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Dos & don’ts of choosing a safe water sports operator: Part 1

Part of vacationing in Hawaii involves spending time on the water. Whether you are planning to do some deep-sea fishing, scuba diving, water skiing, or taking a kayaking tour around the island, it is important to choose a tour operator you can trust. How can you tell if a water sports tour company is safe? Fortunately, there are several things you can do to pre-check a tour operator before booking.

Before you find yourself left behind on a scuba diving tour, follow the tips below to ensure you are booking a tour operator that is trustworthy. Choosing the right water sports company can be the difference between an unforgettable vacation and tragedy.

Credentials matter

Companies that go through regular safety checks and have the credentials to prove it tend to be the most qualified when it comes to their specialized activity. For example, if you plan to go scuba diving, you want to be sure that the guides are all certified and trained to handle emergency situations. Since tour companies tend to ask their clients to sign liability waivers acknowledging the dangers of the activity they want to participate in, you will want to be sure the operator has some kind of formal safety plan in place in case things do go wrong while you are out there.

The operator should ask questions

If you sign up for a day of kayaking and the operator does not ask for your name, age, existing medical conditions, contact details, and your experience level, run for the hills. This is not the company you want to be out on the water with. A legitimate operator will always ask you these details because they understand the risks involved in the activity. They understand that sometimes things go wrong and they want to be prepared in case there is an emergency.

There should be a safety talk

Imagine showing up for a scuba tour and the operator simply tosses you the equipment and says, "Have fun!" What do you if something goes wrong with the boat? What do you do if your respirator malfunctions? If you have plenty of experience scuba diving you may already have an idea of how to respond when the unexpected happens.

However, you still want to be sure that the guide and boat operator have a plan. All tour companies should offer some kind of safety brief that addresses what happens if the boat starts to sink, where the life preservers are located, and the crew's procedures for ensuring passenger safety. If the tour operator does not have safety brief, get a refund and find a more qualified tour company.

Choosing the right tour company for your water-oriented activities can make a major difference in your experience. Continue reading Part 2 of this series for some additional tips that will help you select a tour operator you can trust so that you have a better chance of avoiding doing business with a negligent tour company.

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