PADI Specialty courses are great options for divers who already have a good amount of experience and are looking to learn something new or fine tune their skills.
The big 3 ‘specs’ that most people do are the Deep Spec (going to 40 meters), the Wreck Spec (penetrating shipwrecks) and the Enriched Air Spec (using nitrox). One great course that’s often overlooked, however, is the Navigation Specialty Course.
Learning to navigate is one of the most important skills you can master in diving and many people find it challenging at first. It’s very easy to get disoriented underwater and sometimes people struggle with exactly how to use a compass. You learn a bit of how to use the compass on your open water course, and then a bunch more on the navigation adventure dive in the advanced course. But on the navigation spec you really get good at it, having to be responsible for navigating a dive site entirely on your own.
The course consists of some theory and three dives. The first dive is the covered by the Navigation Adventure Dive of the PADI Advanced Open Water course. On the second dive, you learn to navigate complex patterns with headings that are not just the usual north, south, east, and west. Then on the third dive, you go on a little underwater treasure hunt using the navigation skills you’ve learned, and you draw a map of the site. Most importantly though, you learn how to use things like natural references and bottom contour to really know where you are at all times underwater.
OK, it’s useful, but really boring right? Not so! I recently took three DJL students all the way up through Master Scuba Diver and the spec they enjoyed most was navigation. They talked about it for the whole boat ride back to Sairee Beach and at dinner that night, discussing where they thought they were at certain points, what they used as references and how the map they drew compared to the actual map of the dive site.
It’s a fun, useful course that will really improve your underwater experience.