Advanced Scuba Diving Course in Utila
After getting certified as open water scuba divers in Colombia, Adam and I couldn’t wait for our next trip under the sea. Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait long. Off the coast of Honduras lie the Bay Islands, famed for scuba diving and one of the cheapest places in the world to get a diving qualification. So after an achingly long bus journey through the mainland, and a quick ferry ride to the islands, we began our advanced scuba diving course.
Our Advanced Scuba Diving Course
Our PADI advanced scuba diving course consisted of five new types of dives, and a lot of theory. We began by reading a hefty manual and filling out questionnaires on everything from scuba equipment to diving risks and emergency procedures. I’m ashamed to admit that in the short month since doing our open water course, id already forgotten much of the theory. I was glad I refreshed my memory before getting in the water.
We went over our completed questionnaires with our instructor. Unlike our last course, where our answers were merely glanced at, this time each answer was scrutinised. There were even follow-up questions to make sure we really understood the material, and were not just copying from the manual. I felt like I was back in school, nervous when I didn’t know the answer, and hoping the instructor wouldn’t call on me.
Thankfully the theory part of our course was soon over, and the following day we began our dives.
Dive 1: Deep Diving
Although I had passed my open water course, I had to admit I was not a strong diver. I struggled to control my buoyancy underwater, and occasionally failed to sink to the required depth, instead filling my lungs with air and bobbing about near the surface.
On the first day of my advanced scuba diving course, I encountered a new diving issue before I even got beneath the water- putting on my gear.
We were used to putting on our gear and rolling backwards into the sea. But, on our crowded boat, we were told we’d have to put on our equipment in the water. No problem, I thought, how hard could it be?
Very, as it turns out. I struggled futilely to put my arms through my BCD, as the waves crashed over my head.
“Sit on it!” my instructor ordered, quickly losing patience with me. I pushed the canister under my bum, slipped my arm through the sleeves, and strapped myself in. Coughing up a lungful of water, I reached for my regulator to find it wasn’t there. I had somehow tangled it up in my BCD.
“Let’s go!” came another demand from my instructor, as I tried to keep my head above the water, and desperately struggled to free my regulator. Finally, I was ready, and I swam to my instructor, who looked far from impressed.
Together, our small group sank beneath the waves, and back into the underwater world I had come to love.
The deep dive consisted of diving below 30 metres. Once we’d reached the required depth, our instructor demonstrated the effects. First, she cracked open an egg, and we saw how the pressure kept the yolk intact as we passed it from person to person. Next, she showed us her slate, on which were several coloured dots, some of which had reduced to a dull brown as we had sunk beneath the reach of certain light waves. Shining a torch on them, we saw the difference between the true colours and what we saw underwater.
Lastly, we did a test to see if we were suffering from nitrogen narcosis, a condition common which makes divers spaced out, giddy, and lacking in awareness of danger. The test consisted of finding numbers in an array. We both did it fairly quickly, and concluded we weren’t “narked” (I was kind of disappointed).
Dive 2: Underwater Navigation
Underwater navigation was the dive I was dreading. I can barely find my way around on land, let alone in the water. We had practised using a compass earlier, and we now had to use one with the added difficulty of staying at the same depth as we swam. After moving around in simple squares and lines, we both just about got the hang of it. We then swam along a length of rope, counting our kick cycles and timing ourselves.
Our instructor then signalled for us to find our way back to the boat. I was completely at a loss, as I’d expected. Adam, on the other hand, swum directly back to where we’d started. One of these days I’m going to start paying attention to where I’m going, I swear.
Dive 3: Night Diving
As the sun was going down, we headed back out on the boat for the dive I was most excited for- our night dive. We got into the water as the sun was going down, and explored the coral reef with our torches.
Diving at night let us see creatures we’d missed during the day, including crabs, squids, squids and lobsters. It also let us see the bioluminescent shrimp that glimmered in the water around us. But, overall, the night dive was a bit of a let down. I didn’t enjoy having a limited view, and found using a torch to be a bit of a nuisance.
Dive 4: Wreck Diving
Our first dive the following day was my favourite part of the advanced scuba diving course by far- wreck diving. We descended into seemingly endless blue water, until eventually the shipwreck came into view. It was incredible to see- a crusty old ship taken over by seaweed and coral, with schools of fish swimming by.
We swam around the ship, navigating our way around the wdeck and through an open hatch. We made our way into the captain’s hull, where we saw crabs scuttling around the broken steering wheel. When we’d explored every inch of the ship, we made our way to the surface.
Dive 5: Peak Performance Buoyancy
Buoyancy had been my biggest problem when I had done my open water course. But over the past four dives in my advanced scuba diving course, I had noticed an improvement. So I was looking forward to our final dive, where we would further improve our buoyancy.
Our instructor set up a floating hoop, and planted weights in the ground. Using nothing but the inflation and deflation of our lungs, we had to rise and fall to knock over the weights in the sand. Next, we had to swim through the hoop (easy) and then swim through the hoop backwards and upside down (not so easy).
Taking off our fins, we practised staying on the sea floor instead of floating away. We raced each other for a short difference. Adam won easily, but in my defence, i had to stop to avoid stepping on an adorable tiny seahorse.
Lastly, I couldn’t resist my own little buoyancy test- having Adam lift me above his head Dirty Dancing style!
And just like that, we had completed our advanced scuba diving course! By the end, I felt far more confident in the water, able to control my buoyancy and even hover without rising and falling (or turning upside down like I used to). I even got the hang of putting on my gear in the water. Best of all, we’d had some incredible diving experiences- swimming along the reef at night, exploring a sunken ship, and spotting amazing sea life, including sharks and turtles!
Thankfully, our course included two free fun dives the following day, so we didn’t have to say goodbye to the sea just yet!
For a guide to choosing a scuba diving course in Utila, click here!