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You’ve completed your Open Water Course and fallen in love with diving, so what should you do next? There seems to be a dizzying array of options. Here’s a rundown of your choices on Thailand’s Ko Tao.
The simplest thing by far would be to go diving. You’re not on a course, there are no skills you need to perform, so why not simply go for a few dives and enjoy being underwater? Most dive centres offer a special price for fun dives for those who have completed a course with them — it’s likely to be around 700 baht.
You can of course however continue your training and Ko Tao is one of the cheaper places to do this. No matter whether you’ve chosen to take the PADI or SSI Open Water, you can continue your training with either agency — you don’t have to stick to the same one.
With PADI the next course is Advanced Open Water. This course is five dives and usually lasts two days. There is another book that comes with the course, which means some reading and theory sessions, but this is usually just a few hours each day with your instructor. Each dive within the course is the first dive of any speciality course that PADI offer, so it’s like a bundle of taster dives. PADI states that you must take the deep dive and the navigation dive, and the other three you can choose. Most choose a night dive, and you can also choose a fish identification dive, a wreck dive, a buoyancy dive and many others. This certification will licence you to dive to 30 metres. Expect to pay 8,500 to 9,500 baht for this course.
SSI offer a similar course called Advanced Adventurer. The main differences are that you get to choose all five dives on this course and there is no book. This not only makes the course cheaper, but means no homework either. The course is run practically with sessions from your instructor. Expect to pay around 7,500 baht for this course.
You can also skip these courses and continue straight to specialty courses. With the SSI system, no matter who you did you first course with, you can do any speciality straight away and what’s more, you can combine them too. As an example, if you wanted to learn about deep, wreck and nitrox diving, you can do this as a combination instead of in separate courses. It makes sense really, as in a realistic diving scenario you are likely to dive deep around a wreck using nitrox. Combinations range greatly in price depending on what you choose to do, but in the long run they will save you money over individual specialties and/or a taster type course.
PADI offer a similar range of specialty courses too but not all of them are available to you after your open water — deep for example can only be taken after the Advanced Open Water. PADI specialties cannot be combined and must be completed as separate courses. However if you have completed the PADI Advanced Course prior to taking a specialty, then you can credit the dive from your Advanced Course to the specialty. So if you completed a wreck dive on your Advanced, then instead of taking all four dives in the wreck specialty you only need take the final three. The dive centre may give you a reduction for this but every centre is different, so you do need to check.
By Ayesha Cantrell
Last updated on 11th December, 2014.