The adventure begins here…
By: Neil Bennett
“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, the 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 and watched 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 adventures.
Many of you may have wanted to dive but have little understanding of what is involved or are certified and now wish to move on and explore more. We are going to give you an insight to what is down there and how to get the 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 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 and some instructors may use this to shorten course time and reduce the quality of the course. Theory can be taken online, reducing instructor contact and that personal exchange of knowledge but does have the advantage of home learning. Classes can be over-crowded again meaningless one to 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 by finding a quality instructor/dive center, don’t sell yourself short just because you are on holiday or you may regret it later.
So what’s in it for you?
You will be learning about this new world, for example, how light and sound now behaves differently. Your body is now going to be exposed to new issues and how to deal with these. You’ll be moving in a new medium – water and the weightless experience it provides you. And of course, how all the equipment works.
Once you have completed the theory and the swimming pool sessions, you will move onto the 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?” and this is an impossible question for me to answer. 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.
So what’s next…
The advanced course is designed to install the skills and knowledge you need to allow you to go 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; shipwrecks tend to be more intact the deeper you go. At depths of 30m+, they tend to be less ravaged by storms. Pelagics, in particular sharks, tend to be deeper. Adults drop to depth during the day and come shallow when feeding. Don’t be afraid of the wildlife; it’s an incredible experience to have and unfortunately, the big stuff is disappearing fast from our oceans.
Night dives bring you completely different experiences and fishes from the day go to sleep and hide. Crustaceans and nocturnal critters come out to feed, it’s loud and it’s exciting and at times, 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+ 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 to make you a proficient diver.
There are two versions of this course created to achieve the desired outcome: the Advanced Adventure course which is 5 x ½ specialties, as described including 5 dives which are supposed to introduce you to advanced diving and the earned rating of Advanced Scuba Diver, which requires completing 4 FULL specialties and undertaking 25 dives. These can be spread over a period of time to suit your lifestyle. The latter, 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 advance 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 the date 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, contact your local dive center and go diving!