In our last travel blog post I mentioned that I had done another diving course. I’ve included some underwater photographs and videos taken whilst I was on this course. We stayed in Bohol, longer than anywhere else in the Philippines, because of the excellent diving sites at very reasonable prices. Bohol is a magnet for divers so this is where I decided to complete my PADI Advanced Open Water Certification.
I completed my PADI Open Water course in Gili Air a few weeks ago. I could have simply opted to do some fun dives here, but wanted to challenge myself with some of the more advanced diving skills.
Advanced Open Water
The AOW consists of two compulsory and three self selected dives from the Adventures in Diving Programme. The compulsories are the underwater navigation and the deep water dive (to 30M).
Most PADI centres will also encourage you to do the peak performance buoyancy course as part of this package too, so you are left with two – I chose drift diving and a night dive. This is how it all went.
There are plenty of dive shops to choose from along Alona Beach and all the ones I talked to are PADI certified, so it really comes down to price and whether or not you like the team when you go in and chat to them about what you want to do. After this ‘exhaustive’ research (it took me an hour one morning wandering up and down the beach front) I decided on Sea-Explorers.
I first met Eriko, my Japanese instructor, when I went in to get some prices and took to her immediately. In the end I know I made a good choice given her eleven years experience and supreme levels of calmness and patience on my rather challenging buoyancy course, but I will come to that later.
Thankfully, this advanced course includes far less textbook and video watching work than the Open Water Course. For each of your dives you need to do about an hours reading and spend five to ten minutes answering and discussing some review questions with your instructor afterwards. The navigator is a little more challenging, especially if you are not au fait with a compass.
My first dive was the peak performance buoyancy (I have now renamed this course “pathetically poor performance buoyancy” as it fair to say I struggled with the skills on this one. I knew that my kick stroke was bad and I always spend too long fiddling with my BCD under the water. This course proved that I still have much to learn. I reckon I’ve improved under Eriko’s patient instruction.
For comedy value, checkout the video (above) that Eriko kindly shot of me trying to get through some obstacles. I had to have about ten attempts at this before I got it ‘nearly’ right. Eriko nearly lost her regulator giggling at my attempts at this and the karate underwater manoeuvre, which I never really mastered (I have been practising on the bed though).
The deep dive does what it says on the tin, its deep (30M) and you do a couple of tests to see if the nitrogen narcosis is getting to you – apart from taking nearly twice as long do a simple maths task I didn’t go wonky.
The deep dive along the wall was excellent, but given my already heroic air consumption; staying any longer than 5 minutes at this depth would have had me on empty – this is despite Eriko kindly providing me with a larger capacity tank for this dive.
The navigation dive went ok apart from me getting lost on the natural navigation test where you are supposed to notice underwater landmarks (should that be watermarks?) to guide you back to your starting point. Iwas too interested in the pretty fish and reefs and forgot my way back – oops. I was made to do it again and concentrated this time.
The drift dive was a great experience and did not require much effort as the natural current sweeps you past the reef at a nice steady pace and you have all the time in the world to watch the turtles and fish sweep past your eyes.
Eriko was trying to catch a picture of me with a turtle in the background, but with the current sweeping us in the wrong direction and me having the agility of an elephant underwater meant that we only managed one distant snap. That is entirely my fault and not a statement on her underwater photography.
For my final dive I chose the night dive and like the worrier that I am I was getting a little nervous about this given my struggle with buoyancy and navigation (you have to do a night compass and natural navigation test as part of the course). I needn’t have been.
Once the tests were out of the way in the first 10 minutes we were free to roam the depths with just Eriko, me and our torches and what an experience it was.
The place is so different at night – nearly all of the fish go to sleep. I kid you not. You see them tucked into rock crevices curled up with a duvet. Well I may be lying about the duvet, but they looked pretty cosy to me.
In their place out come a whole variety of new life which include snails, octopus, squid. My particular favourite though was the plankton. We rested on the bottom and held our torches close to our chest to kill the light so you are in near total darkness, then you swipe your hand in front of you and they put on a little luminescent light show. A truly amazing and unique experience.
We got back on the boat and then trudged up the beach watched by all the diners having their evening meal in our scuba gear to the dive shop to clean it all down and get changed. I felt like something out of James Bond film, if James Bond were fat, bald and grey. A great end to a terrific course.
For now there will be no more PADI courses for me. From here on in it will be fun dives all the way to try and improve my skills and practice the techniques I learnt here on Bohol. I hope at the end of this flashpacking journey to use much less air and to be as graceful as the sea life underwater. Its a big ask!!
Eriko was a great instructor and the dive shop didn’t do too much for you. I mean this in a positive way – you had to clean all your own gear and set it up fully, something which was mostly done for me on Gili Air. As a result here I felt more like a diver, rather than a complete novice. If you are looking for a friendly well managed dive shop on your trip to Bohol, I would recommend the team at Sea Explorers. Or find a place that meets your exact requirements from the many centres around the area. Balicasag is an excellent dive site here and must be visited if you are diving in Bohol.
One other huge bonus for me was chatting to Eriko on the boat before and after our dives about our next travel hop to Japan. She gave me some great tips about food and places to visit, but most of all she was very patient with a very cumbersome novice diver for which I am grateful.
Bohol Dive Sites and Dives
Ray Point – Peak Performance Bouyancy
Garden Eel – Navigation
Cathedral, Balicasag Island – Deep Dive
Black Forest - Balicasag Island – Drift Dive
** Diclaimer – all these images and videos were taken during my diving on Bohol by Eriko my instructor, thanks again for capturing these memories for me.