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I completed my Advanced Open Water Course on a live aboard boat in the Similan islands in Thailand. My open water course was with SSI, so I was excited to see what a PADI certification would be like. Here’s everything you need to know before you dive into (see what I did there) your advanced open water course. 

PADI Advanced Open Water Course – Everything You Need to Know

PADI certification PADI advanced open water course

My instructor Jacobo – What A Legend!

The Specifics About Advanced Open Water – How Does it Work & What do You Learn.

 

This Padi certification is the next step after the Open Water Course. It take a few days (minimum of 5 dives) and allows you to dive up to 30m. You HAVE to do a Deep dive and Underwater Navigation. Then, unofficially, Peak Performance Buoyancy is the third dive skill that everyone chooses to do because it is INCREDIBLY useful.

For the remaining 2 you can choose between a whole heap of options like Fish ID, Boat, Wreck Diving, Drift, Dry Suit, Search and Recovery and more. I chose boat diving and wreck diving but ended up having to do Fish ID (arguably the easiest) instead of wreck diving due to an INSANE storm.

PADI Advanced Open Water MODULES

Deep Dive

PADI certification PADI advanced open water course

Playing games with JacoboLike I said, this is the mandatory part of the PADI Advanced Open Water. This has to be done so that you can dive to 30m instead of just 18m (Open Water). You read a chapter in the PADI manual and answer some questions.

Then during the next dive you go down further than 18m and compare your dive computer to that of your instructors to see that they are rarely exactly the same. For example mine read 24m and my instructor’s read 24.4m .

Then you look at a colour chart and see how different the colours are under water. Basically, red looks brown. 

We played a game where my instructor held up say 6 fingers and I’d have to hold up 4 to make ten. Or he’d do 2 and I’d have to do 8. Sounds simple but it’s surprising how long it takes you to do under water. This is to make sure that you can actually think logically . 

Overall this is a very easy and enjoyable dive .

 Underwater Navigation Dive

PADI certification PADI advanced open water course

I eventually got to go to the beach!Here I had to go to a shallow area of water while all the other divers headed off to a gorgeous tropical beach. As you can imagine I was in quite the rush to get these skills out of the way and plant my feet on the beach.

In my opinion this is the hardest module. I’m good on land with navigation, but underwater everything looks the same to me. 

First I had to swim 15m counting “kick cycles”. I then had to swim 30 metres and come back in a straight line based on how many kick cycles it should take. I was then given a compass and had to repeat the above skill using said compass and a heading which my instructor chose.

Last but not least I had to do a square and return back to where I started using the compass. This all ended up being easier than I thought. But still, this module takes a lot more thinking than any of the others.

This module was made hilarious by the fact that my instructor then proceeded to get us lost on our next dive. So, I wonder if my navigation is really quite up to scratch?!

 Boat Diving

PADI certification PADI advanced open water course

Being a nerd and doing all my knowledge reviews.

Basically this was what I was doing every day because I was on a live-aboard boat. I told you I chose this one based on ease of completion! It was all about the proper ways to get on and off a boat while diving and where all the important things were.

For skills, my four times daily giant stride off the dive deck of the boat was basically it. Oh and climbing back up again after taking my fins off. I also had to learn where everything was on the boat. My instructor took me for a quick tour of the boat making me point out where the life boats were, which was portside or starboard, where they kept the emergency oxygen etc. 

Of course, I read my chapter in the PADI manual and had my knowledge review as usual, simple. This module is SO easy, so don’t think about it too much. Obviously you probably won’t choose it if you’re diving from the shore and there is no boat involved. 

Peak Performance Buoyancy

PADI certification PADI advanced open water course

Buoyancy is definitely the most fun module.

This is essentially controlling yourself in the water so that you don’t slam into the ground/coral or float up to the top. A VERY IMPORTANT module in the PADI advanced open water course. I was always terrified of slamming into things before I did this. However, after a few dives controlling your buoyancy definitely comes more naturally.

The first thing you’ll look at is whether or not you have the correct amount of weights on your belt. Ideally the fewer the better. I went from 6 to 2 by the end of the trip. 

The advanced skills that I had to demonstrate under water was to hover for 1 minute. This took me a while because I still had 3 weights on at this stage.

Then we placed a weight on the bottom and I had to swim down to it, touch my regulator off it and then take a big breath in to make myself come back up before I crashed into the ground. I found that this was the easiest part. The whole point is to show control.

Next, I had to put one finger on the weight and turn myself completely upside down. I was essentially doing a sort of one finger handstand. I found this tricky.

After that it was LIMBO! Two instructors held a line up and I had to swim under and then swim back over it upside down.

These skills were obviously followed by another knowledge review.

Wreck Dive

PADI certification PADI advanced open water course

This is NOT what my attempted wreck dive looked like. haha.

Ok well, it should have been wreck dive. I did the chapter in the book and the knowledge review. However,  when we came to do the dive, it didn’t quite work out. I was supposed to simply go down, point at some points of interest and some potential hazards. This,  unfortunately, is hard to do when visibility is literally about 1m.

We started our descent holding onto a mooring line. I got a few metres down and could barely see anything, let alone anyone.  Eventually I was face to face with my instructor which was reassuring. BUT we had lost the other two members of our group.

Now, at this point I was thinking, “I do NOT want to do this.. maybe I should tell him I want to go up….. I don’t want to be lost in the sea”. Whilst I was desperately wrestling with my anxiety my instructor went in search of the other two. With no sight of them we decided to go straight back up. To say I was relieved would be a massive understatement. Luckily our fellow divers were instructors so they had made their own way back up, though it was some distance away.

This whole situation was not helped by the massive waves and stormy weather. The trip leader asked us if we wanted to keep going and head back down. I have dived that wreck before. Last time, I had seen a big group of about eight lion fish just floating around, tonnes of scorpion fish and stone fish. If I can’t SEE, how in the name of God do I avoid the dangerous and poisonous creatures?! I was like “Eh no thanks, I’m not going back down, I’m getting back on the boat.”

One could argue that I DID see the dangers of diving a wreck, but that is not technically doing things by the PADI advanced open water book. SO, it was time to try Fish ID.

Fish ID

PADI certification PADI advanced open water course

Cowfish!!!

This was what I ended up doing instead of wreck dive to finish my course. To be honest, I had thought about doing this one anyway in the beginning so I didn’t mind too much. Basically I completed the chapter and had my knowledge review.  Standard by now.

My instructor also tested me on one of my dives about the various different families of fish and how to identify them. Probably the most straight forward module apart from boat diving. If you’re feeling lazy definitely do boat diving and fish ID. 

Did I Enjoy My Padi Advance Open Water Certification?

Happy with my certification and new found comfort under the water

Happy with my new found comfort under the water

All in all I went from 4 dives to nearly 30 in the space of 8 days. It was amazing. I have completely fallen in love with that underwater world. I could honestly just stare at a parrot fish for hours. Or a box fish. I’ve even found an online community for us ladies that love to dive – Girls That Scuba. Make sure you check it out if you love the mermaid life!

My PADI advanced open water made me feel like a much more confident diver and more prepared for any eventuality under the water. I highly recommend it to anyone who has done their open water qualifications. Or, if you want to try something a bit more challenging then make sure you check out my guide to learning to freedive

Have you been diving? Did you love it?


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10 Responses

  1. Jade Lee Wright

    I actually can’t believe how much I learnt from this blog – not that I wouldn’t usually from checking out your awesome blog!! Ahem.. digging myself a hole. But seriously, the color changes and egg yolk staying in tact beneath the water???
    Bwahahaha I couldn’t help but think of the film Along Came Polly when you mentioned your Spanish instructor with the tiny red pants hahaha “are you for scuba!?”
    Devious bastard Jacobo for switching the tomato – I’d have been mindblown.. and possibly worried about my brain size….

    I learnt my way around a boat from watching Spongebob.. no lies.. when he completed his ‘drivers licence’…. yeah… I think I’m special too 😉

    I love hearing how much you’re enjoying it and embracing the underwater world… gahhh since semi-knowing you my feet have become incredibly itchy……. please don’t say some pharmaceutical thing to that. Blush.

    Oh right, I will be responding to your email soon regarding my own little love story 😉

    http://www.bohemianmuses.blogspot.com

    Reply
  2. Aileen

    That is awesome! I actually had my first diving (beginner’s) course in the Philippines and the experience was so amazing! I can understand how you’ll fall in love with the underwater world—because I did too!

    I am actually from the Philippines (but now travelling in Belgium) and I saw in your FB page that you have been to some places in my home country!!! That’s great!! Hope I was still there in the PH–I would have loved to meet you and tour you around! —oh, by the way, hello! I am Aileen. I also blog about my travels at http://iAmAileen.com

    I’ll definitely stick around your blog!

    Reply
    • Tara

      Hi Aileen! That would have been amazing if you were here to give me a tour. But I’m sure you’re having a great time in Belgium!I’ll have a look at your blog now!:)

      Reply
  3. Sneha

    Very interesting read and it sounds very fun! I really want to do my advanced in the next few months, just not sure if I’m ready! Did you have much experience before you did yours? Like I finished my open water in November and then I did a dive in Portugal in March which was to 16m. Would this be enough to start the advanced?

    Also, is there a lot of independent learning in the course or does your instructor assist you a lot? I may not be as confident with diving as when I had just completed open water!

    Reply
  4. Sharon

    Hi Tara, thanks for the great hints, including SCUBA advanced open water course with PADI.

    Pictures are really excellent also.

    It certainly helps when I can read a blog such as yours, and be guided by it. Many adventures to be had by all.

    Cheers Sharon…

    Reply
  5. PJ

    Hi Tara,

    I know your post is 4 years old, but this was my first hit when I looked up what to expect during an AOW certification. I’m doing mine in two weeks in Zanzibar, and I’m super psyched! I mostly wanted to know if there were any mask removal related exercises (ugh!) and I’m glad there aren’t any. I hope I enjoy my course as much as you enjoyed yours!

    Reply
    • Tara

      Oh amazing!! Super excited for you. I was in Zanzibar last year and it was beautiful! Yeah as far as I remember all the mask removal stuff was in the OW certification. You’ll be grand!! Have a wonderful time XX

      Reply

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