Sunday, 13 October 2013

Scuba diving!

Getting my scuba diving license has been something that I have wanted to do for years; the idea of discovering another world filled with hidden treasures drew me. Shirley arrived and during one of our chats about the things she wants to do while in South Africa she mentioned scuba diving. After some research we found a good company (Pro Dive), a good price, and all too soon we were starting! We were fortunate that it was just Shirley and I on the course. I was positively giddy with excitement that first day! The course consisted of 5 pool dives, and 4 ocean dives as well as 5 theory sections with Knowledge Reviews and an Exam. After the initial paperwork and first theory section we kitted up, a most hilarious event! We were shown how to assemble our gear, and then we went to put on our wetsuits. Wow are they difficult to squeeze into! It must have been ridiculous to see the two of us, heaving and hauling trying to get into these tight neoprene suits! Once we waddled out in our suits we put on the rest of our gear. Our very heavy gear! A 9.6kg weight belt went on first, then the cylinder which is attached to the rest of the gear. I felt like a tortoise. My underdeveloped stomach muscles couldn’t compensate for the weight of the gear on my back so I walked leaning forward. Waddled is probably more accurate than walked though! Getting into the pool was bliss, I love buoyancy! Each pool session was used to practice certain skills designed for getting the individual used to being and breathing underwater. Those first few moments are the strangest and most exhilarating! Since the first swimming lesson you are taught to hold your breath or to breathe out underwater, never ever in, and as a water baby in my younger years I learnt the importance of said directions. It goes against your natural instinct to breathe in underwater. Snorkelling is one thing, but to sit at the bottom of the pool and try to regulate your breathing to a natural rhythm is an interesting endeavour. I quickly got used to it, especially after we started our skills. For the first pool dive we practiced things like regulator recovery, mask clearing, using your buddy’s alternate air source and of course swimming around. I think our instructor Michael and Dive Master Tammy were reaching the end of their patience with me, I was like a hyperactive child in a sweet shop! Slow down, calm down, stay here (!) were often repeated signals, I know them well now! Climbing out of the pool was horrid, as you move to the shallow side and take the two steps needed to be on terra firma once again the weight of all the equipment settled down with all the help of glorious gravity! Then you realise exactly how tired you are. After that first pool session we went straight into the ocean, not to practice any skills but for our first experience. Dance of joy! Well as much as you can dance squished into a wetsuit with all the equipment on your back. Once again, I became ADD as we entered the water, all the stop, slow down, calm down hand signals went in one eye and out the other, eventually either Michael or Tammy made sure to hold on to my equipment so I didn’t disappear. It was amazing! The current swishing you from side to side as you float (or in the case of this first dive) tried to float, the fishes that blended in so well with their surroundings, the spiky starfish sticking flat against the rocks and the amazing corals and shells all made for a spectacular experience! Leaving it all behind was difficult, and the seemingly interminable trudge back to the shop was painful. We de-kitted, washed everything down and peeled off our wetsuits, we had a quick hot shower and then settled down for another theory session. By the time we headed home we were exhausted, and slept very well that night! The course moved along, interspersing theory with pool dives practising various skills and sea dives, further practising and developing the skills we learnt in the pool. On our second sea dive we saw a marvellous jellyfish swimming along, what a treat! All too soon it seemed that the course was over and we were qualified. We have learnt so much, seen so much, experienced so much. It is difficult to leave that behind. Unfortunately, scuba diving is not a cheap hobby/sport, but oh is it a spectacular one!

First day of pool training! I am floating on the left with crazy hair.
 We did have a fifth sea dive with Pro Dive, our first qualified dive! We were lucky enough that it was a boat dive! Man was it AMAZING! All our other dives had been shore entries to a reef called Redbait Reef, which is quite close to Beacon Island Hotel. This time we went to Jacob’s Reef, which is also relatively close to Beacon Island Hotel but too far for a comfortable swim, it is also deeper than Redbait. During our training sea dives we reached a maximum depth of 6.2m at Redbait whereas we reached a maximum depth of 14.2m at Jacob’s. I was a little nervous for the boat dive, we had to put on our equipment on a moving boat, and then roll back off the boat on the skipper’s three, two, one, go. Michael was between Shirley and I and to make sure we rolled when we needed to, he just held on to our cylinders and hauled on ‘go’. I came up giggling through my regulator, a delightful experience had only just begun! As this was the deepest dive Shirley and I had done, we descended slowly behind the other more experienced divers making sure to equalise our ears often. It was a lot easier than I thought and I was quite comfortable underwater, all the skills and practice paid off, I was a regular diver! At home in this watery world, making enchanting discoveries as I floated and swam leisurely along the reef. I still have trouble remembering to check that I am in sight of the Dive Master and buoy line, and I still have my buddy, in this case Shirley and Michael. It is so easy to get engrossed in the details of marine life, whether that is a colourful nudibranch, an elegant basket star, camouflaged fish or the lovely spread of corals. Luckily Shirley and I managed to borrow an underwater camera for this dive, which I am so grateful for! Many of the photos are blurry, some worse than others, but we wanted to be able to share our delightful discoveries! Getting your scuba diving license is something I highly recommend!

Out in the big wide ocean!

Spiny starfish.
Basket star.
Cape urchin.

Sea squirts.
Looking up.
Going up.

No comments:

Post a Comment