievement and certification, not to mention thrilled at the note his Instructor wrote in his Dive Log Book – ‘Congratulations Ethan. You worked so, so super hard to achieve this qualification and you should feel really proud of yourself. There are so many underwater adventures awaiting you and your family!’- Haylie Bennett.” – Julie Johnston

Halie and Ethan

Dive Instructor Haylie Bennett on the last training dive, before Ethan became a certified Junior Open Water Diver.

Here Are Ethan's Thoughts Of It All

Day 1. Ready for the long day of work in the classroom. I was very excited to get started and learn about diving and start the journey. The best part of the day for me was doing the tests. The hardest part on the other hand, was having to remember the info in the videos.

Day 2. Excited for the day in the pool and not in the classroom, and actually doing the diving in the pool. The tank was very heavy, and we had to assemble the BCD and dissemble it like 5 times – and the weight belt was taller than me, so they had to cut it down. It was very trippy going under the water and breathing for the 1st time. My fav part was breathing under the water. The worst for me was swimming 200m in the pool, it was very tiring. My Dive Instructor was brilliant, she was very understanding about how I was the littlest kid there and got me where I needed to go.

Day 3. Super, Super Excited for the ocean water dive. On the boat, the Dive Instructor was very clear on the rules about the boat, and what we were doing in the water. On the boat, we sat in our group apart from the other people. Our Dive Instructor refreshed our minds about the rules about diving. About 10 mins before the boat stopped, we set up our BCDs and when the boat got there, we jumped into the water and slowly went down the mooring line while equalizing our ears. Every time we moved our hands on the line, I equalized my ears, and then we went off to go look at coral. While we were doing that, we practised some of our diving skills. After lunch, we kept progressing and practising at the other 2 dive sites.

Day 4. Today I get certified as a scuba diver! Completing the last bit of learning, until we can do our own thing. We went on a different boat this time. It was rainy on the day we went, but still worth it to get my diving certificate. The best part about the day was when I got the certificate and the hardest part was treading water in the horrible conditions. That is my diving experience with Haylie and I am excited to go diving again.

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Questions About Kids Learning To Dive On The Great Barrier Reef

How old do you need to be to learn to dive on the Great Barrier Reef?

You need to be a minimum of 10 years old to learn to dive on the Great Barrier Reef. You would need to enrol them in a PADI Junior Open Water Dive course, which is available and conducted at Quicksilver Dive Port Douglas.

Can 10 year old complete a PADI Open Water Certficication?

Yes they can! Obviously if you are researching this then you should also know that in order to learn to scuba dive, your child must first be able to swim and be confident in open water. 10 years old is the minimum age they can enrol in an official and professional learn to scuba dive course.

What is a PADI Junior Open Water Diver?

A PADI Junior Open Water Diver is the same as an adult Open Water Diver. Your child must pass all the same theory and skill tests, in the dive pool and open ocean. PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) is the most recognised dive training organisation in the world, with more than 29 million certifications and counting. PADI Dive Instructors pass rigorous training to become certified, providing them with the skills to ensure your child’s scuba class is fun and most importantly, safe. The only difference between a PADI Junior Open Water Diver course and an (adult) Open Water Diver course is the class size (teacher to student ratio) and the depth they can dive too.

Where can my kids learn to scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef?

Our kid learned to dive on the Great Barrier Reef with Quicksilver Dive Port Douglas. At 10 years old, he was the youngest in the class of 3 students – the others being a 14-year-old and an adult. His Dive Instructor was Haylie Bennett and she was awesome! He completed the theory and pool days at their first class Port Douglas dive training facility, and the training dives on Agincourt Reef, part of the Great Barrier Reef.

Can I scuba dive with my kid on the Great Barrier Reef?

YES! So much excitement at writing that answer – we can’t wait to scuba dive with our kid on the Great Barrier Reef (going this weekend in fact). If your child is a certified diver and they have their card, then they can dive to the limitations of their certification – which as a PADI Junior Open Water Diver allows our son to scuba dive to a maximum of 12m (40 feet) in the company and guidance of either a certified parent or guardian, or a PADI professional. Please note: If you are taking a reef tour boat to the Great Barrier Reef and want to be able to scuba dive with your child, then you must check with the boat first, as I am sure each boat has different rules and requirements and also, you want to know they have equipment that will fit your child.

Can my children to scuba dive in Cairns?

‘Yes’ is the official answer, although in the process of researching this for ourselves, with the view to book and pay, the actual answer was ‘no’. Or to be more precise – it was ‘yes – BUT’ you needed to pay for the course and then an additional cost to have a private dive guide above and beyond the cost of the dive course. The estimate provided to us for this, was an additional $650 per day for the 4 days. Obviously things were then getting very expensive, very quickly – so we expanded our search and on a local recommendation, we contacted Quicksilver Dive in Port Douglas. See our next Q&A for our success story here.

Can my kids learn to scuba dive in Port Douglas?

‘YES’ – our kid learned to scuba dive in Port Douglas with Quicksilver Dive. He did 2 days of theory and practise at their professional facility and then 2 days on the Great Barrier Reef, where he completed his training and testing, to become a certified scuba diver. There is also the option to do a 3-day course, having completed the theory component in advance, online. However, before you book and make plans, we strongly recommend getting in touch with them first as the ability for your child/ren to learn to scuba dive is dependent on class size and Dive Instructor availability. This is their website and you can call them on (07) 4087 2111.

How long does it take for my child to learn to dive?

A PADI Junior Open Water Dive course takes 4 days, or 3 days if you complete the theory component at home. For the 4 day course, it includes 2 days at the dive centre and 2 days on the Great Barrier Reef. For the 3 day course, it’s 1 day at the dive centre and 2 days on the Great Barrier Reef. All of this should be booked in advance to ensure availability and of course, certification is dependent on your child successfully passing all of the relevant and necessary theory, pool and open water dive tests. Please note: Signing up for the course does not guarantee completion and certification – but every support is provided to you, to assist along the way. In our experience, the biggest ‘hurdle’ is when you go beneath the surface of the water and breathe for the first time, using your regulator. For some, this is the time that they instantly know ‘diving is not for them’ – true for adults and children.

Things To Consider Before Signing Up For A Course

As a parent and based on our experience, there’s two very important factors to consider and discuss with your child, before enrolling them in a learn to scuba dive course. Firstly, are they confident in the open water? Have they swum and snorkelled in the open ocean? Experienced the whole saltwater in the eyes, mouth and nose situation? Are they comfortable in currents and getting on and off boats? I believe it’s crucial the answer to all of these questions is ‘yes’ – because ultimately, that’s where they are going to learn to dive, so they need to already be ‘at home’ in this environment. Secondly, do they really want to learn to scuba dive – for themselves. Again, critical the answer to this is also ‘yes’. Learning to scuba dive is something some adults struggle with. I’d imagine if you’re looking for information on ‘kids learning to dive on the Great Barrier Reef’, then you are probably a certified diver parent (like us). However, once enrolled, you are essentially a bystander to this whole process trusting in the professionals – and they are very professional – to complete the training and testing in accordance with the PADI standards, and there are some pressure points and activities your child will find difficult. Or there were for us and ours and if our son wasn’t pushing himself hard, because he wanted to learn to scuba dive for himself (as opposed to us just thinking it was a good idea), then I would imagine he would not have passed. He worked hard through the tough stuff. He had to dig deep and push through to meet the requirements, pass the tests and get it done – and we couldn’t be prouder! – and thankful to the awesome team at Quicksilver Dive Port Douglas, Simone, Chris and Haylie.

Hopefully this doesn’t come across as being negative, as our whole experience was AWESOME! We just think it’s important to provide information and thoughts on our experience, and provide some sort of ‘take home / thinking points’, for anyone else looking for ways their kids can learn to dive on the Great Barrier Reef. They can do it – our son did – just be aware of what’s involved and talk to your child about it. Make sure they are ready, willing, able and most importantly, excited. Make sure you let them know what’s involved, in regard to the theory and skill component – including the treading water and swimming duration/length requirements and the fact they have to remove and reapply their mask, BCD and weight belt, all underwater. Some of this ‘stuff’ is hard, but it can be done and once they are certified – you can all dive together and that’s something to be very excited about!

Kids Learn to Scuba Dive What You Need To Know

Kids learning to scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef is an awesome experience! Prior to having our son, we were both certified scuba divers, having completed more than 100 dives each. We LOVE the Great Barrier Reef, its beauty and diversity. The unique experience scuba diving provides, giving you the skills to spend time sharing the amazing underwater world with its creatures large and small. What you need to know about kids learning to scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef is that they must be a minimum of 10 years old, they must pass all the same tests as adults (to become a certified Junior Open Water Diver), and they must do it by themselves, with the Instructor and others in the class. Parents can watch on (we did) but it’s like school, you let the teacher – in this instance Dive Instructor – do their thing and it’s up to the ability of your child to pass or not – with the assistance, instruction and tuition of the very capable, Dive Instructor. Now, if all of this sounds awesome – stop reading and get calling – we’re headed out diving, breaking new boundaries and taking our little bubble on some epic adventures and we can’t wait!

  • Minimum Age 10 Years
  • Must Be Able To Swim
  • 4 Day or 3 Day PADI courses
  • Must be Pre-booked
  • All Equipment Supplied
  • 2 x 1 Day Reef Trips

About the Author

Julie was born in Cairns and grew up running around in the cane fields south of the city. She has explored, breathed and loved everything about our amazing Cairns region her whole life. Excited to be able share this wonderful place with our son and see it all again through ‘new’ eyes. Watch this space for more info on the people, places, destinations and things you can do up here.

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