Ok – I am a certified diver and I want to dive in England on my travels through Europe. Like most of the certified divers in the world I am PADI trained, for those of you reading this who are not, then lets turn the tables on what must be the most bizarre system in the world. Welcome to the diving realm of the British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC) for those of us who are not British? As a multi agency trained diver you accept that other organizations exist and you bear them no evil. So back to the point and the background to this story, whilst planning a trip back to the UK, the thought crossed my mind that I would not mind trying some low visibility cold water diving.
Having settled on this as a prerequisite for my diving holiday, my thoughts turned to who would I dive with – which organization would provide the best experience with the minimal amount of inconvenience to the few days I could dedicate to having some down time.
Without a doubt – the best of the British is the BSAC. It proudly boasts over fifty years of experience and it is the worlds biggest dive club.
BSAC is a great training organization for the local based Brit, BUT hang on for the visiting traveler wishing to blow some bubbles, it is not exactly traveler friendly or is it? First up the whole system has been developed on a branch or local club system, all of which appear to be volunteers. These branches run the majority of dives or clubs so for once the business of diving is taken out of the equation. Without the sacred dollar being at the forefront of decision making a refreshing new view should be available, but remember this is the nation that created the railway timetable for India and thought that democracy would work in Zimbabwe.
To dive with a BSAC branch be prepared to have to prove yourself as a diver, which given the realistic conditions of diving in the UK is a good idea. You may be asked to do a "SALT" which is yet another new diving acronym for "Statement of Alternative Training". This way the BSAC branch can translate the current certification level you hold into a BSAC equivalent. You may also be asked to become involved in a branch or club night to become orientated with the way they work and how dives are run.
Is it worth it, why can’t I just walk into a shop hire some gear do a dive and move on like in the rest of the dive world. To answer the question simply you can, BUT why would you not try the BSAC system whilst visiting Britain. Like diving in a new exotic location, diving with a new agency seems to take diving back to the basics of friendship rather than money. Seems to me to be worth the effort, but like any agency remember to get the most out of your dive, turn up with your dive card, log book, and even an up to date medical, try to establish contact in advance and learn what is required.
Diving in the British Isles can offer the visiting diver some fantastic and unique challenges, but it is also regarded as fairly challenging, this is not the Bahamas or South Pacific. If you are planning a trip to the Small Islands near Europe and fancy a dive then check out the BSAC website for more details and links.