Let the adventures begin – PADI Advanced Open Water Course

  
I had such a great time on my PADI Open Water Course with Master Divers, I extended my stay on the Thai island of Koh Tao and enrolled onto the Advanced Open Water course, continuing my training with my instructor David. The two day Advanced Open Water course involved five additional modules and five extra dives. The two mandatory modules are Deep Diving and Underwater Navigation. I also chose three additional specialisations including Wreck Diving, Night Diving and Peak Performance Buoyancy. Here’s a run down of each of my five additional dives;

Deep Water Diving

One of the main reasons I did the advanced open water is to be able to dive deeper than the 18 metres the PADI Open Water certifies me to. And given many fun dive sites lie below 18m, I wanted the additional training and flexibility. We headed out to Green Rock for this dive.

Most challenging aspect: the thought of having an additional 30 metres of water volume above you is quite daunting. Lucky the training includes additional safety techniques to account for deep water, safe ascent and emergency air if you need it.

Most memorable: viewing what depth does to certain objects that David brought down from the surface was interesting. And once I reached 30 metres, it really didn’t feel that deep. So the question now remains, how much deeper do I want to go?! 

Wreck Diving

This was a taster dive to a specialisation option in wreck diving that includes how to penetrate and enter a wreck. But for us, we just swam around and over part of the HTMS Sattakut, a 1942 World War II ship that’s been sunk for the purpose of wreck diving and training. 

Most challenging: be careful of hazards which we needed to identify as part of the dive, especially rusty chains. I managed to get my fin caught going under it and broke the buckle. Lucky I could hold onto David for the rest of the dive.

Most memorable: seeing the wreck under water was really awesome. I peered into the port holes, swam around it to view how water and marine life interact with the ship, and swam over the guns. I definitely want to add wreck diving as a specialist training module. Then I can go inside it and explore! 

Night Diving

I had no idea what to expect from night diving. But like David said, it was definitely an experience.We set off during sunset, with a superb view of the sun from the boat. Geared up with dive torches on and attached, we descended under water into the darkness of Pottery Pinnacle.

Most challenging: It’s dark, and the beam of your  dive torch is the only thing that lights up your environment and what you can see. That includes making sure you don’t lose your buddy or your instructor. Just follow the light beams.

Most memorable: Night diving was totally cool! The marine world at night is so different than day time. We saw several blue spotted ribbon tail Rays, a hermit crab, sleeping parrot fish and an albino white eyed moray eel. Waving your hand in front of your mask to view the bioluminescence was awesome, and then ascending back to the surface to view a starry night sky. I could have floated on my back looking at the stars for hours. Everyone should try a night dive!

Peak Performance Buoyancy

Every diver will tell you buoyancy is key to a great diving experience. And after my open water course, I still had trouble with controlling mine. So this taster option was a must and I’ll be keen to do this as a full module. A 7am departure to the Japanese Gardens, we entered very tranquil waters for some fun buoyancy training.

Most challenging: it took me two attempts to achieve a task during one game, and I couldn’t quite hover upside down and inverted. 

Most memorable: all the fun games we played to practice buoyancy control under water including being inverted upside down in a hover. The good news is my buoyancy is so much better than when I first started my advanced course and I can now achieve neutral buoyancy. 

Underwater Navigation

I’ve always had a good sense of direction, but would this transfer to being under water? Another skill that all divers really need, I’ll be keen to do this as a specialisation.

Most challenging: learning how to use and read a compass requires some practice, but the good news is now I can! Also, don’t forget to look in the direction of where you are swimming, not down at the compass, and keep the compass both flat and directly in front of your body.

Most memorable: we were given a navigation task using the compass  under water, and the good news is I managed to return back to where I started. 

After all my training was complete, I could finally take my Go Pro into the water on a fun dive

Thanks again to Master Divers and to David for another awesome course. And for those of you who are planning to get certified as a diver, I highly recommend you do the Open Water Advanced course immediately or soon after you complete the Open Water. The extra modules and dives have dramatically improved my skills and confidence in diving. 

I’m a sea lion – learning how to scuba dive in Koh Tao, Thailand

 
Learning how to scuba dive has always been on my bucket list, and the place I’ve always wanted to learn how to dive is Thailand.  So on January 3, 2016, I find myself on the island of Koh Tao,  which also happens to be the number one diving location in the world. Enrolled onto the PADI Open Water Diving course with Master Divers, here’s how my course unfolded.

Quality not quantity

There are many dive schools to choose from on Koh Tao, including the biggest dive school in the world that certifies 14,000 open water divers a year. That’s approximately 200 per day! After reading some reviews of different schools on TripAdvisor,  I chose Master Divers. The selling point was the small group size of one instructor to four students, with the additional option of one to one course instruction. Diving has many hazards and  I wanted a learning environment where enough individual attention to developing scuba skills was maximised. It was the best decision I made. I learned how to dive with David and two others. With a ratio of  one instructor to three students, David could attend to each of us with enough individual time to ensure we mastered all the skills. He never rushed us, was very patient, and when we took longer to master some skills, putting us behind schedule, he extended our course by a day. Our safety and competency was always his first priority. 

Do your homework.

I had an electronic copy of the manual two weeks before my course started, and read through the first two sections before arriving on Koh Tao. A physical copy is also available which you can get from your dive school when you arrive. It is recommended you read through the first three sections before your course begins. I can’t stress the value of not only advanced reading if possible, but to complete the knowledge reviews as well. There is a lot of  important information to understand. Once my course started, the videos consolidated my understanding, and the in-class face to face teaching allowed me to ask questions and clarify information from David. There were some on my course who only accessed the manual when they arrived and they still passed the theory. 

Accessorising

All the equipment at Master Divers is in great condition, but I still wanted to invest in my own. The most common thing to first buy as a scuba diver is a snorkel and mask. With some guidance from my instructor David, I chose a saekodive dive mask and a Tulsa plating snorkel with a splash guard.

Dive masks, like most snorkelling masks are tempered which means the mask lens won’t shatter under water due to the pressure. 

To prevent a new mask from fogging up, apply a layer of toothpaste to the inside of the mask lens and leave it overnight. New masks have a chemical layer  from the manufacturer which causes fogging. The toothpaste, as well as baby shampoo stops fogging from occuring. A snorkel with a splash guard prevents water from entering the snorkel when on the surface if there are large waves or rough swell. 

The best two additional equipment items I purchased included a mask strap and a bandana. The velcro banded mask strap replaced the rubber straps that come with all masks. The thicker mask strap along with the velcro  made life so much easier to  pull the mask on and off, plus adjust it.

As I have long hair that gets in the way at the best of times, during diving, it became a nightmare, especially my fringe. So I bought a bandana to tie around my head to keep my hair out of the way. My mask then easily slipped over the bandana.

 It’s a great work out!

During a normal dive, you can burn anywhere between 600 to 800 calories. That’s nearly half the recommended calorie intake for someone my size! Seriously, dive training itself is hard work. I was feeling muscle soreness and fatigue in my legs, back and shoulders, not only from moving and carrying equipment, but just being in the water. By the time I finished my two open water dives, I was so physically tired, I was in bed by 8pm. So adequate rest, healthy eating, early nights, minimal to no alcohol consumption and some stretching,  all helped me during my dive training. 

 I can fly underwater! 

After two confined dives in the shallow waters of Mae Head Bay, and the coral reefs of the Japanese Gardens, I was ready for my first two open water dives. Taking the boat to Tanote Bay, and then to Laen Thien, we dived down to 12 metres. It was amazing! I managed to establish neutral buoyancy and glided over coral reefs, sea cucumbers, past parrot and angel fish. It felt like flying underwater. I was now part of the marine world. 

It’s a great way to see the local sights.

As part of my training, I was taken out on the boat to some great diving sights around Koh Tao. Seeing the island from the sea was fab as we passed remote beach huts nestled into mountains or on the beach. We journeyed around the island to Tanote Bay, the Japanese Gardens, Nangyan Island, past Sairee Beach and Leam Thiam.  

  I’m a sea lion!

My final two open water dives took place at White Rock and Pottery. With all my skills tested and completed at White Rock, this meant I could completely relax  on my final dive at Pottery. This last dive was definitely the best. I was completely relaxed as we explored the underwater world, seeing hexagon grouper fish, a blue spotted ribbon tail ray, Titan trigger fish and a white eyed moray eel. It felt awesome to feel so close to these marine animals, to follow fish, and peek into wreckage to see thousands of eyes looking back at you. I’m now a sea lion! 

 Massive thanks to Heather and Linzi at Master Divers  for their  promptness in replying to, and answering  all my emails. And a huge thank you to  my instructor David for his professionalism, patience, skill and expertise during my PADI Open Water Diving course. I can’t wait to start the the Advanced course in a few days time! 

http://www.master-divers.com 

Safety Note: Diving is not for everyone. The PADI pre-screening questionnaire along with the dive school’s should be answered truthfully and fully. A history of certain medical conditions including heart, blood pressure, anxiety, panic attack, sinus and ear problems, certain medications, plus more, require medical clearance by your local GP, with a recommendation to get clearance from a dive medic for more serious medical conditions. Failure to mention certain medical conditions can invalidate your travel  insurance if something goes wrong. Diving is a fun and safe sport as long as you follow all safety guidelines during your dive and in training.