Recently, while scouring the Internet and countless travel guides for inspiration about my next dive destination, I realized just how many of the world’s most exciting dive sites are deeper than 60 feet. Advanced dive certification is necessary for those who want to explore wrecks in the Graveyard of the Atlantic, or encounter aggregations of over 100 sharks in French Polynesia, for example. And quite a few (like Costa Rica’s mythical Cocos Island) actually required an advanced dive certification or equivalent in order to dive there at all. Over the years, I have met many first-time divers with no real desire to pursue any continuing education after their initial course. For many, further qualifications seem like an unnecessary expenditure of both time and money, and though they may continue to dive for many years, they never feel the need to take the next step on the certification ladder.
Although shallow sites have their own significant charms, including plenty of life, light and color, there are many reasons to consider an advanced certification that allows deeper diving. For those who learned to dive because of access to plentiful new sights and experiences, the advantages in learning to dive deeper are obvious. The majority of the world’s dive-able wrecks lie in over 60 feet of water, and some of the places richest in marine biodiversity are defined by their deep locations, such as seamounts, pinnacles and plunging seawalls. Most of the ‘novelty’ dives I have been on in search of a particular species took place at depth, from diving with manta rays in Indonesia, to waiting at thresher-shark cleaning stations in the Philippines, to seeking out sand-tiger sharks in South Africa.
Deep diving also offers appeal to the adrenalin junkies out there, thanks to increased pressure, possible susceptibility to nitrogen narcosis, reduced natural light and quicker air consumption, although if treated with respect these challenges can be safely met. The sense of briefly inhabiting a world that is both beautiful and exquisitely alien is heightened at depth, and the concept of pushing the boundaries of human limitations becomes even more real. Deep-water corals and ecosystems are different to those found in shallow water, and the animals that inhabit them can also be quite unique. It is worth noting too that deeper sites are often more intact that shallower ones precisely because they are out of the range of new and inexperienced divers.
Of course, the advantages of enrolling in continuing-education courses are not limited to the ability to dive deeper. The PADI Advanced Open Water course, for example, is designed to increase diver confidence and self-sufficiency by exposing the student to a range of new experiences. The first of two compulsory components, the deep-diving scenario, allows divers to experience depth in a safe environment under supervision. The second, navigation, teaches invaluable techniques for underwater orientation. By allowing students to choose their final three components from a wide range of specialties, from underwater photography to night diving, individuals are encouraged to discover and explore more fully their own particular interests. Most importantly, the additional experience and time spent underwater as a result of the course allows you to build upon entry-level abilities, making you a more proficient, safe and confident diver.
A high percentage of the world’s divers learn to dive while on vacation, and for many people, their foray into the underwater realm lasts only as long as their time away from home. Investing in a continuing-education course not only encourages you to get back in the water, but also statistically means that diving is more likely to become a lifelong passion rather than a one-time fling. Going beyond the restrictions of an entry-level certification leaves you free to get the absolute most out of diving. Wrecks, or videography, or the thought of diving beneath the ice excite some people. Some people fantasize about pursing tec diving, or becoming a dive professional. Whatever your dive dreams, enrolling in an advanced course is your gateway to seeing them fulfilled.