PADI IDC & Divemaster courses, Koh Lanta, Thailand

Teaching Tips: Regulator recovery…

Most instructors, or PADI IDC candidates, have few worries regarding teaching the regulator recovery skill.  They have performed it many times, and most people would consider it to be one of the ‘easier’ skills to teach.  However, with the shift in teaching methodology more towards neutral buoyancy teaching, we just have to be a little careful of meeting the stated performance requirements for this skill when teaching in confined water:

PADI IDC & Divemaster Courses, Confined water teaching presentations.

To teach this skill correctly in confined water, we must ensure that the regulator has been recovered from ‘behind the shoulder‘.  With the old-style teaching, when the students were on their knees, this was quite easy to achieve with either the sweep  method or the reach method of recovery.  However, nowadays, when teaching the skill in a more horizontal position, we have to be careful that the recovery was deemed to be ‘from behind the shoulder‘.  In a horizontal ‘diving position’, the regulator will naturally fall below the shoulder, and if we just use the sweep method of recovery, our students will not meet the performance requirement.

In this horizontal position – on fin-tips or in mid-water – we must use the reach method of recovery, so that the hand reaches behind the shoulder to recover the regulator.  We can also teach the sweep method, so the students learn more and will know two different techniques for recovering their regulator, but the reach method is needed to meet the course performance requirements in confined water.

PADI IDC & Divemaster courses, Koh Lanta, Thailand

To teach this method in Confined Water Dive #1, we must first help the students attain neutral buoyancy and a horizontal position.  One way of doing this is to add little bits of air to their BCDs as you coax them into the correct breathing pattern for diving (read more about this in a previous blog – here).  Once in this horizontal/neutral state, we then continue with the skills from CW#1, including the regulator recovery skill.

During an Open Water Course, I would still teach the sweep method of recovery first, as it is perhaps a little easier.  With the confidence gained from this, we can then move on to the reach method of recovery too, and then we will meet the confined water performance requirements.  Later on in Confined Water Dive #5, we can then re-practise both methods during the mini-dive, whilst swimming around the pool neutrally buoyant.

PADI IDC & Divemaster Courses in Koh Lanta, Thailand.

When we then move to open water, our students can choose to recover the regulator by either method, as PADI Standards do not stipulate that the regulator must be recovered from behind the shoulder in open water (only in confined water).  Personally, I prefer to have the students complete this skill on Open Water Dive #1 whilst swimming along, as they did in Confined Water Dive #5.

Teaching this skill in this manner will help your students be better, more confident divers.  By employing this teaching technique, we have not only met the PADI performance requirements, but we have also taught two different recovery methods, and focused on maintaining and improving the buoyancy of our entry-level students –  make neutral buoyancy a habit, rather than a skill..

During our PADI IDCs on Koh Lanta, Thailand, we focus on neutral buoyancy teaching, and teaching our students to be good instructors, not just to pass an exam.  If you are looking to become a PADI Instructor soon, send us an email if you have any further questions about teaching neutrally buoyant skills.  Likewise, if you are already a PADI MSDT, you could join us for your PADI IDC Staff Course and also get an insight into joining the ranks of instructors who teach skills whilst neutrally buoyant…

PADI IDC, Divemaster, Thailand, Koh Lanta, Koh Tao, Phuket, Phi Phi

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The Dive Sites of Koh Lanta

The thought of visiting Thailand conjures up images of white-sand beaches, swaying palm trees, delicious food, and fantastic diving.  And the west coast of Thailand offers the best diving in the region, with regular manta ray and whale shark encounters…

Koh Lanta is situated in the middle of Thailand’s west coast – a short drive from the international airport at nearby Krabi Town.  Its warm, clear waters and stunning beaches make it a great choice as a holiday destination, and with such great diving, it’s a top diving destination in the region – arguably Thailand’s best land-based diving.

Scuba diving Thailand, Koh Lanta, Open Water, Advanced, Rescue, Divemaster IDC

Suitable for diving levels, Koh Lanta offers a nice variety of dive sites, and has something for everyone to enjoy – shallow, colourful reefs; deep drop-offs; small critters; large pelagics; and a couple of wrecks.  Let’s have a look at the dive sites on offer:

Hin Daeng / Hin Muang

Manta Ray, Koh Lanta, Thailand, Divemaster, PADI IDC, scuba diving

The twin-pinnacles situated to the south of Koh Lanta are perhaps the biggest draw for experienced divers.  Famed as Thailand’s best wall dive, Hin Daeng (and neighbouring Hin Muang), provide divers in the area with great chances of watching numerous manta rays circling the cleaning stations on the shallow parts of the reefs. The two dive sites take their names from the abundance of soft corals covering the rocks – ‘hin’ is the Thai word for ‘rock’, ‘daeng’ translates as ‘red’, and ‘muang’ means ‘purple’.

The two sites are just a couple of hundred metres apart, and a dive trip here usually includes one dive at each site.  Hin Muang is a submerged, elongated pinnacle, with the shallowest section just below the surface, and the sea-bed a little deeper than sixty metres.  Hin Daeng resembles an underwater mountain, again rising from around sixty metres, with its summit protruding a few metres above the surface.  The pinnacles offer oases of life in the middle of the open ocean, and can present lucky divers with some great marine life encounters, both big and small.

Marine life: whale sharks, manta rays, ornate ghost pipefish, leopard sharks, seahorses, schooling trevally and barracuda, ribbon eels, spearing mantis shrimp, and octopuses.

Koh Ha

Scuba Diving Thailand, Koh Lanta, Koh Ha, Phi Phi, Krabi, Phuket

The name of this cluster of islands translates to ‘five islands’, and they offer a number of different dive sites at one location with varying topography. Koh Ha #1 is famed for its chimney – a vertical swim-through suitable for experienced divers – that is often teeming with fishes and life.  the chimney is a nice way to end the dive as it takes you up to five or six metres – perfect to start your safety stop.

Koh Ha Lagoon Dive Site Map, Koh Lanta

In the middle of islands #2, #3, and #4 is the lagoon area (as seen in the photo above).  this is great dive site for students and experienced divers a like.  Divers can start in the middle of the lagoon, at a depth of around six metres, and then follow the sandy slopes between the islands down to a maximum of thirty metres.  The outside of the islands are covering with a rainbow of soft corals, and are home to many cool and amazing creatures.

Koh Ha Yai – the biggest island of the group – is another stunning dive with the chance for experienced divers to enter ‘the cathedral’.  A natural hollow within the island that allows divers a unique experience – surfacing inside an island !

Koh Lanta, Thailand, Harlequin Shrimp, IDC, Divemaster

Marine life: whale sharks, black-tipped reef sharks, harlequin shrimp, seahorses, turtles, ornate ghost pipefish, peacock mantis shrimp, spearing mantis shrimp, and nudibranchs.

Koh Bidas

The two Bida islands – Bida Nok & Bida Nai – are two limestone rocks jutting out of the water to the south of the Phi Phi islands.  Both sites are covered in beautiful soft corals, and are home to a myriad of varying species of marine life.  Diving at the Bidas is a great spot for shark enthusiasts, with regular sightings of leopard and black-tipped reef sharks, and also the occasional appearance by the world’s biggest fish – the whale shark.

Whale Shark, Koh Lanta, Thailand, Divemaster, PADI IDC

The Bidas are also a great place for the smaller critters.  A nice relaxed swim along the reef usually allows divers to find nudibranchs, ornate ghost pipefish, seahorses, and cuttlefish hiding beneath the sweeping school of yellow snapper that frequents the reefs.

A trip to the Bidas from Lanta usually involves the first dive at Koh Bida Nok, and the second dive at the slightly shallower Koh Bida Nai.  If you are on a three-dive trip, then the chances are you will do a third dive at the nearby Hin Bida – a submerged dive site on the way back to Koh Lanta, and a favourite resting place for the leopard sharks.

Marine life: leopard sharks, whale sharks, ghost pipefish, nudibranchs, yellow snapper, barracuda, turtles, seahorses, frogfish, black-tipped reef sharks, and bent-stick pipefish.

Kled Kaew Wreck

Wreck diving, Koh Lanta, Phi Phi, Kled Kaew, Divemaster, IDC, Thailand

The HTMS Kled Kaew is a former naval gunship in the Royal Thai Navy.  The Kled Kaew was built in 1948 for the Norwegian Royal Navy, being launched initially as the RnoMS Norfrost. Eight years later it was acquired and renamed by the Royal Thai Navy. In 2014, she was brought to her final resting place near Koh Phi Phi Ley and purposefully sank.  The wreck sits in around 26 metres of water, with the shallowest section of the wreck reaching about 14 metres.  As is so often the case with wrecks, the ex-naval launch provides shelter to many different species of marine life, and has large schools of fish circling just above the structure.

Wreck diving, Koh Lanta, Thailand, Phi Phi, PADI, Divemaster, IDC

The 47-metre long wreck is a nice easy wreck, with some occasional current at certain times.  She’ s a great wreck to dive as part of your PADI Advanced Open Water Course, or a perfect dive for Nitrox, with the reduced nitrogen levels affording a longer bottom time on the decks.

Marine life: barracuda, trevally, lionfish, scorpionfish, frogfish, nudibranchs, moray eels, batfish, and catfish.

Frogfish, Koh Lanta, Thailand, Scuba diving, IDC, Divemaster

All the above dive sites are easily accessible from Koh Lanta.  Lanta Diver offers regular trips to these sites on one of its three dive-boats.  If you would like to know more about the dive sites and the trips from Koh Lanta, please email Lanta Diver – scuba@lantadiver.com.

Photos taken by Narcosis Nick U/W Photography, Richard Reardon, and Steve Branson.

PADI IDC Thailand, Platinum Course Director Richard reardon
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PADI Divemaster Course on Koh Lanta

Always dreamed of living on a tropical island ?  Sunshine everyday ? The commute to work a stroll down the beach ?  Then maybe life as a PADI dive professional is for you…

PADI Divemaster Course, Koh Lanta, Thailand, PADI Pro, IDC

At Lanta Diver we offer PADI Divemaster training in a stunning location, with great diving.  All the professional-level PADI training is run by an experienced Platinum Course Director with a wealth of experience and knowledge to pass on.

Koh Lanta is a small, idyllic tropical island on the west coast of Thailand.  It offers divers the best land-based diving in Thailand, with regular sightings of both whale sharks and manta rays.  The smaller marine life is plentiful too – seahorses, harlequin shrimp, ghost pipefish and nudibranchs are commonly seen on all dive sites too.

Whale Shark, Koh Lanta, Thailand, Divemaster, PADI IDC

Above the surface, Koh Lanta also has a lot to offer – stunning beaches, great restaurants, and sunsets to die for.  Check out some great photos of Lanta here.

Koh Lanta, Thailand, Beach, Divemaster training, PADI IDC, best diving

The PADI Divemaster course is the gateway to a life as a professional scuba diver, and gives you a passport to great diving destinations all over our blue planet.  During the course you will learn how to guide dives and how to function as an assistant to PADI Instructors.  After qualification, you will be able to start working in the dive industry, guiding divers around dive sites, and showing them the rich marine life that Koh Lanta has to offer.

Manta Ray, Koh Lanta, Thailand, Divemaster, PADI IDC

Koh Lanta, Thailand, Harlequin Shrimp, IDC, Divemaster

If you fancy the challenge of becoming a PADI Divemaster in Koh Lanta under the watchful eye of a Platinum PADI Course Director, then send us an email for further information on how you too can live in paradise…

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Top 8 Coolest Creatures To See Diving From Koh Lanta

Koh Lanta, on the west coast of Thailand, has perhaps the best land-based diving in all of Thailand. It boasts easy access to some great dive sites, including Hin Daeng, Hin Muang, Koh Ha, and the dive sites of Koh Phi Phi are also only a short trip away. During your dives on these great dive sites, you are sure to bump into some amazing creatures along the reef. Starting with the smallest, here are my favourite eight reef denizens to spot on your dives…

  1. Harlequin Shrimp

Koh Lanta, Thailand, Harlequin Shrimp, IDC, Divemaster

The colourful harlequin shrimp is perhaps the funkiest and coolest of all shrimp. They are commonly encountered hiding in the reefs around Koh Lanta, often munching on a sea star. Harlequin shrimp don’t stray too far once they have found a nice spot with plentiful supply of food, and when your dive guide knows where they are hiding out, they can be found quite easily…

2. Ornate Ghost Pipefish

Koh Lanta, Thailand, Ornate Ghost Pipefish, Divemaster, IDC

The ornate ghost pipefish is another cool visitor to the reefs surrounding Koh Lanta. They come in a variety of colours, and can be seen in pairs or as solitary individuals. Ornate ghost pipefish can change their colour to suit their chosen home among the branches of gorgonians, in floating weeds, or feather stars. They can be tricky to spot, but again, once found, they often stay in one location for a while…

3. Seahorse

Seahorse, Koh Lanta, Thailand, Divemaster, PADI IDC

Seahorses are another common spot amongst the reefs of Lanta. They can even be spotted very close to shore on Lanta’s beaches, but are also common on dive sites such as Koh Ha. The tiger tail seahorse is the most commonly encountered seahorse on Koh Lanta’s dive sites, and are spotted year round…

4. Frogfish

Frogfish, Koh Lanta, Thailand, Divemaster, PADI IDC

Perhaps a less frequently spotted critter in the area is the frogfish. These cryptic creatures are a master of disguise and can be difficult to spot. The are still seen quite often on the dive sites around Koh Ha and Hin Daeng, as well as on the wrecks around Koh Phi Phi…

5. Turtle

Turtle, Koh Lanta, Thailand, Divemaster, PADI IDC

Hawksbill turtles are a regular sight on all the dive sites around Koh Lanta. They are often encountered munching on bubble coral, or just cruising by in the blue close to the reefs. Green turtles are also occasionally spotted in the area…

6. Leopard Shark

Leopard Shark, Zebra Shark, Koh Lanta, Thailand, Divemaster, PADI IDC

The leopard shark, also known as the zebra shark, is a commonly encountered shark in the waters around Koh Lanta. They like to rest on the sand, and are often seen at dive sites like Hin Bida, Bida Nok, and Bida Nai. When they are resting on the bottom, you can get close enough for a good photograph if you approach them very slowly. They are also a great photo subject when they are swimming, with their distinctive long tails scything through the water…

7. Manta Ray

Manta Ray, Koh Lanta, Thailand, Divemaster, PADI IDC

If you want to dive with the majestic manta ray, then you need to book yourself on a trip to Hin Daeng & Hin Muang – two sea mounts in the open ocean. These two stunning dive sites are home to many cleaner fish, and the mantas come to get preened. You just hang back and watch the spectacular show as the mantas circle the cleaning stations. Mantas are my favourite animal to just hover and watch…

8. Whale Shark

Whale Shark, Koh Lanta, Thailand, Divemaster, PADI IDC

And last, but definitely not least, we have the giant whale shark – the biggest fish in the ocean. Whale sharks are very common, but you still need a little luck to be in the right place at the right time. They are commonly encountered at Hin Daeng, Hin Muang, and at Koh Ha. They are also sometimes seen at Bida Nok, close to Koh Phi Phi. Diving along and then seeing the unmistakable shape of a whale shark emerging from the blue is a truly unforgettable experience…

If you haven’t dived from Koh Lanta yet, maybe it’s time to add it to your bucket-list and come see the amazing creatures of the Andaman Sea. Lanta boasts a nice mixture of dive sites for both beginners and experienced divers alike. It is also a beautiful island to spend your non-diving days relaxing on the beach enjoying delicious Thai food or even a sunset cocktail…

If you would like to dive Koh Lanta, email Lanta Diver – a five-star PADI IDC centre offering day trips to all the sites mentioned above. Lanta Diver also run all recreational courses, as well as professional-level courses such as Divemaster & IDC programmes. And if you are looking for a great hotel on the island, look no further than Mook Lanta Eco Resort. What are you waiting for ?

Photos by Narcosis Nick and Richard Reardon

PADI IDC Thailand, Digital Underwater Photography, DUP, Specialty Instructor Training Course

Teaching Tips: PADI DUP Specialty…

PADI IDC Thailand, Digital Underwater Photography, DUP, Specialty Instructor Training Course

One of my favourite PADI Specialties to teach is the Digital Underwater Photography Specialty.  It can be great fun, but also usually you get to see a big improvement in your students’ photography skills.

The course requires two open water dives, the first of which can be conducted in confined water.  Completing this first dive, and the first knowledge review, would also allow you to certify your students to DUP Level 1.  I prefer to teach the full Specialty – two knowledge reviews and two open water dives – and certify my students as DUP Level 2 Divers. I also conduct a confined water dive. I aim to schedule this course over two full days:

Day 1: Classroom session in the morning and confined water session in the afternoon

Day 2: Two open water dives

PADI DUP, Underwater Photography Specialty, IDC, Dive Instructor Course

On the first day, I spend the morning in the classroom.  We review the students’ knowledge reviews, and get to know the camera they will be using on land first – both in and out of the housing.  During the knowledge development session I make sure my students understand all the main concepts – shutter speed, aperture, white balance, depth of field, ISO, scene modes – and make sure they know how to make these adjustments on their camera both in and out of the housing.

PADI DUP, IDC, Underwater Photography, Specialty Instructor

In the afternoon of the first day we hit the pool and put everything we learned in the classroom into practise in this relaxed setting, where we can take our time and practise changing our camera settings, and getting good shots.  I take a few objects into the pool so the students can practise focus, white balance, and depth of field.  I try to find some everyday objects with a few different colours – including red – too to help practise adjusting white balance, and to see how the different scene modes show the different colours.  Whilst in the pool, I also emphasise, and practise, taking photos with good buoyancy control, and without touching the bottom.

PADI Specialty Instructor Course, Underwater Photography, Thailand

On the second day of the course, we head to open water to put everything in to practise with some cool marine life too.  I also take the coloured objects to the ocean to practise white balance adjustments at different depths  during the first dive too.

PADI IDC, DUP Specialty Instructor, Photography

We also spend time finding some cool creatures that are conducive to practising photography.  I focus on creatures that don’t move very far, or very quickly, like nudibranchs, morays, lionfish, clownfish etc., so the students can practise the PADI S.E.A. method…

PADI Instructor Course, Specialty, Photography, Nudibranch

After two days, my students have normally improved a great deal in their photography abilities, and are happy with the pace and content of the course.  If you would like to know more about becoming a PADI Digital Underwater Photography Specialty Instructor, please send me and email and ask…

 

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PADI IDC Study Tips: The RDP

Remember the RDP ?  You know, that blue and white thing you last used during your Open Water course ?  How about the eRDPml ? Well you should be up-to-speed with both of these and comfortable with all aspects of their use before arriving at your PADI IDC

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The PADI Divemaster course should have left you comfortable with both the RDP and the eRDPml, but all too often I see IDC candidates spending their evenings trying to remember how to work out minimum surface intervals when they should be learning new information and preparing their teaching presentations for the next day.  If you are a little rusty with the use of either version of the RDP, then here’s some tips to help you arrive at your IDC confident with both versions of the PADI RDP:

1. Read through the ‘Instructions For Use’ booklets for both versions

The instruction booklets that come with both the RDP and the eRDPml are very good at explaining the two products.  The booklets walk you through how to use the products from the beginning with example questions to work through as you go.  They are an excellent way to refresh your memory, especially for minimum surface intervals…

PADI IDC Prep, RDP Instructions, Dive Theory Exams, Minimum Surface Interval

2. Go through the PADI Open Water Diver Course Quizzes and Exams

Inside this booklet you will find the ‘RDP Table and eRDPml Quiz’, the ‘RDP Table and eRDPml Final Exam’, and the ‘eRDPml Multilevel Quiz’.  All three of these have two versions – A & B.  You should try all of these questions, and be comfortable finding the correct answers without any issues. Every PADI dive centre and instructor should have a copy of this exam booklet for you to look over.  There is a copy included in the IDC Crew Pak too.

PADI IDC Prep, Dive Theory Exams, RDP eRDPml Questions, Open Water Exam

3. Visit the Study Tools page of our website

The Go Pro In Paradise website has a ‘PADI IDC Study Tools‘ page designed to help people prepare for their PADI IDC.  There are study notes for each of the five topics of the dive theory exams – Physics, Physiology, Equipment, Dive Skills & The Environment, and Decompression Theory – plus some extra downloadable questions to help you practise with both the RDP and eRDPml.  There are also links to videos to help you remember your knots…

4. Check out our YouTube channel

The Go Pro In Paradise YouTube channel has videos covering different aspects of dive theory – including physics, physiology, and dive planning.  The dive planning videos are designed to help you work through some of the different types of questions that can be asked on the PADI IDC and IE dive theory exams with both the RDP and the eRDPml.

PADI IDC Prep, Dive Theory Exams, RDP eRDPml

Following these four steps before your IDC will help you arrive much more relaxed.  You will also have much more time during the IDC to focus on the new information being presented rather than studying what you should already know…

If you would like any further information about the PADI IDC process, or how to prepare for it, please feel free to send me an email and ask – rich@go-pro-in-paradise.com

PADI IDC Thailand, Platinum Course Director Richard reardon
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The Navigation Adventure Dive

As a new instructor, the Navigation Adventure Dive can seem a little daunting – there’s lots to do, but we also want to save some time to swim around and explore the dive site too.  It’s a dive we conduct often – it is a compulsory core dive on the Advanced Open Water Course. We obviously need to make sure all our students meet performance requirements, but we also want to work efficiently to allow that time for exploring the dive site and practising actual diving !

The first thing to consider when planning a Navigation Adventure Dive is when and where you will conduct this dive.  I would never plan to conduct this dive as the first dive of an Advanced Open Water Course, I would prefer to see my divers in the water first.  Ideally, I like to conduct Peak Performance Buoyancy as the first dive of an AOWC, and certainly before the Navigation Dive.  Another thing to bear in mind is depth and site selection.  It’s preferable to conduct the Navigation Dive on a shallow site, with relatively open sandy areas.  Also, a site with little or no current is ideal.  Aiming for a shallower site is another reason not to plan this as the first dive of the course.  I prefer to plan my Navigation Dives as either second or third dives of the course – it’s also not a nice dive to finish the course with for the students.

Now let’s have a look at the performance requirements – what the students must achieve…

Navigation Dive, Advanced Open Water Course, Teaching Tips, PADI IDC

Okay, so we need to get ourselves organised before we tackle those performance requirements.  We need to get our instructional equipment together first.  Our students should each have a compass, as per PADI standards, for every Adventure Dive.  But for me, we also need a reel/spool – that’s how I measure the 30 metres for skill #2, and I also then use it as a baseline, and a way of measuring performance requirements, for the other skills.  I have a reel and a spool, and I have marked them both off for distances every five metres.  I also made sure when I bought my reel and my spool that I selected ones with orange lines, rather than the more common white. The orange line is much easier to see (when using a dSMB, or conducting wreck penetration, as well as when laying it on the floor for Navigation skills). I then marked my lines every five metres as below:

Navigation Dive, Advanced Open Water Course, Teaching Tips, PADI IDC

I have always used a Dive Rite Safety Reel, and have also, more recently, added the new Apeks Lifeline Spool to my kit bag, as pictured below:

PADI IDC, Navigation Dive, Reel Spool

Once I have laid this line out, carefully avoiding damaging any aquatic life, I am ready to start the skills with my students.  If there is a slight current, I will try to set the line perpendicular to it. Skill #1 will be combined with all the other skills and monitored throughout the dive.  Skill #2 is pretty straight forward, but the trick is to avoid this turning into a race along the line.  I am very careful how I brief this skill – I brief that the 30m swim should be at a normal dive pace, and that I will set the speed by swimming in front of the students, emphasising that they should not overtake me.  I instruct the students to count their own kick cycles, and I time the swim.  The number of kicks and time can then be noted on the Adventure Dive Data Carrier slates.  I perform this skill twice – once in each direction to ascertain an average.  This is especially important if there is a slight current.

The next skill is the natural navigation swim, returning within 15m from the start point.  This is a skill that needs to be briefed well too.  We need to emphasise what features to look for in the reef formations/topography, and also to point out that often things will look different when returning in the opposite direction.  I brief my students to look back at a reference point as they pass it to get an idea of how it will look on the return leg.  I also brief the importance of slow relaxed swimming – the normal dive pace – and tell them how many kick cycles I would like them to complete before turning around.  I start this skill from the centre point of my 30m baseline – the 15 metre mark.  I now have 15 metres of line either side of the start, so I can very easily see if the students have met the performance requirement, which is to return within 15 metres of their start point.

Skill #4 is then combined with skill #5. Correct positioning/handling of a compass to swim a reciprocal heading.  I also remind the students they can also incorporate some natural navigation techniques as used in the previous skill into this exercise – especially if there is a little current.  For the skill #4 element of this reciprocal heading swim, I do emphasise that the compass must be level, and that the lubber line must be pointing in the desired direction of travel, but I do not insist they hold the compass in the manner pictured below during the entire exercise – because nobody dives like this, ever – it just needs to be held correctly when checking the heading/direction !

Navigation Dive, Advanced Open Water Course, Teaching Tips, PADI IDC

Rather than insist on the above position, I brief students to use natural navigation in conjunction with the compass – keeping the compass level, point it ahead, and pick out a natural feature in line with the lubber line, then when they reach that feature, they can again hold the compass level with the lubber line in the correct direction and pick another natural feature – this is a more natural, ‘realistic’ way to navigate with a compass. This is also a much better technique if there is any current – if people just stare at the compass in a current they may not notice they are being pushed off course. Also bear in mind that nowadays people may be using a digital compass on their dive computer, so you might need to cover how to calibrate and use that version of a compass.  Again, we need to cover how many kick cycles before turning in the briefing.  I also start this skill from the same 15 metre mark on my baseline, so I can check that they meet the performance requirement of returning to within six metres of the starting point – I have a mark on my baseline five metres either side of the starting point…

With both skill #3 and skill #4, if conditions are good enough, and my divers are also competent enough, I can send two buddy teams off simultaneously if I have four students. I assign one member of each buddy team the task of navigating with the compass (setting the heading by pointing the lubber line in the correct direction and rotating the bezel so the north arrow is between the two index markers), whilst the other will be counting their own kick cycles and tapping the shoulder of the buddy to signal time to turn around. To turn around, the buddy member with the compass just needs to turn their body until the south arrow is in between the two index markers.

Before I allow a buddy team to begin the swim, I position myself directly in front of them, blocking their path, until I am happy they have set the compass correctly, then I move to the side and let them begin.  Once buddy team #1 has started, I position myself directly in front of the second buddy team until I am happy their compass is also set correctly before I allow then to swim. Once the second buddy team have started, quite often the first buddy team is arriving back, and I can have them swap roles and repeat the skill. This helps me work more efficiently and have time to explore the dive site once all skills are completed:

Navigation Dive, Advanced Open Water Course, Teaching Tips, PADI IDC

Once everybody has performed each role for the reciprocal heading compass swim, the final skill is the square pattern.  For this, I also get the two buddy teams swimming in different directions at the same time (conditions and competency allowing) to work efficiently:

Navigation Dive, Advanced Open Water Course, Teaching Tips, PADI IDC

Again, I start from the 15 metre mark of my line and use the marks on my line to gauge whether they have met the performance requirements of returning to within eight metres of the starting point.  I prefer to use the Suunto SK8 compasses for this dive too, as they have all four cardinal points on the face, and not just a north arrow.  This makes this square pattern, and the search patterns in the Rescue Diver and Search & Recovery Specialty, much easier too.  Again, for the first heading, the students need to point the lubber line in the right direction and turn the bezel until the two index markers are over the north arrow.  Now, when they come to make the first 90 degree turn, for a turn to the right, they do not need to touch the bezel, they just need to turn the body until the east arrow is between the two index markers, and on the next turn, the south arrow between the two markers.  For a left turn, they would turn the body until the west arrow is between the index markers.

I ask the students to set the first side of the square to follow the direction of my baseline (as in the picture above).  This means their final leg of the square will be back towards the line, so again I can see how close to the start point they finish.  And once more, when the buddy teams return, I get them to swap roles and repeat the skill.

Another key to making this dive run smoothly and efficiently underwater is to practise these skills on land before the dive.  I like to do this with a towel over the students’ heads, so all they can see is the compass, and to learn to trust it (and me!).

And that is basically how I try to run the Navigation Adventure Dive.  As I mentioned above, sometimes conditions or student skill level means I need to adapt my approach a little.  But this is the Advanced Course, and the students, as certified divers, should be good enough to swim a short distance away from the instructor, and allowing them that little extra freedom will also help them become more confident divers…

If you have any questions about how I run my Navigation Adventure Dives, or would like to take an Underwater Navigator Specialty Instructor Training Course to see it first hand, please feel free to email and ask for more information…

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