Getting my PADI in Panama


Having just arrived to Bocas del Toro I thought it would be good to walk around and explore town a bit. At first I wandered around and did not even notice the diving school until I turned around and walked right up to a sign saying “The Dutch Pirate”. I believe the name was very appealing to me but on the other hand also repelling since I tend to avoid Dutch things while being abroad. I decided to enter the Dutch pirate’s office anyway to find out what my destiny here in Bocas was.


Getting certified

I then soon realized I had just signed up for a PADI open water diver training and that my free days in Bocas would serve as an excuse to do the course. Not to forget the incredible price. For only US$225 The Dutch Pirate offered this three-day course! I believe normally it can cost up to three times as much…


Day 1 Theory and snorkeling

Theory is one part of the PADI Open Water Diver course. The first day of the training was about watching three hours of video about diving where they explain how to use the diving material, the diving itself, the safety and so on.


Whenever you dive you need a buddy. They call it the buddy-system in the world of diving: you and another diver plan the dive together and take care of each other during the dive. Luckily I was not alone during the training. On the first day I met Lorenzo, a Dutch thirteen year old, who visits Panama with his grandparents. Lucky for him, his grandparents signed him up for the PADI course to get his Junior certification. Wauw! From there of we became buddies in the large sense of the word.

First day some snorkeling

Starting of with some snorkeling

In the afternoon we got invited to go along on a boat trip with a professional group of divers. However, we were not going for a dive ourselves but for a snorkeling experience. Of course we had snorkeled a lot before, but it was good to try out some of the things we had seen earlier that day in the video and to have some fun and get to know my new buddy.

And guess what!? I spotted the most exiting animal of all the animals I’d seen in Panama during the snorkeling. A sting-ray…! I was glad to have brought my GoPro and get the stingray passing by on my camera with a video (find the video below in this post).


Starfish hidden everywhere!

Day 2 the first and second dive

It’s was great start in the morning on the second day. Now we were going to dive! After trying on some wetsuits, masks and flippers we got busy with the rest of our diving gear. Rob, the owner and dive instructor of The Dutch Pirate showed us how everything works and how to attach this to that.

9 meters deep

Nine meters below sea level

Our first dive was not in a normal swimming pool where you normally go to during the training. No. We had the sea as a natural swimming pool. Rob knew a place which is shallow and calm named “Hospital Point” where we could do some exercises. Breathing with your buddy’s gear and making communicative signs were some of these exercises.

The second dive was at a shipwreck. Very cool! We had to do some floatation tricks where you control your floatation by breathing calmly.

Shipwreck diving on our second dive

Shipwreck diving on our second dive

Day 3 The test

Day three was a bit more boring. Just watching TV while listening to the explanation of PADI again. Unfortunately we didn’t go for a dive, but the day after we went again! However, it was not just watching the movie all morning, because we got to fill in the theory exam afterwards as well. My buddy was a bit nervous. Poor thing, he’s on a holiday and yet still has to go for an exam. Well, luckily it’s not the most difficult exam since we liked what we were doing and had interest in what we were learning. Some of the calculation on how long and how deep a repeating dive can be were a bit more difficult, but still doable. You get fifty questions and are allowed to have twelve wrong answers.

After about an hour we let Rob check our exams. We did well! Yay! Time for a photo and to let my loved ones know that I passed my theory exam for PADI Open Water Diving.

In the afternoon I had no PADI training to do so I decide to visit Starfish beach, also known as Playa Estrella. What an amazing beach! Starfish everywhere! I’ve never seen such a beach where there are so many starfish so close to the shore.

Day 4 Everything OK

It was the last day of our training. The day of our practical exam in the water to see if we could show our instructor that we knew how to dive.

It was already the third dive of the course and we were going to a diving spot named “Grandma’s garden” for the last challenge. We were asked to dive without our mask. Sounds scary? It was actually really not such a big deal. As long as you breath through your mouth and avoid using your noise you’ll be fine.

We were sitting on the bottom of the ocean on our knees as I had to take of my mask and breath about 2 or 3 times. Rob let me know that it was okay to put the mask back on and that all went well. After that I had to swim without my mask. Rob made a sign that it was okay for me to take of the mask and swim. After a minute I could put my mask back on. I had to lean backwards with my head and use my nose breathing out deeply to clear the mask of all the water. It all worked just fine. Rob checked with me if I was still doing alright by making the hand sign. All okay? Yes, everything OK.

Everything OK

Everything OK

We headed to our fourth diving spot, but this time there was no need for exercises. It was just going to be a fun dive. Great, because this meant we passed our tests and that right now we are PADI certified! Whoo-hoo!

This meant that now it’s time for me to find some cool new diving spots up to 18 meters. I will try to find a place to get certified for the PADI advanced so that I can go up to 30 meters in the future.

Interested in how it all looks in the deep waters? Here’s my diving video!

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Ever since I left my home country I felt at home at any other place I went to. I enjoy getting to know more cultures by talking to strangers and hearing their philosophy about life. Speaking with gestures when you can not find a shared language, finding places only the locals go to and learn about their customs and values. Hanging out with local people makes me happy. The experience of every new place is a step out of your comfort zone where I like to wander around until it feels like a second home.

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4 Comments on “Getting my PADI in Panama
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  4. Hi! I found you on Facebook and wanted to get more info about the PADILLA program you did because the link you left goes to some other site! Can you help?

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