Behind Underwater Safaris' unassuming storefront lies an ocean. Light shines down on the water's choppy surface, and a pod of dolphins leap out of the water. But, like a tank of helium you forgot to bolt to the floor, they never come back down. The dolphin mural is painted, but the water is quite real: it's part of a PADI five-star facility where students prepare to explore waters across the world.
The journey to coral reefs and shipwrecks begins with the guidance of an experienced team of fifteen instructors. The center, which has been open since 1985, has taught thousands of snorkelers and divers from Open Water through to instruction. After introductory Discover Scuba sessions, the staff branches off into more specialized areas, such as diving at night, exploring underwater wrecks, or scuba diving as a career.
Underwater Safaris also hosts annual trips to scuba destinations around the world. Guided and independent adventurers alike are welcome to stock up on gear from brands such as Aeris and Aqualung in the dive shop.
Despite a close encounter with a hammerhead shark, Learn Scuba Chicago's Captain Bob just keeps on scuba diving. The aquatic expert got an up-close peep of shark teeth on his very first Caribbean dive, yet has scarcely taken his flippers off since. He started Learn Scuba Chicago four years ago in a garage as a grassroots effort to build community. Captain Bob and crew lead diving courses, which range from thrilling dips for beginners to instructor certifications. The calendar is flexible so students can plunge into indoor pools at their own pace at a variety of locations, such as Water's Edge Aquatic Center in Bensenville, the UIC campus, and Northeastern Illinois University campus, with open water dives held at Kankakee's Haigh Quarry.
Growing up in deserts of Saudi Arabia, Rami learned what it meant to be endlessly surrounded by a single element in every direction. He just found he preferred water to earth, taking up Scuba diving in 1994, and, after a brief midlife hiatus, making it his career. Now, as the owner and head-instructor of Scuba Sensations, he shares the passion that drove him over land and under sea halfway around the globe. He certifies new divers to go find their own adventures underwater, or helps advanced students hone their skills to take on new submersible challenges.
By the clear waters of a competition-size pool, Chicago Scuba School & Dive Shop's students are guided through the fundamentals of submarine exploration. In groups of 10, fledgling divers bedeck themselves in the masks, oxygen tanks, and cardboard shark fins required to spend extended periods below the depths. Three instructors then usher students into the pool, teaching them how to properly wield the Aquamanesque powers of their scuba gear as they train in the course of four hours. The expansive pool provides plenty of space for divers to flex their flippers, and small class sizes ensure that students’ flawless underwater backflips receive extra attention. If they wish to further their aquatic expertise, Groupon-holders can opt to take a full scuba-certification course at a $100 discount.
A PADI five-star dive center, D. D. Dive outfits novice swimmers with all the fundamental skills and knowledge necessary to swim beneath the waves. Their courses are made up of classroom sessions, pool work, and open-water excursions to prepare each student according to PADI guidelines. The instructors also offer classes in rescue diving and diving-instructor as well as dive-master training, all of which are useful skills when working to open a dive school for dolphins. Once certified, new divers can go with the school on a globetrotting trip to a diving mecca such as Bonne Terre Mine, Kona, or the Galapagos Islands.
Got Air Scuba employs a staff of passionate, knowledgeable PADI-certified instructors. They teach a variety of classes, ranging from introductory courses to advanced specialty courses, such as a rescue diver course and Divemaster program. To facilitate courses, the dive shop stocks gear from ScubaPro and Bare Dive Gear. Once students have learned the ins and outs of breathing underwater, they can partake in a trip to an exotic locale. Past destinations have included Cozumel, Mexico, and some really big puddles.