Ever since getting certified as a PADI Open Water Diver in Thailand earlier this year, I’ve been obsessed with diving. This obsession has resulted in me writing for the PADI blog, which is still one of my most exciting blogging feats since I got started. My goal since then has been to get certified as an Advanced Open Water Diver, which is the next step in any diver’s ‘career’.
On my recent trip to Fuerteventura, Spain I finally did my Advanced Open Water Diver Course (AOW for short), and am now officially an ‘Advanced’ diver – which I’m insanely proud of! In this post, I’ll take you through the experience, how the course is structured, in the hopes that it’ll inspire you to get your AOW certification too!
I have had some incredible underwater experiences through the years, such as swimming with turtles in Akumal, Mexico and seeing sharks up close in the Maldives. Getting my Advanced Open Water Certification is just another addition to the list!
Spain truly is a country worth visiting, with so many amazing things to see and do, and countless interesting cities and destinations. There are some amazing places to go in Barcelona, and Madrid has always been on my list. The Canary Islands have long been a favourite of mine, but the mainland has much to offer as well.
Want more Spain and diving? Here’s my post on scuba diving in Gran Canaria!
Side note: regardless of how long you are staying, Fuerteventura should be a stop on your Spain itinerary.
All photos of me in this post were taken by my instructor Simon from Abyss Fuerteventura.
About the Advanced Open Water Diver Course
The PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course is a course offered to certified Open Water Divers as the ‘next step’ on their journey. It is a way to ‘advance’ in your diving, not necessarily ‘become advanced’ if that makes any sense. The main goal for many recreational divers like myself is to explore the underwater world and the adventures it has to offer. By getting certified as an Advanced Open Water Diver, you give yourself new skills and ways to do this.
Read more: The PADI Advanced Open Water Diver Course
As part of the AOW, you’ll complete 5 Specialty Dives. 2 of these are mandatory; namely the Deep Dive and the Underwater Navigation Dive. The other 3 are specialities you choose, based on your preferences, skill and what’s available in your dive location. The two mandatory dives help you get more knowledge about diving at a greater depth than before and really perfect your underwater navigation skills. Both are important parts of safely exploring the underwater world, and it is natural that these are mandatory.
As for the 3 chosen specialities; you can pick and choose whatever you want! There are endless possibilities here, and you can choose from dives that help hone your skills in drift diving and boat diving, you can explore a wreck in a wreck dive or try your hand at cave diving or ice diving. There are so many options, and picking your three specialities might be the hardest thing about the Advanced Open Water Diver Course. For those who want to read more, I’ve written this article for PADI on how to choose your first speciality that covers the topic more in detail.
One of the main things that differentiate the Advanced course from the Open Water Diver course is that there are no exams in the AOW course! This is a big plus for many divers, as the theoretical parts of the Open Water Diver Course may be the hardest for many. In the AOW course, you’ll get the course handbook, and there is a ‘Knowledge review’ section that accompanies each Adventure Dive. For each Adventure Dive, you are expected to read the relevant chapter and complete the Knowledge Review, in order to go through it with your instructor and ensure your understanding of the dive you are about to undertake.
Read More: Getting Open Water Certified in Thailand
Completing the PADI AOW Course in Fuerteventura
If you’ve read my other diving posts, you’ll know that I’ve been pretty spoiled when it comes to my certifications. When I got my Scuba Diving certification in the Maldives, it was just me and the instructor, as I was the only one that signed up to do the course. When I got Open Water Diver Certified in Thailand, I purposely picked a dive center that specialised in small groups and more one-on-one time with the instructor.
And it was the same when I planned my trip to Fuerteventura, Spain.
I chose to get AOW Certified with Abyss Fuerteventura, run by husband and wife team Hannah and Simon. I reached out to them before my trip, and they happily booked me in to become an Advanced Diver! They sorted out my pickup times and had everything ready for me when I arrived. Hannah even dropped by the study materials to our hotel the day after I arrived in Spain, to ensure that I had the time to look it over before my first dive. Hannah and Simon took great care of us during our stay, and we ended up joining them and their friends to celebrate the 5-year anniversary of Abyss while we were there!
Simon, who was my instructor, was great, and I had loads of fun on all my dives. He stayed patient when it was necessary, and explained everything in ways I could understand.
Side note: guess who was sipping white wine at the hotel karaoke night while studying for her Navigation Dive?
As for my specialties, I was quite excited about my mandatory Deep Dive, which would allow me to get certified to depths up to 30 meters! As mentioned above, exploring the underwater world is one of the reasons to learn diving, and completing the Deep Dive would let me explore an even bigger part of the beautiful ocean. The thing you need to know about the Deep Dive, is that it is mandatory so that you will understand and learn how your body reacts at greater depths. My instructor and I went down to around 30 meters, sat down at the bottom, and I had to do a little brain twister. I won’t tell you what it is, as you may have to do this yourself on your deep dive, but let’s just say that it took me 3 times as long to complete the task as when I was on the surface, AND I got it wrong, haha. It’s crazy how your brain reacts to that much pressure, so make sure to pay attention to your instructor the whole time.
The mandatory Underwater Navigation Dive, however, I wasn’t all that excited about. This was mainly because I found navigation to be just a little boring during my Open Water Course, and was expecting it to be an entire dive where I had to keep my eyes on the compass, not the exciting marine life around me. However, I was very wrong! Instead, I completed the tests/tasks in no time, and then we were off exploring! The whole time my instructor would point out things that would help me navigate, such as the direction of the sun. Now I feel more equipped to handle unfamiliar dive sites.
Now for the (even more) fun parts; the specialities I chose!
I have always dreamt of doing a Wreck Dive and was hoping to get one under my belt as part of my AOW. Unfortunately, it is still on my list, as there are sadly no wrecks in Fuerteventura. Instead, I decided to try a Night Dive and was secretly hoping that this wouldn’t be possible either. Night diving sounds terrifying, and I picked it thinking that “if they can’t do it, that’s fine, but if they can, I’ll just have to go for it.”
Well, it happened, and as I told Hannah this on the way there, she said they usually call it the ‘marmite dive‘ – you either love it or you hate it! What added some extra fun to the evening was that Hannah and her son took my friend who was travelling with me snorkelling at the dive site! So Andrea got to try her hand at night snorkelling, while I was diving below the surface.
I loved the night dive, and will definitely be doing it again! The calm and quiet nature underwater was even more serene at night, and the dive was so relaxing. I am also extremely excited to say that I got to cross something off my bucket list during the dive! I’ve always dreamt of seeing the ‘glowing plankton’ and believed you had to travel to Fiji or the Maldives or somewhere insanely tropical in order to experience it. However, I saw it in Spain! At one point during the dive, Simon and I stopped at the bottom for a couple of moments and turned off our flashlights. We then waved our hands around like crazy (to quote Simon: “Don’t leave me partying on my own“), and we activated the plankton! It was nothing short of magical, and looked like tiny blue sparks coming off of our hands!
The next speciality I chose, was the Digital Underwater Photography Dive. I figured that this would be more of an investment towards my blog and social media, and it was. I learned about different housings for cameras, the lighting structures, and how to get better shots. Still, the photos Simon got of me on that dive were the best, and I am considering bringing him with me whenever I dive to take photos of me now.
My third speciality was the Peak Performance Buoyancy speciality. Buoyancy is basically what makes you weightless in the water, and having ‘peak buoyancy’ is very helpful when diving. If you are not in control of your buoyancy, you are not in control of whether you sink or float, and makes a dive very hard work. As buoyancy is the biggest challenge (for me) in diving, I decided to opt for this speciality in order to improve it. And I did!
Simon brought a massive frame down to the bottom, and we practised swimming through it from different angles (even upside down). This was great, as it really showed me what I’m actually capable of doing underwater! It’s safe to say that I spent a lot of time upside down after that dive.
All in all, I had a great experience diving with Abyss Fuerteventura, and would recommend anyone to book their next adventure with them! If you are unsure of whether diving is for you, you can book your ‘Discover Scuba Diving’ course, which lets you (literally) test the waters without committing to a course or an exam.
Getting my Advanced certification was great fun, and trying my hand at the different specialities has really opened up a new world of diving for me. Now I’ll be getting some fun dives under my belt, and then who knows?
TELL ME: Do you dive? Would you like to try it?
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