“It’s a dangerous business, going out of your door. You step into the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to.” – J.R.R Tolkien
I love this quote; it summarises what all adventure seekers want – the thrill of the unknown, a willingness to take on the challenge and the need to seek out something new. Like climbing to the top of a mountain just to see what hides on the other side.
And so, it is with diving. It’s true what they say: you can dive the same spot a dozen times and every dive will be different. I have now been diving for nearly 20 years and have had the privilege to see things few people will ever have the opportunity to witness.
Even our beginner training sites continue to conjure up incredible experiences. Like the time we had two bottlenose dolphins disrupt our training by insisting on playing with the students, or the time we became engulfed by a bait ball of fish, watching hundreds of gannets diving past us, chasing that elusive meal.
Scuba diving training is now so well structured that you can pick and choose the training to suit the adventure you want to experience. The deeper you go the more training you require. Or if you want experience exploring inside cave systems, shipwrecks or get up close and personal to that shark, the training is there for you to do just that. And let’s face it, you are entering the most hostile environment for man, water! They say we now know more about space than we do about our own oceans, yet they offer us our biggest opportunity for adventure.
Many of you may have wanted to dive but have little understanding of what is involved. Or maybe, you are certified and now wish to move on and explore more? Over the next few issues we are going to give you an insight to what is down there and how to get the right training.
Today the adventure begins here, the Open Water training certification. This is the entry level course that will provide you with your ticket to go diving, anywhere in the world.
Of course, this certification comes with its strict limitations, such as a maximum depth of 18m, no decompression diving, no penetrating shipwrecks or caves etc. And for a lot of people, this is all they ever want or need. For example, most reef fish live in the first 15m of water, so why go deeper?
When looking at the Open Water course, make sure you choose the right course for you. Agencies are now streamlining courses in a conveyor belt style in little more than a couple of days. Divers are churned out in a production line with little regard to quality. Theory can be taken online, reducing instructor contact and that personal exchange of knowledge, but such courses do have the advantage of home learning.
Classes can be overcrowded, again meaning less one-on-one training in the water. Remember, this is your first level of training to allow you to go off to explore and survive underwater. Get the most you can out of this course and don’t sell yourself short just because you are on holiday. If you do, you may regret it later.
You will be learning about this new world. For example, how light and sound behaves differently underwater. Your body is now going to be exposed to new issues and you need to learn how to deal with them. You’ll be moving in a new medium – water – with the near-weightless experience it provides. And of course learning how all the equipment works.
Once you have completed the theory and the swimming pool sessions, you will move on to four open water dives, where you’ll get your first chance to explore and truly start diving.
The Open Water certification is a great ticket to have for your holidays. Every country dives, even landlocked nations with their freshwater lakes, so there is always an opportunity to explore. And every dive location is different.
I often get asked, “So, where is the best diving in the world?” This is an impossible question for me to answer, because there is just too much great diving to compare.
The most important thing is to step onto the road and get swept away with your dreams.
The advanced course is designed to instil the skills and knowledge you need to go off and explore on your own. After all, you don’t want to be reliant on an instructor or divemaster guiding you for the rest of your diving days – you’ll want the freedom to experience your own adventures.
Previously we made the statement “why go deeper?” Well, there are many reasons. For instance, shipwrecks tend to be more intact the deeper you go. At depths of 30m-plus they tend to be less ravaged by storms. Pelagics, in particular sharks, tend to be found deeper. Adults drop to depth during the day and come in shallow when feeding, often at night. Don’t be afraid of the wildlife – meeting it is an incredible experience to have and unfortunately the big stuff is disappearing fast from our oceans.
Night dives bring you completely different experiences. Fish from the day go to sleep and hide. Crustaceans and nocturnal critters come out to feed and it’s loud and it’s exciting and at times – and a little bizarre.
Navigation becomes an important skill to master; you’ll have to be able to find your way back to the boat. No longer will you be relying on a guide.
How do you cope with currents? What about the best scallop beds that filter-feed in currents? How can I conduct a dive safely and get to them?
In actual fact, there are more than 30-plus specialty courses available that combine to make up an advanced course. You only need to choose five, with a couple being compulsory such as Deep and Navigation. The others are up to you, but Drift, Night and Wreck make good options.
So the Advanced Course is designed to make you self-sufficient and build your confidence and skills so you become a proficient diver.
There are two versions of this course, created to achieve the desired outcome: the Advanced Course which is 5 x 1/2 specialties, as described, including five dives, which is supposed to make you an advanced diver, or there’s the Advanced Programme which requires completing four FULL specialties, undertaking 25 dives and attending three lectures.
Course requirements can be spread over a period of time to suit your lifestyle, which, in my experience works better at producing the desired results. After all, you are not badge collecting here – you want the skills to survive and enjoy your new-found sport.
These courses are great fun – they are designed to get you diving, building on the foundation of what you have already learned. You will achieve a lot in a short period of time.
Having the Advanced certification has additional benefits. From the perspective of the operator or charter, it will demonstrate that you achieved a certain standard and are serious about your sport. And when you book to do that more adventurous dive, they will have confidence that you can cope with the demands ahead. This is a level that every diver should strive to reach.
So, if you have read this article and you want to know more, whatever your level, then let’s go diving!
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