So, assuming you now have picked an agency, how do you pick course and what do you need to get started ?
What do You Need Experience Wise?
Most technical courses require the following when it comes to certification and dives : at least 50 dives, a nitrox certification AND your advanced diver with deep specialty.
In essence technical courses are designed to create stepping stones that take you from the limits of sport to no limits. This means you need to learn:
- How to use gases to optimise decompression
- How to use twin sets
- How to use stages
- How to use a smb (surface marker buoy)
Once these basic skills are under your belt, you can add more advanced skills like cave skills (which really perfect your buoyancy not to mention add a whole new level of task loading….you now have a reel to manage and a light) and of course the planning and extra kit involved in Trimix diving.
The Starting Point – Advanced Nitrox
Technical courses all start from a single building block, Advanced Nitrox - however, whilst a number of agencies have this course, not all courses are equal and by signing up for an Advanced Nitrox you may not be able to proceed to the next level without an additional course. What do I mean ? TDI’s Advanced Nitrox does not include Deco Procedures (which is a separate course). So to be at the same place as the IANTD course you will need to make sure you also include Deco Procedures. To make it more complicated, not all courses have the same name (and as we just saw, the same name does not mean the same thing).
Adding Skills - Overhead
Once you have the basics under control (decompression, twin sets and stages) you can look at either progressing deeper or into cave systems or both.
Cave courses generally come in nice, easy to learn modules and you have the choice of cavern (where you just get used to being in the dark and can still see the light), intro cave or full cave. These courses are not sequential, ie. You can go straight from advanced nitrox to full cave (in fact, one of our more popular courses is the combination of advanced nitrox and full cave). Incidentally, if you are a sea diver and not so much interested in caves, the cave course is the best way to become a wreck diver, giving you the skills to tackle any wreck.
Adding Skills - Deeper
Courses that extend your depth will introduce Helium and may take you in steps from a Normoxic level (where you need a single helium mix that you can breathe from the surface) to Trimix (where you use a number of mixes during your dive). These courses introduce more detailed dive planning and gas management and of course, get you deep enough to find that elusive Coelocanth or explore that wreck(
When to Combine a Course!
In most instances you are able to combine courses and so optimise your time (and of course your money). The one course you can not do in comination is nitrox, that is a pre-requisite that must be in place. However, if you do not have your deep speciality, that can be integrated into the course you are doing.
Depending on your starting point and comfort you can combine:
- Advanced Nitrox with Normoxic
- Advanced Nitrox with Full Cave
- Full Cave and Normoxic
So, when you going to come over to the ‘dark’ side ?
YOUR GUIDE TO THE COURSES ACROSS THE AGENCIES
· Advanced Nitrox (Depth to 40m) (NAUI = Technical Nitrox plus Deco, TDI = Advanced Nitrox plus Deco, IANTD = Advanced Nitrox, ANDI = Level 2)
Note: For Naui you need 25 Nitrox dives to start and 75 dives to do deco
· Normoxic Trimix [Depth to 60m] (NAUI = Trimix Level 1, TDI = Trimix, IANTD = Normoxic Trimix, ANDI = Level 4)
Note: For IANTD and NAUI you need 100 dives (for IANTD this is a discretionary requirement)
· Trimix [Depth to 100 m] (NAUI = Trimix Level 2, TDI = Advanced Trimix, IANTD = Trimix, ANDI = Level 5)
Note: For TDI and NAUI you need 150 dives of which 30 are deco, For IANTD, 200 but (for IANTD this is a discretionary requirement)