The Best Scuba Dive Equipment in Virginia: Holiday Sales at Aquatic Adventures

Scuba Diving is a fun filled sport that is also very equipment orientated.  Most all serious scuba divers prefer to have their own scuba equipment for several reasons.  Not only is it more economical to own your own scuba diving equipment, it helps you become not only a better diver, since the equipment is far superior to rental equipment but it makes you a safer scuba diver as well.

At Aquatic Adventures Scuba Academy, a PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Dive Center in Alexandria, Virginia we sell scuba diving equipment and teach scuba diving classes year round.  While we always try and offer the best price and most favorable deals occasionally some very special deals become available.  This year our manufacturers have offered some very special Holiday Specials.  Perhaps it is due to the poor economy, perhaps it is that the manufacturers are over stocked with merchandise.  What ever the reason, right now we have some of the best deals that we have ever been able to offer.

Oceanic Dive Computer Specials:

This holiday season Oceanic offers three incredibly  good deals on scuba diving computers.  The Geo 2.0 is a wrist dive computer that is adjustable for air or for enriched air nitrox.  It normally sells for $399.95 and is now on sale for only $299.95.

The Atom 3.1 and the VT 4.1 are air integrated dive computers.  They both feature hoseless operation and the Atom 3.1 can monitor up to three cylinders with optional transmitters and the VT 4.1 can monitor up to four.  The VT 4.1 also offers a digital underwater compass.  These two models are on sale at reduced pricing of $300.00 off normal price.

The Oceanic sale prices are good at Aquatic Adventures through December 24, 2014.

Scuba Pro Dive Equipment Complete Package Holiday Special:

Scuba Pro is another premier brand of scuba diving equipment and this year has an unbelievable offer.  If you purchase a Scuba Pro Regulator (MK17, MK21 or MK25) and Alternate Air Source (Air 2 or R195) and a Scuba Pro Buoyancy Control Device or BCD (Knighthawk, Ladyhawk, Seahawk or Equator) at Aquatic Adventures you will receive a Meridian Black Tech Dive Computer ($650.00 value) free.  The Black Tech is a state of the art dive computer complete with heart rate monitor.  Needless to say this is an incredible deal.  This special also is good at Aquatic Adventures through December 24, 2014

Lavacore Dive Skin Holiday Special:

Lavacore makes a frabric dive skin that is unbelievably easy to don and is also neutrally buoyant when diving.  These durable and comfortable dive skins offer thermal and environmental protection when scuba diving.  Lavacore also offers a line of accessories that include hoods, gloves and socks or boot liners all made of Lavacore.  These are all warm, easy to don and very durable.  For the holiday season Lavacore offers an excellent special of their own.  Purchase a Front Zip Dive Suit at Aquatic Adventures and receive a Lavacore Hood and pair of Lavacore Socks free.  This is a $49.00 value and is good through December 24, 2014 as well.

Scuba Diving with your own dive equipment is a pleasure.  Because you own it and maintain it you know that it fits properly and is in good repair.  It makes your scuba diving safer, more comfortable and since you know your equipment you become an all around better scuba diver.  With these holiday specials available now is the time to invest in that equipment that you have always wanted or to upgrade to that new state of the art piece of scuba diving equipment.  Do so and all of your future scuba dives will become enjoyable Aquatic Adventures.

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Scuba Diving Certification: Be A Good Dive Buddy

From your very first scuba diving class you were told to always dive with a buddy, never to dive alone.  This is a very good rule and when done properly will not only make your scuba diving safer but more enjoyable as well.  Lets look at a few rules to make you a good dive buddy.

Pre Dive Buddy Conference:
Once you select a dive buddy you both or in some cases all three of you need to sit down and discuss the upcoming dive.  You need to be on the same page so to speak.  What are your objectives for the dive.  Spotting critters?  Underwater Photography?  Spearfishing?  Perhaps you just want to cruise along and enjoy the reef or the wreck.  Discussing your mutual goals will help you both not only stay together and accomplish those goals but will help make the dive easier as well.  Decide who will navigate underwater?  Are you both diving with a scuba diving computer? Is one of you diving with Enriched Air – Nitrox?  How long you will stay down and what to do in the case of something out of the ordinary happening.  This simple precautions help ensure a safe dive and helps prevent things from going wrong.  This is also a great time to discuss dive hand signals and what to do if you are separated or run low on air.

Pre-Dive Buddy Check:
In your very first pool training session you were taught to do a Pre-Dive Buddy Check.  This not only assures that all of your scuba diving equipment is functioning properly and that your air is turned on but allows an extra degree of familiarization for you to learn your dive buddy’s Scuba Diving Equipment configuration and set up and for him or her to learn yours.  If something went awry during the dive like running low on air, your both would be familiar with each others gear and would be better able to assist the other.  I have been teaching scuba diving for 29 years and I still make it a point to do a buddy check prior to my dives.

Balance Your Dive Goals:
Make sure that you both enjoy the dive.  Just because you are taking photographs is no reason to block your buddy from seeing the cool critters.  I was diving with a very good buddy who was spear fishing while I was trying to take photos. The first time we dove together all I was able to photograph was fish with a spear in them.  Once we sat down and discussed our mutual desires we were able to share and both better enjoy the dive.  We spotted for each other and he made sure that I got the photo and then I made sure he had an opportunity to spearfish.  We both enjoyed many dives together after that.

Dive Within Your Training Limitations:
It is not uncommon for two divers of different experience to dive together.  Just because you have more experience then your buddy does not mean that you take charge and start teaching.  Teaching scuba diving is best left to the Professional Scuba Instructors.  That does not mean, however, that you cannot or should not give a few pointers or benefit of your experience.  It just means that you need to dive within the limits that you were trained.  If venturing beyond these limits consider taking a Specialty Diver Course or diving with a Divemaster.

Be Conscious Of Your Dive Buddy:
A good diver checks his or her air and depth frequently.  A good dive buddy checks with his or her buddy frequently to make sure that they are OK as well.  Remember you may not get cold but your buddy might.   You may have lots of air left but your buddy might use air faster then you do so always check with each other to prevent surprises.  If your dive buddy is not as experienced, uses air faster or tires more quickly make sure that you both get back to the boat or dock together.  Once your buddy is out of the water you can join another buddy pair but make sure that you have taken care of your dive buddy first.

Diving with a Dive Buddy is the most common way to dive and the safest by far.  If you take some time to communicate together you will greatly enhance the enjoyment and safety of your dive.  That means that your dives will be great Aquatic Adventures.


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The Best Diving Equipment In Alexandria Virginia: The Dive Computer

When scuba diving divers must take into consideration, how deep they are diving and how long they have been down.  These factors determine how much longer a scuba diver can dive and whether or not they can do subsequent dives.   Today, most divers use Scuba Dive Computers to calculate these allowable dive times and to record their dives.  In fact the Scuba Dive Computer is usually one of the first pieces of scuba dive equipment that most divers purchase.

Two Basic Types of Dive Computers: Standard No Decompression  or Air Integrated Dive Computers

Standard No Decompression Dive Computers:
The standard no decompression dive computer is used along side of a submersible pressure gauge or SPG.  This type of computer deals only with your current depth and dive time.  It also calculates how much longer you can continue to dive and at what depth.    The Standard No Decompression Dive Computer can be either a model worn on your wrist or as part of your equipment console along with your SPG and possibly a dive compass.

Air Integrated Dive Computers:
An air integrated dive computer will integrate an electronic submersible pressure gauge or SPG into the computer so that in addition to no decompression dive time the computer will also monitor your air supply and the amount of time that your air will last.  Some air integrated dive computers also include a digital compass.

Important Features of Dive Computers:

Low Battery Indicator: Every dive computer should in some way indicate to you that the battery is in need of being replaced.  If it does not it can run out in the middle of a dive which could leave you in a precarious situation.  Most computers will have some sort of indicator or icon telling you when it is time to change the battery.

User Changeable Batteries: Another important feature is the ability to change the battery yourself.  Some older models of computers had to be shipped back to the manufacturer for a new battery.  This can take some time leaving ou without a computer in the mean time.  It also greatly adds to your expense in shipping and insurance.

Enriched Air Compatible: Diving with enriched air or Nitrox is very popular today.  Having the ability to adjust your computer according to the type of mixture with which you are diving is very important.

Easy to Read Display: As we age we often have trouble seeing up close.  A large easy to read display is essential to avoid problems.  Remember you will have the computer for several years and what you can clearly see today may be a little small in years to come.

Optional Dive Computer Features:
The following are options that are nice features but by no means a must.

One Button vs. Multiple Button Operation: The least expensive computers have a single button to use to get from one screen to another.  You hold the button down for several seconds to jump screens then tap it quickly to mover within a screen.  If you skip too far your must go all the way around again to get back to where you wanted to be.  Multiple buttons allow you to jump screens more easily and the other buttons to move within a screen.  Multiple buttons are a little more expensive but much easier to use.

Computer Down Loadable: Many scuba divers like the option of downloading the data from your dives into your personal computer.  This allows you to maintain a digital logbook of your diving history.

Audible Warnings: All dive computers will warn you if you are violating either a time or depth limit.  Most computers have a light or icon that flashes should this occur.  Some also allow you to have an audible indicator or beeping should you enter a violation.  Many divers like the audible alarm and many do not.  Being able to adjust it is a desirable feature.

Hose Free Integration: Most Air Integrated dive computers are connected to your regulator by a high pressure hose.  Some use a radio transmitter to send the data to your wrist or console unit.  This allows the diver to use one less hose when scuba diving.  Many divers really like this feature and just as many prefer the security of the hose making it strictly an optional choice.

Multiple Gas Capability: Technical divers will often use more then one cylinder or air mixture during the dive.  Some computers allow the user to adjust according to the mix used during each portion of the dive.

Selecting Your Dive Computer: The best place to start when selecting your new dive computer is your local dive center.  At Aquatic Adventures Scuba Academy we carry a large assortment of dive computers and can help you select the right one for the type of diving you do and for your particular price range.  In addition we can assist you in properly using your new computer to avoid problems.

Read The Dive Computer Manual: One last word of importance is to read the owners manual for your new computer.  Every computer is slightly different and to get the most out of your computer and to avoid mistakes take the time to read the owners manual.  Be sure and take it with you on your next dive trip as well.

Which ever scuba diving computer you select you will find it easier to use then the dive tables and definitely more accurate and cost effective.  It is important to remember to check your dive computer frequently throughout the dive and never ever share a dive computer.  Each diver must have his or her own computer since they are frequently a slightly different depths throughout the dive.  Your dive computer will quickly become your friend and will assist you in getting the most out of your next Aquatic Adventures.

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Dive Computers – What to look for when buying a Dive Computer

A few years ago most scuba divers thought that at some point in their scuba diving  experiences, if they were lucky, they would scuba dive enough to justify the purchase of a dive computer.   Now it is not a question of if, but more a question of when to buy that dive computer.  Dive computers are a very popular piece of Dive Equipment.

Why Dive With A Dive Computer?

Scuba divers need to know how deep they are diving and how long they can stay at that depth to avoid problems with decompression sickness.  Historically Dive Tables have been used to supply that information.  As scuba diving has progressed Scuba Diving computers simplify that chore and does it much more accurately and definitely faster.  Now most recreational scuba divers have already either purchased a dive computer or are planning to do so.  A dive computer makes diving simpler and due to the accuracy of computers it also makes scuba diving safer.  Aquatic Adventures, a Dive Center in Northern Virginia, offers Scuba Travel and Trips throughout the year.   Almost every diver on these Dive Trips uses a dive computer.

What to Look For in a Dive Computer?

Scuba Diving Computers come in many different configurations.  They can be in a console and can include other items like an underwater compass and air gauge.  They can be a wrist model or even built into a wrist watch.  We will look at these options in a later article.  Today we will just look at routine dive computer functions.

Computer Display Size

Your dive computer will double as a timing device, depth gauge and dive planner.  You will use it both on land and underwater.  It is important that you be able to read the display in all of these environments.  I have a prescription mask but many scuba divers do not.  Make sure that you can see the display and can easily read it.  Various dive computers have smaller or larger displays.

Compatible with Enriched Air Nitrox

Enriched air is becoming more and more popular among scuba divers.  Enriched air allows you to dive longer at given depths.  It does, however, require more calculations then diving with air does.  Today most dive computers are Nitrox Compatible.  This feature is well worth the extra few dollars that it costs.

Computer Downloadable

Scuba Divers routinely log or record their dives in a Diver’s Log Book.  This is a way of keeping track of the number of dives that you do.  It also helps you track what weight you used and what thickness wet suit you used in different water temperatures.  A nice dive computer feature is to be able to download this information to your laptop computer.  This allows you to maintain a digital log book and is a very popular feature today.

Adjustable Conservatism

Many dive computers allow you to adjust the computer to determine what degree of conservatism it has.  A more conservative computer gives a greater degree of safety but offers somewhat shorter dive times.  Some computers allow you to adjust the PO2 or oxygen build up in your body.  A higher PO2 allows for longer dive times but then they offer a lower degree of safety.

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Scuba Diving Computers

Aquatic Adventures – Northern Virginia Dive Center: Scuba Dive Computers offer both Safety & Convenience

For years all scuba divers used special Dive Tables to tell them how long they could stay down at any given depth, and how long they needed to wait prior to making another dive.  The advantage of the Dive Tables is that they are inexpensive, fairly easy to use and most importantly they teach you the basics regarding diving depths and safety.  However, today, most divers use Scuba Dive Computers to calculate these allowable dive times and to record their dives.  In fact the Scuba Dive Computer is usually one of the first pieces of scuba dive equipment that most divers purchase.

All computers are similar in the way they work.  They all include a program to determine how long you can stay down and depth gauge to determine what depth you are actually at.  The Dive Computer is far more accurate then the dive tables since it knows what depth you are at any time throughout the dive.

What are the Differences in Scuba Dive Computers?

Air Only Dive Computers

There are several different types of Scuba Diving Computers from the simplest one button air only dive computer, like the Aeris XR-1 to the far more complex air integrated dive computers like the Aeris Diving Equipment T-3 or the Scuba Pro Diving Equipment Uwatec Luna.  Just what are the differences between them?  The simplest is the air only computer.  It can only be calculate air dive tables so you do not get the extra bottom time that nitrox or enriched air tables might give you.

The One Button vs Two Button Dive Computer

One button dive computers like the Sherwood Diving Equipment Profile Computer are the least expensive.  They are a little more difficult to navigate since one button controls both the function control and the control to move within that function.  A two button computer like the Scuba Pro Diving Equipment Uwatec Aladin Computer  is slightly more expensive but it is much easier to navigate since one button changes function and a second button moves within that function.

Air Integrated Dive Computers

Today many scuba divers like the convenience and ease of an air integrated dive computer like the Aeris Diving Equipment T-3 or the Scuba Pro Diving Equipment Uwatec Luna.  These computers will not only monitor your no decompression dive time but they will also calculate exactly how much air you have in your scuba cylinder and what your remaining.  This adds quite a bit of a safety factor since it almost eliminates any chance of running out of air while scuba diving.  In fact Aeris Scuba Diving Equipment even has an air integrated computer that fits into your scuba mask called the “Compumask” offering hands free use.

Air Integrated Computers with a Hose or Hoseless

Air Integrated Computers can come either with a hose to connect to the scuba diving regulator or with a radio transmitter so that they are hoseless.  The Air Integrated Dive Computers with a hose like the Sherwood Scuba Diving  Equipment Wisdom or the Aeris Scuba Diving Equipment AI are both excellent computers and very easy to use.  Aeris Scuba Diving Equipment also makes a hoseless model like the T-3 or the Scuba Pro Diving Equipment Uwatec Luna which is also hoseless.   The ones with a hose are less expensive.  The ones that utilize a radio transmitter have one less hose to deal with making things simpler.

Other Features – Digital Compass

There are many other features available in Scuba Diving Computers such as a Digital Compass.  Zeagle Scuba Diving Equipment offers the N2ition 3 Dive Computer with a built in digital compass.  The Scuba Pro Uwatec Luna also offers a built in digital compass in a hoseless air integrated model.



Regardless of which model an what features that you select it is very important that you read the owner’s manual.  This is necessary for safety  and to make sure that you are able to get the most out of your new piece of scuba diving equipment.  Reading the Owner’s Manual will also help you prevent making common scuba equipment related mistakes.  Last but not least – now get out and dive.


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Selecting Your Scuba Regulator in Northern Virginia

Selecting Your Scuba Diving Regulator in Northern Virginia

Why would selecting a Scuba Diving Regulator in Northern Virginia be any different then in selecting a Scuba Diving Regulator anywhere else?  The answer lies in the temperature of the local diving conditions.  Open Water dives in the North Eastern United States is definitely colder then in the Caribbean, therefore the Scuba Diving Equipment being used must be appropriate for the environment.   Aside from that what other factors will determine what Scuba Diving Regulator you will select for you use?  Lets take a look at these factors one at a time.

How Deep Will You Be Diving With Your Scuba Diving Regulator?

A Scuba Diving Regulator will have to pump more air on deeper dives then it will on shallower dives.  Therefore Scuba Divers who often dive deeper will need a Scuba Regulator that is balanced so that it breathes evenly throughout the dive regardless of depth.  All reputable regulator manufacturers make balanced regulators but like anything else some are better then others.  In addition the manufacturers will make balanced regulators in several price ranges so that they can provide product for divers regardless of price range.  For example Sherwood Diving Equipment offers the Brut Regulator, the Magnum Regulator and the SR-1 Regulator which are all come with various features to fit most price ranges.  ScubaPro and Zeagle do the same.   ScubaPro offers the MK25/s600, the MK11/C300 while Zeagle will offer the Mark VII, the  50-D and the DS-V Regulators.  Sub Gear will offer both the Cayman Regulator and the Bonaire Regulator for those divers seeking a balanced regulator.  Obviously if you are doing any type of technical diving you would want a regulator that is balanced for deeper diving.

Diving with Enriched Air – Nitrox:

Not all Scuba Diving Regulators are approved for use with Enriched Air – Nitrox.  Some are approved out of the box and some must have a conversion kit installed in order to use Enriched Air.  Some cannot use enriched air at all.  Scuba Pro Regulators, Zeagle Regulators, Mares Regulators and Aeris Regulators are approved for use with Nitrox out of the box.  The newer Sherwood Regulators are also approved for use with Nitrox.  Since Technical Divers often dive with enriched air or other mixtures your scuba regulator must be able to accommodate these mixtures.

How Cold is the Water?

We mentioned earlier in this article that water temperature has a bearing of the Scuba Diving Regulator that you might use.  In colder water your Scuba Regulator should be either environmentally sealed or have a special heat sink to allow its use in colder water.  Sherwood Regulators, most Zeagle Regulators and many of the Aeris Regulators are environmentally sealed.  Several of the ScubaPro regulators such as the MK25 have heat sinks installed to allow its use in colder water.  The Scuba Pro MK17 is also environmentally sealed.  The use of regulators that are not environmentally sealed or do not have a heat sink can lead to free flows in colder water.

Proper Care of Your Diving Equipment:

Regardless of how good your diving equipment is unless you take proper care of it you will not get the most from it nor will it last as long as it should.  Any Quality Dive Center like Aquatic Adventures Scuba Academy will provide proper support for your equipment after you have purchased it.  This should include both instruction on proper use and service after the purchase.  Proper instruction on your equipment care after the purchase should include the do’s and don’ts of what to do and not to do regarding your purchase.  This includes helping you, the consumer, with warranty repairs if needed.

Where to Buy Your Scuba Equipment?

Deciding to buy scuba equipment is only the first step.  Deciding what to buy and where to buy it is just as important.  Since all major Scuba Equipment Manufacturers make quality products deciding where to buy it may be the single most important decision of all.  Select a Dive Center that has a good reputation, has been in business for a long while and has a good reputation for both quality equipment and standing behind the equipment that they sell.  In Northern Virginia, Aquatic Adventures Scuba Academy has one of the finest reputations if not the finest reputation for quality product, standing behind the products that they sell and post purchase service of any dive center in the Northern Virginia, D.C. Metropolitan Area.

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Scuba Diving Specialty Courses

Scuba Diving Specialty Courses at Aquatic Adventures in Northern Virginia

As we discussed in previous postings the entry level Scuba Certification is the Open Water Course.   Everyone regardless of what certification agency they are certified by start with this course.  The Advanced Open Water Course is the one that immediately follows in terms of skill development.    Once you have completed these two courses what else is available?

Wreck Diver & Enriched Air Nitrox – Most Popular Specialty Scuba Certification Courses in Washington DC area

There are several options available to divers in regard to Continuing Scuba Education Courses.   Most people will select the course that they want to take according to what interests them.  For years the most popular of all of the Specialty Courses offered by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors or PADI has been the PADI Wreck Diver Course.  The east coast of the United States is literally littered with ship wrecks.  These make wonderful diving destinations.  The ships become part of the artificial reef programs and provide habitat for countless numbers of fish and fish species.

In recent years the PADI Enriched Air – Nitrox course has become the most popular.  Enriched air is air that has more then the normal 21% oxygen in it.  By using this when diving the scuba diver will have longer allowable bottom times thus getting more time to explore the wreck or reef that they are diving on.  When diving with enriched air the diver also has to have scuba diving equipment that is compatible with the enriched air that he is breathing.  The most common pieces of equipment that need to be suited for enriched air diving is the scuba regulator, the enriched air compatible diving computer, and the oxygen cleaned scuba cylinder.

Since everyone today has a camera it is only natural to want to take photographs underwater.  Consequently, Underwater Photography and specifically PADI Underwater Digital Photography are very popular specialty dive courses.   Needless to say an underwater camera is a must when taking this specialty course.

Night Diver & Underwater Navigation – Useful Scuba Specialty Dive Courses

One of the most exciting specialty dive courses is the Night Diver Specialty Course.  In this course the diver learns how to plan and execute a scuba dive at night.  Since many fish (such as lobster, moray eels, squirrel fish, etc) are nocturnal diving at night is the best way to encounter these exciting critters.  Underwater Navigation is one of the most useful scuba dive specialty courses.  This course teaches the diver how to navigate underwater using both an underwater compass and by natural navigation.  Needless to say, being able to find your way underwater is a very useful scuba diving skill.

Deep Diver – Wreck Diver – Underwater Hunting & Collecting on one of our Dive Center Trips

At Aquatic Adventures we have a very complete Scuba Dive Travel Program.   Our summer trips to Morehead City, N.C. are great places to conduct the PADI Deep Diver, PADI Wreck Diver or the Hunting & Collecting Specialty.  We also offer trips throughout the year to varies dive destinations in the Caribbean, Pacific and Central America.  These more exotic trips are great places to complete the PADI Aware Fish Identification Specialty Course, Underwater Photography, PADI Night Diver or the Drift Diver Specialty Course.

PADI Master Scuba Diver at Aquatic Adventures in Alexandria Northern Virginia

One of the marks of a true scuba diver is their love of scuba diving and their desire to learn different types of diving.  At Aquatic Adventures Scuba Academy we not only offer all of the Scuba Specialty Dive Courses we just discussed, but we also promote the PADI Master Scuba Diver Certification.   If a scuba diver completes the PADI Rescue Diver Course and any 5 PADI Specialty Courses and logs over 50 dives he/she can be awarded the PADI Master Scuba Diver Certification, which shows that the diver has experience in several types of diving and has also logged a number of dives denoting an experience level.  This is a non professional scuba rating but one that is a point of pride to many divers.

Regardless of you area of interest if you are an avid Scuba Diver there is a Specialty dive course just perfect for you!


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Some of the Scuba Diving Courses Available

Aquatic Adventures Scuba Academy, a PADI 5 Star Instructor Training Dive Center in Northern Virginia offers many Scuba Diving Courses.


Beginner Scuba Certification:

Aquatic Adventures offers scuba lessons in Northern Virginia and offers many different courses.  Which one is the best scuba course for me?  This may vary from diver to diver.  Everyone starts with the beginner course called the Open Water Course or if a PADI Dive Center the PADI Open Water Course.  At Aquatic Adventures the PADI Open Water Course takes two weekends and teaches the basic skills and knowledge of basic scuba diving equipment needed in order to scuba dive safely.

Advanced Open Water Certification:

Once you are certified then you will want to move on to more a advanced scuba dive skill level.  The next course is usually the Advanced Open Water course or if a PADI Dive Center the PADI Advanced Open Water Course.  The Advanced course picks up where the Open Water course stops.  It includes areas such as underwater navigation, deep diving, night diver, peak performance buoyancy, wreck diver and many other options.  Since Aquatic Adventures is in the Washington D.C. area this is a popular course.  Most divers in this area appreciate the need for better buoyancy and better underwater navigation.  Going right along with these courses is the need for a good underwater compass and owning your own buoyancy control device or BCD is always a good idea.

Specialty Diver Courses:

One of the nice things about the Advanced Open Water course is that each of these five dives counts as the first dive of the respective specialty diver course.  Thus once most divers complete the Advanced Open Water course they usually will take a Scuba Diving Specialty course or two.  Some of the more popular are underwater navigation and Peak Performance Buoyancy (to perfect your buoyancy skills) as mentioned above.  Underwater Photography or PADI Underwater Digital Photography is also very popular as is Night Diver, where you learn the basic for diving at night, Wreck Diver where you learn the basics of diving in or around ship wrecks, Search & Recovery Diving or the basics of searching underwater for lost or missing objects.  The single most popular of all PADI Specialty courses is the Enriched Air Nitrox or EAN Nitrox course.  Diving with enriched air or air with an oxygen percentage greater then 21% allows for longer bottom times and leaves the diver less fatigued then when diving with air.  Divers who take underwater photography will want their own underwater camera and housing.  Those diving with nitrox will want their own scuba diving computer or maybe even a computer console.

Divemaster, Assistant Instructor & Scuba Instructor:

For those of us who really like scuba diving the jump to Divemaster, Assistant Instructor or even Scuba Instructor is only natural.  Teaching diving is not only fun but it really helps you cement your own personal dive skills making you a much better diver.  Being a professional gets you “wet” or in the water on scuba much more often.  It is also a great way to meet people.  It is emotionally rewarding and can lead to a whole new way of life or even a new life style.  Once you go all the way to PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor you would think that is a far as you would go.  That, however, is not the case.  Most Open Water Scuba Instructors want to be able to teach Scuba Diving Specialty Courses so they may take the Master Scuba Diver Trainer Course, where they learn to teach five or six different specialty diver courses.  From there the next step is to help train Scuba Instructors.  You can accomplish this by taking the Instructor Development Course Instructor or IDC Course.

Technical Diving Courses:

For those who want to truly do something different you might look at Technical Diving.  There is an Introduction to Tec course, which is a pool experience using technical diving equipment.  From there the three most common technical diving courses are Tec 40, where you learn to dive to 40 meters or 131 feet.  Tec 45 takes you to 45 meters or 147 feet and Tec 50 takes you to 50 meters or 164 feet.  This is a different type of diving that is every equipment intensive.  We will have more on this type of diving in future articles.

Dive Travel

Once you have taken the scuba diving courses that interest you the next step is to simply get out and dive.  You local Dive Center can help there.  At Aquatic Adventures Scuba Academy in No VA we specialize in Dive Travel

and are only too happy to help you book your next Aquatic Adventure.

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Our Bahamas Live-A-Board Dive Trip – The Aqua Cat

Aquatic Adventures:
At Aquatic Adventures Scuba Academy we specialize in Aquatic Adventures or Scuba Dive Travel Vacations.  Next May we have a live-a-board dive trip scheduled to the Bahamas.  Let take a moment and look at what we might see and experience.

The Bahamas Islands:
“The Islands of The Bahamas offer an array of dive experiences like no other destination in the world. There are sunken Spanish galleons, inland blue holes, caves and forest-like coral reefs, teeming with marine life. We offer 25 different dive destinations in our country. Some of the most exciting experiences allow enthusiasts to swim and feed reef sharks, an experience offered nowhere in the world except The Bahamas. More importantly, the people of The Bahamas are as committed to the art of hospitality as they are committed to preserving the unique ecology of our island home.”  Says Neil Watson, President of the Bahamas Diving Association.  This is what dive travel is all about.

Live-A-Board Diving on the Aqua Cat – May 19-26, 2012
Live-a-board scuba diving and snorkeling in the Bahamas on the Aqua Cat offers a large variety of dives: shark feeding dives, blue holes, high speed drift dives, walls and shallow patch reefs.  Each week we will cruise Nassau, Bahamas to the remote islands of the Exumas, and especially the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park.  This is the ultimate escape aboard our own private luxury yacht.  Fine sand beaches, snorkeling or diving among lemon sharks and sting rays, or hiking the trails of pirates and bootleggers of years gone by.  No crowds, nor set itineraries, nothing to do but sit back, relax, and choose from an incredible variety of live-a-board activities including scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, fishing, sunbathing, and island exploring.

What will we see?
Due to its great diversity and diving we have made several land based trips to the Bahamas over the years.  On these trips the amount and variety of sea life is incredible.  An underwater photographer’s dream.  Below are a few of the underwater photographs that I have taken with my Sea Life Underwater Camera on previous dive trips.

Beautiful sand beaches mean there is usually pretty sandy bottoms at many of the dive sites.  Sandy bottoms are where you will usually find Hermit Crabs walking about.  The prolific sea life means lots of fish swimming around the coral formations.  Lion fish are from the Pacific and Indian Oceans.  Until recently that was the only place to find them while diving.  Now they are common place on most dive sites in the Caribbean since they do not have any predators locally to keep their numbers in check.

During the day squirrel fish can be seen near holes in the coral.  At night they are found roaming free.  Algae grows wildly in the warm clear waters of the Caribbean and if not kept in check they would literally cover the corals, keeping the sunlight from reaching them.  Thus the corals would die out.  Pin Cushion Urchins each the algae thus keeping it in check.   The underwater digital photograph below shows the trail that the Pin Cushion carved in the algae while grazing along.  You will also notice the bits of coral and sponge that stick to its spines – these provide camouflage that helps hide it from its predators.

Everyone talks about the fish and even take Fish Identification courses but the corals are often overlooked.  The soft corals are very pretty like the rope sponges and sea whips that sway in the current.  Many small critters hide in the reef.  Christmas Tree worms are small worms that bury themselves into the coral.  They stick their tales out to filter feed off the plankton that floats through the water.  Barrel sponges are another prolific and popular soft coral.  They feed by taking water in through their porous sides.  The water then flows through their spongy body allowing it to filter out the food, again plankton, and expelling the water out through it center tube.

One of my favorite reef critters is the Flamingo Tongue.  This snail feeds on the Gargonia or other soft corals.  It is a very plain white or off white shell but the animal has a very pretty spotted mantel that covers the shell when it is out feeding.  Spiny Lobster are cousins of the American Lobster that we see in restaurants.  These lobster do not have claws and are scavengers on the reef.  During the day they are found near holes in the coral or under ledges.  At night they roam free to feed.

The Southern Stingray swims over the sandy portions of the reef searching for food.  It eyes are on the top of its head and the mouth on the bottom.  It uses smell to ferret out small worms and crustaceans in the sand.  Stingrays are related to sharks in that they are both cartilaginous – they have skeletons of cartilage not bone.  Caribbean Reef sharks are just one of the many sharks that are plentiful throughout the Bahamas.  These beautiful creatures are majestic and fun to see cruising by.

Our trip to the Bahamas is May 19-26, 20012

.  It will not only be a great diving vacation but an opportunity to work on that diving continuing education like underwater photography course, Aware Fish Identification or Boat Diver.  Since there are so many night dives conducted while on a live-a-board dive vacation the PADI Night Diver Specialty is also a good one to work on.

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Fish of the Sea of Cortez

With our upcoming dive trip to La Paz, Mexico and the Sea of Cortez it is only natural to want to become familiar with many of the fish that are endemic to that area.  Aquatic Adventures Scuba Academy, our PADI 5 Star IDC Dive Center has sponsored dive trips there a few times in the past and the fantastic sea life is always amazing.  Lets take a few minutes and look at some of the incredible sea life that we might see on our Dive Trip there this October.

The Crown of Thorns is an eater of coral.  Its job is to keep the amount of coral on a reef in check.  The reef itself is made up of many types of animals.  Starfish and both soft and hard corals can be found on many reefs.  Fish come in all sizes and shapes.  The Fanged Blenny is a very small fish found almost walking on the bottom.  Barber Fish are in the Butterfly Fish family.  They are often seen in small schools or pairs as they tend to mate for life.  You will notice that while the fish are very familiar they are different then their Caribbean cousins.  The PADI Aware Fish ID Course is great in learning how to identify these species.

One of the unique aspects of the Sea of Cortez is how diverse the sea life is.  Besides fish and corals many mammals can be seen like the playful Sea Lion.  Those who dive in the Caribbean are used to seeing Parrot Fish.  Here we see the bumphead Parrot Fish, which is larger then the average Caribbean Parrot Fish.

There are several shipwrecks in the Sea of Cortez, making this an area conducive to wreck diving and taking the PADI Wreck Diver Specialty Course as well as the PADI Underwater Digital Photography Course.  Here we see a picture taken with a Sealife Digital Camera of the Mast of a Ship Wreck with thousands of small bait fish swimming around it.  On the reef if one looks closely you can spot golden moray eels hiding during the day in cracks and crevices.  Some fish like do not mind being out in the open like the Balloon Puffer Fish seen her on a ship wreck.

If you are in the Sea of Cortez at the right time of the year and if you are very lucky you might be in for a real treat.  To see whale sharks and hammerhead sharks can be a once in a lifetime treat.  We have been lucky and seen them each time we have been there.  Other treats is to see a seahorse or an octopus.  They are fascinating subjects and can make a great underwater photo to help you remember your trip.

Sea Urchins feed on top of the corals.  They eat the algae that grows on the coral and keep the algae in check and keep the corals from being smothered by the algae.  The Sea Urchin seen here has camouflaged itself with small shells for protection.  The Angel Fish seen on the side of the reef is a Panama Graysby, common in the Pacific Ocean area.  Puffers are not uncommon in the Sea of Cortez.  Here is a Spotted Sharpnose Puffer.

Scorpion Fish can be found world wide.  They camouflage themselves and prey on small unsuspecting fish.  Tarpon are a predator fish that feeds near the surface.  Here we see a school of Tarpon feeding on small bait fish.  The last slide shows a Sea Anemone and an Arrow Crab.  These creatures can be seen around the world if you take the time to just look.

The Sea of Cortez is an area that is not as commonly dived as other areas.  It is somewhat out of the way but not inaccessible.  You can book a trip there through many Dive Centers that have Travel Programs like Aquatic Adventures Dive Center in Alexandria, Virginia.  Prior to a trip like this it is recommended that you have your scuba diving equipment serviced and perhaps take a scuba refresher course like the PADI Scuba Review Course to make sure that your dive skills are up to date and that you remember the proper care and use of your scuba diving equipment.

Having said all of that the next step is to get out and dive and enjoy the world.

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