PADI Advanced Open Water Course – Everything you need to know

An introduction…

It seems logical to me that you would want to expand your skills once you enter the world of diving from your initial experience of perhaps a Discover Scuba Dive or your Open Water certification, that is of course because I loved completing my Open Water course and without much persuasion decided I wanted to qualify to become a Divemaster and live my life as a mermaid (a lifelong goal since the age of 5). Not only did my open water course prove to me that life truly is better down where it’s wetter, along with the vibrant corals and fish, the feeling of scuba diving also fulfilled my dreams of flying weightlessly and so there wasn’t any resistance to my new found hobby; only that I had to wait over a year to get back in the water whilst I saved for the dream. It helps of course, that Aaron is a divemaster and was most definitely a dolphin in his past life, I mean, merman, mermaaan himself and so with a shared goal we managed to save our way through a year in London and make our way out to Indonesia all the way to Labuan Bajo in Flores and right into the Komodo National Park; well, we didn’t wait over fourteen months to go somewhere less than spectacular and for anything less than the ultimate experience for us both.

For those who haven’t heard about the diving  in Komodo National Park – hello! Where have you been? Joking (I was clueless too – I had only just picked up the hobby, I knew nothing!) But Aaron knew, because being a diver he’s well aware it’s world renowned for its diverse and flourishing marine life from megafauna to macro, multiple and unique dive sites and challenging currents – cue the current junkies from all corners of the globe!

So here I am, situated in the perfect place to advance my scuba diving skills, and as it happens I’m planning on going the whole way through to PADI Dive Professional status, as a Divemaster. But, first thing’s first, scuba diving beyond 18 metres here I come!

What are the benefits of doing the PADI Advanced Open Water Course?

If you’re considering doing your Advance after Open Water it’s a great idea for many reasons, but mostly because it enables you to dive deeper, on successful completion of an Advanced PADI Diving course you are certified to dive depths of 30 metres, having successfully demonstrated five new skillsets.

What does this mean for your diving?

It means greater depths, greater opportunities and great variety of dive sites and a more confident and fine tuned dive style (we would hope) with an extension to your understanding of both your skills and the marine world.  The five skill sets are made up by three predetermined skills and two of your choice, or of the dive schools choice. They may be predetermined by the dive school because certain specialities require certain environments – for example, you can’t choose wreck dive if there’s no wreck, or you can’t complete the course, similarly if you want to do a drift speciality and there are no places to drift dive, it doesn’t make sense to offer it. So you may need to take the advice of the dive shop you choose an the make the most of the available environment.

For diving in Komodo National Park it’s a Drift Dive Speciality and Fish ID Speciality for me, along with Peak Performance Buoyancy Speciality Dive, Navigation Speciality Dive and a Deep Dive (to a maximum depth of 30m).  With an Advanced course it’s all about reading before hand and following up your knowledge both in the water, displaying it with various skills and finalising it by completing knowledge reviews afterwards.

I did two days of diving and I had a brilliant experience. Expanding your skill sets and understanding the environment by immersing yourself into it is a prime way to increase your confidence, skills and, in turn, enjoyment when scuba diving. It is also the first step to becoming a professional diver, moving from the basic survival techniques taught in the Open Water Course, to becoming a fine tuned scuba diver, understanding the environment and your role within it more as an Advanced PADI Recreational Diver.

A basic break down of the specialities I completed are as follows:

Drift Diving:

This is a technique used to ride a current and explore areas from point A to point B, not returning to the drop-off point. Drift diving isn’t completely passive as may imagine – you used the currents general direction to dictate your dive but you can also cut across it in a zig-zag pattern as not to go too fast and to see more of the dive site. You also need to be able to kick out of the drift to exit your dive. There are many dive sites that use the tides here in Komodo to their advantage for drift diving.

Fish Identification:

Identifying the species local to the area makes diving more fun, it allows you to experience the dive more fully by understanding the habitats, interactions and roles they play as part of the ecosystem… because they do all live in perfect harmony with their environment, many with symbiotic relationships. It’s beautiful to see and fascinating to find out about the more unusual species, the more hidden critters and you’ll soon find the small things as fascinating as the big stuff.

Peak Performance Buoyancy:

The first of the three obligatory skills, this has a great practical application – because when you have your buoyancy on point everything else is just blissful and that is what diving is about, being weightless, being perfectly, neutrally balanced and in control of your movements. Fine tuning your buoyancy means less movement, which means less air consumption which, my friends, results in a longer dive with no accidental damage to yourself, coral or anything else!


As an Open Water certified Diver you’re allowed to take a buddy and plan your dives unassisted, unguided and so it makes sense that you should have some additional navigational skills. This builds upon the basics learned in the Open Water course and reconfigures you with your compass skills by presenting an situation in open water, in which you will need to navigate a reciprocal bearing and a square, both times returning back to your starting spot. Generally a good skill to have  if you plan to head out diving without a guide.

Deep Dive:

This will bring you to your deepest depth thus far in your diving experience – how exciting! Allowing you to see the change in colours, mostly the depletion of the red tones at depth, perhaps the start of narcosis from 23m, noticeable with a small maths test using fingers to count to a number so you can see how your mental processing may slow. It also allows you to notice the change in air consumption at depth, you may find you have a shorter dive than usual!

Plenty of time to complete other specialities along the way if you aren’t able to cover the ones you’d ideally like to do on your course, but this is a great step towards becoming a better diver and it’ great fun too! The course usually runs over two days or four dives but it can vary wherever you go.

Happy bubbles!


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