Getting our PADI Advanced Open Water Diving Certification in Bali, Indonesia
After getting our PADI Open Water diving certification in Koh Tao, Tiff enjoyed it so much, she wanted to continue to pursue getting the Advanced certification. One of the greatest benefits of the Advanced Open Water certification is that you can dive deeper – up to 30 meters. It is great for wreck dives around the world which mostly are below 18 meters.
We decided Bali would be a great destination to dive since on the north end of the island lies the famous USS Liberty wreck. Before arriving to Bali, we reached out to a handful of diving companies to see if they would suit our needs. Murfi, the owner of Bali Aqua Diving was very responsive with all our questions and they had great reviews, so we decided to book with them.
Their PADI Advanced Open water course encompasses 5 dives in 2 days. With only 4 dives under our belt, we were sort of nervous as it was a lot of dives for 2 days plus the deep dive was very intimidating.
We had originally planned to dive on the first week of arriving to Bali but I came down with a chronic cough that started during our layover in Hong Kong. For those who are unaware, diving with any sort of congestion or cough can be dangerous as equalization is very important under water, so having clogged sinus canals can make it difficult to equalize. To make sure we didn’t take any chances, we decided to delay our dive until after we returned from the Gili Islands about a week after.
On the first day of diving we were picked up from our hotel in Kuta. We arrived at the diving office where we met our dive master, Suban. After taking care of all the paper work, we test fitted all of our equipment to make sure it’s in working order and fit us perfectly. All their equipment looked very well maintained and practically brand new!
We were lucky as it was just us two with our instructor. The first dive site was at Tulamben which is a 2.5 hour drive from Bali Aqua’s office in Sanur. Once we arrived, we went through all the basic guidelines with Suban of what is required for the first dive and even selected our meal option for lunch. The first dive was PPB (Peak Performance and Buoyancy). This dive taught us to better control our buoyancy underwater while making sure all of our weights, BCD inflation, and breathing was perfect in order to be neutrally buoyant under water. We also found out that this dive would have us walk in from shore. Being that all of our past dives were from a boat, we were nervous as the waves looked really rough.
We suited up, did our buddy checks and were off to the beach. When getting in to the water waist deep level, we put on our fins, inflated our BCDs and swam further away from shore where we descended to the ocean floor.
That day, the visibility of the water in Tulamben was not as clear as the water in Koh Tao, but there was still plenty to see. The current was a little stronger and the water colder than we were used to, but we had on full body wet suits so it was not too bad. This also made us realized how spoiled we were to dive over in Koh Tao with warm water and practically crystal clear visibility!
Once we arrived at the bottom, we began to practice our buoyancy control. We inflated our BCD to the correct amount of air and practiced our breathing to validate we were neutrally buoyant. It took some time but we managed to be neutral with some of Suban’s help. After a few practice runs, we continued to our dive and swam towards the USS Liberty wreck. The ship was huge and was broken at multiple locations.
We continued to follow Suban and made a swim around the entire wreck which took about 20 minutes. After the loop, we began our ascent back to the surface.
The USS Liberty was a lot larger than we’d imagined. Most of the ship has been heavily corroded and has a huge amount of coral that has started to slowly take it over. We saw a lot of wonderful looking fish included a huge grouper that was just relaxing on the deck of the ship. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a camera with us to take photos of the wreck, but it’s a great site to check out!
Getting from the surface to shore took much more effort compared to just finishing our dive and climbing back into a boat. The current and waves were against us but we managed to finally walk into shore huffing and puffing. We took our mid-day break with some lunch from the cafe. It was much needed to have a hearty meal of mie goreng after diving.
The next dive was the wreck dive. Suban briefed about the safety concerns of diving around, inside, and throughout the wreck. What’s most important about a wreck dive is that you’re familiar with the wreck and if not, to have a guide that can assist. Having a wreck line to tie on to something before entering a wreck is important in helping you find your way out. Wrecks can be extremely dangerous if something were to fall or collapse on you. Visibility can also be challenging when inside a wreck where dust can be kicked up in a tight space.
We suited up again and made our way towards the beach. Once we got into the water we began our descent to the bottom and started to swim towards the wreck. This time was a little different as we were able to swim more around the wreck and go through some tight spaces. Suban assisted us with using the wreck line and showed us how to tie it and use it to find our way back. We then continued to swim further around the wreck and he gave us the okay to go under some structure and come out through the other side which was really exciting. Having good buoyancy control during this time was extremely important as you want to be able to move effortlessly through these tight spaces without getting snagged. We now understood the importance of this crucial skill to have while diving.
After finishing our dive, we packed up and headed back for the long drive home. It was an exhausting day but very rewarding as it felt great to be diving again and seeing such a huge ship under the water.
The following morning we were picked up again by the same friendly driver. He took us to the Bali Aqua diving office to pack our gear to head out to our next diving destination, Padang Bai. Padang Bai is about an hour from Sanur and is most famous for the ferry boats that depart to the Gili Islands. We went to this same exact location to take a boat out to Gili earlier that week.
That day was pretty gloomy and the seas looked rough. This time, we didn’t have to walk in from shore but took a traditional Balinese boat out to our first dive site, the Blue Lagoon. The first dive of the day was the deep dive. Tiff and I were nervous about going deep in the ocean, as there are added risks the further you go.
Before hopping in, Suban reviewed how colors look different as you go deeper. The first color to go is the color red. He then went on to explain the risk of getting nitrogen narcosis which makes you feel like you’re drunk and kind of loopy. That didn’t make us feel any better, haha. Before jumping into the water he showed us a number board where the numbers are all mixed and asks us to count all the numbers on the board in order so he can time us. He would then test our mental speed once again once we were in deeper depths.
The Balinese boat was very small so the easiest way to get into the water was to do a backwards reverse fall. Another first for us as it did seem scary but ended up being not that bad.
Once we got into the water it was very cold and visibility was not great. We descended slowly until we reached 23 meters, the deepest we’ve gone so far. According to PADI, once you reach past 18 meters you’ve officially passed the deep dive course. We got to 23 meters and began our number chart test. Tiff ended up being just as fast as she was above water but I was a little slower than normal. I think the fear of being 23 meters below the surface got to me or maybe it was nitrogen narcosis. Suban also pointed out to the us the color change at this depth. He showed us how his BCD was bright red above the surface but at 23 meters it looked grayish red. What a huge change. At that moment, a big swell of cold water started to move around us and it got really cold. We could see the mixing of the cold and warm water underneath and started to ascend as it got really uncomfortable.
Once we made our way up to warmer waters, we saw lots of great underwater wildlife
The second dive trained us on navigation. Suban gave us both wrist compasses and went through how to use the bezel and lubber line to navigate under water. The compass is important in underwater navigation during times of low visibility. Once we passed the testing of using our compasses, we were able to swim around and enjoy the sights!
We saw some really cool animals we haven’t seen while diving before, such as a color changing cuttlefish and a mantis shrimp scurrying away. We also saw a small sunken ship which was put there by a submarine company to encourage coral growth for the fish. It was great seeing all these cool things under the sea.
The end of the second dive really took a toll on us due to the heavy current and cold temperature. Tiff started feeling nauseous and I was not feeling good either. It was a good thing we were headed back for our lunch break. Making our way back to shore, we were ready to give up but would see how we felt after lunch.
Lunch was amazing because we both ordered laksa! The soup came to us piping hot with a lot of noodles and vegetables inside. It definitely hit the spot on a cold day after back to back dives. It brought some much needed energy to us and we decided that with only one more dive we’d be officially Advanced divers, so off we went!
The last dive was a boat dive which is instructions on the practice of diving off of a boat. We’ve done boat dives in Koh Tao, but this was slightly different, as mentioned earlier, as we had to backflip into the water and later remove our equipment in the water before getting back on the boat, as this was a much smaller boat.
Once we went over the skills of getting in and out of the boat (which we had already done for our first 2 dives of the day), it was more of a fun dive and Suban took us around to look at some coral and fish. The last dive was short because Suban knew we were both feeling exhausted. Our bottom time was only 30 minutes. We finished that dive feeling a sense of achievement that we were now officially Advanced divers!
Thank you to our wonderful instructor and the team at Bali Aqua Diving for hosting us at a media rate in exchange for this review. All posts and opinions are our own.