Should I do the PADI Advanced Course in the UK or overseas?

PADI Advanced Open Water Course

Practicing knots at Stoney Cove

Before I begin to answer this question let’s just clarify a few things.  Strictly speaking there is no such thing as the Advanced Diver Course!!!  I thought that might get your attention.  What PADI designed is the Adventures in Diving Programme, which as it says is a series of unconnected dives that are designed to give you a new experiences “in a safe and controlled manner”  There are 14 to choose from,  though very few dive centres offer them all.  Once you have completed five Adventure dives, two of which must be the Deep and Navigation, you can then be certified as an Advanced Diver.  These dives can be spread over as long a period as you like and in several different schools in different Countries – hence it is not really a course.  The range of dives is quite extensive and many of them, if conducted properly, really can stretch a diver.

So back to the question….  One of the reasons many people complete the PADI Advanced overseas is because they completed the Open Water Course overseas, either as a referral (that is, they did the classroom and pool work in the UK and completed the Open Water Dives overseas) or because they did the full Open Water Overseas.  Having completed the Open Water they “drift” into the Advanced without any real planning.  For example after a successful and enjoyable dive onto their first wreck the instructor announces that they have now completed one dive from the advanced and they only need to complete 4 more to be an advanced diver…..

Going straight from the Open Water Course to the Advanced in itself is not wrong, as long as the person has sufficient skills and ability – Indeed in many cases the dives are perfectly suitable for these people as it really can extend their experience and skillset.

In the UK many (but not all) schools work in a different way,  in that it is packaged together as a course usually over a weekend, typically a course will be made up from the following dives

  • Peak Performance Buoyancy
  • Deep
  • Wreck
  • Navigation
  • Search and Recovery

or possibly one of the following

  • Night Diver
  • Dry Suit
  • Enriched Air
Advanced Open Water Student photographing the Jet

Student photographing the Jet

To get the maximum benefit from this course it should be conducted at one of the deeper inland lakes such as Stoney Cove near Leicester, Vobster Quay in Frome, or The National Diving Centre near Chepstow.  One of the issues in completing the Advanced in the UK is that most of our lakes are too shallow, and so many schools split the course over two locations.  For example they will do the shallower dives in their local favoured lake and then either do a day trip to one of the locations mentioned above, or even book a boat and do it off the coast somewhere.  Completing all the dives over one weekend really works well as it does become a course, and given the intensity, divers get a real sense of achievement at the end.  Not only that you can get to dive on a few excellent wrecks (particularly Stoney Cove that has three complete tug boats) and there is sufficient clarity in the water to enable you to see but not make it too easy for the Navigation and Search & Recovery dives.

Whilst there are obvious attractions to completing the course in warm, sunny weather with clear water, there are other factors to consider.  If the water is particularly clear it really makes the navigation dive a bit too easy and many people say they didn’t learn a great deal.  Similarly on the Search & Recovery dive.  On the other side if you do it overseas it is possible that you may do your wreck dive on a spectacular wreck such as the Thistlegorm, or you may do a Fish ID dive as part of the Advanced and then you will get to see and identify some amazing species.

Finally, relaxing on some warm and tropical beach is obviously most people’s dream holiday, but don’t underestimate the fun and camaraderie people enjoy when diving with a group of like minded people on a weekend away in the UK.  Speak to people who have attended such courses before you make up your mind.

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