Sure, it’s fun to earn and collect specialty cards, but more importantly, each distinctive specialty course is the opportunity to get in-depth knowledge about various animals — from nudibranchs to manatees — and facets of the dive life, such as careers in underwater media.

If you’re really looking to hone in on some specific skills, these unusual PADI® Distinctive Specialties may be for you:

Seahorse Awareness Diver

sea horse
Some people are born with the knack for finding seahorses, and some need to learn it. For divers in the latter category, head to Phuket, Thailand, for this one-day course taught by Andy’s Scuba Diving center. Not only will you learn the tricks to spotting them, you’ll also become knowledgeable about their habitat, behavior and the results of the most recent research being conducted on this marine fish.

Missile Silo Diver Course

Whereas some PADI specialties focus on animal species, this one covers the unique challenges of exploring the flooded Cold-War-era Titan 1 missile silo near Royal City, Washington. Taught by Undersea Adventures, the course covers the history of why this silo exists at this location, the necessary safety procedures and precautions of diving the site, as well as an in-depth study of the location, its features and not-to-miss highlights. After the classroom portion, the course includes two silo dives.

Underwater Media Diver

There’s much more to capturing the underwater realm than turning on a GoPro and swimming. Since early 2015, Triton Scuba in West Sussex, England, has been providing this specialty as an introduction to the career options available in the media diving industry. The four-day course covers theory and equipment of underwater filming and photography, as well as shot composition, story lines and editing. It’s intended for those seeking careers in this industry as well as those simply looking to take more professional-looking underwater pictures and footage.

Manatee Awareness

In the Gulf Coast town of Crystal River, Florida, divers can take this one-day specialty course that covers manatee biology and social behavior, as well as the local legislation in place to protect the animal. Ideally, a diver or snorkeler would take this course prior to a swim with the mammal to better understand what they observe.

Nudibranch Awareness Diver

It seems every diver goes soft at the sight of a photo of a nudibranch, but most can’t even begin to identify the head from the tail. The nudibranch awareness diver specialty course teaches the creature’s biology, from the odor-detecting conical rhinophores to the touch-sensitive cephalic head tentacles. Once you can know the parts of a nudibranch, you’ll begin to identify individual species, as well as understand behavior. Rainbow Divers offers the course at its handful of scuba centers in Vietnam.


Love sharks and rays? Check out these 4 PADI Specialty Courses to improve your shark and ray encounters.

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