It may never be possible to truly explore all of ocean, but seeing some of it up close is certainly worth aspiring to. At about 140 million square miles and encompassing 71 percent of the earth’s surface, “vast” doesn’t begin to describe the world’s greatest natural wonder. And while beach vacations are loved by all, if you want to get up and close and personal with the ocean floor and see for yourself the home of 99 percent of all living organisms, SCUBA diving is the most accessible way to do so.

It does require certification, but luckily it’s a simple process that can be done in as little as a few days.

Photo Credit: Heath Alseike

Prep work

First, make sure you meet the physical criteria. You must be at least 10 years old with a parent’s permission. It’s sometimes required for learners to get a doctor consultation, but generally, if you can swim 200 yards freely and 300 yards with a mask, fin and snorkel and tread water for 10 minutes, you’ll be capable of SCUBA diving. Women are advised against diving while pregnant and any ear, sinus, respiratory or heart condition that may affect your consciousness must be addressed, according to the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. The next step is to find a local certification course. There’s no universal certification agency, but the most accepted and well-known organization is the Professional Association of DivingInstructors, also known as PADI.

Do your homework

The educational piece of it, which in some cases can qualify for college credit, is available in various and sometimes combined formats including classroom, online and through a book and/or DVD materials. The basic course covers the equipment, safety, breathing underwater and underwater communication; and you’ll get a manual to keep for future reference.

Hit the water

Once you’ve read about the basics, it’s time to put your skills to the test. The most basic certification courses include multiple closed-water dives and open-water dives. All necessary equipment is typically included in your course fees. First, you’ll start in a pool, where you will get to practice breathing underwater, getting in and out, as well as learning basic SCUBA moves, including the universal hand signals and how to respond to emergencies. Then you’ll be ready to try it in the real deal --the ocean herself. Open-water locations to fulfill this final part of the certification process are plentiful, so you can chose to do it close to home or make a SCUBA diving vacation out of it.

Advanced Training

Fall in love with the ocean life? There are plenty of advanced classes to go pro and satisfy your hunger for more knowledge. Take a class on underwater photography, rescue diving, or deep water/wreck diving to delve further into the ocean’s most hidden secrets.