Feb 16, 2008

Dive Master K

Okay, well maybe I'm not a dive master, but a dive master's student & PADI certified diver I am! After good times exploring the highlights of Melbourne & Sydney, we flew up to Cairns to experience the Great Barrier Reef. Wonders do abound. Since we couldn't swim in the shoreline oceans (deadly box jellyfish disallow swimming in the region for half the year), the obvious thing to do was to get our open water SCUBA certification.

I've always wanted to get certified but also feared it. Breathing under water? Snorkeling I love since breathing out of the water is just a head bop away. Not so when dealing with surfacing from up to 18 meters deep (limit for the basic PADI certification). But after our first 30 minute straight session in the pool I realized breathing oxygen from a tank is way smoother than breathing 50/50 air/salt water when snorkeling. I wanted to come up after a few minutes due to some panic that I might cough or something and not be able to breath, but knew I had to keep going through the series of skills our Dutch instructor Sjouke was demonstrating and testing us on - passing the course was more of a driver than allowing panic to win. And it worked. Once I gained more confidence in the breathing, skills like filling up my mask with water and clearing it by blowing air out through my nose became more challenging.

So we passed the written exam and moved on to 2 nites/3 days liveaboard a large catamaran that just hangs out in the outer reef. Now the fun begins.

I mean, if you're going to get certified, the barrier reef isn't too shabby. Problem is we may have just set the bar really high for ourselves. 9am on the 2nd boat day we jumped for joy as we passed all of the underwater instructional dive tests, many of which were performed kneeling on the sand 12+ meters deep (that's over 36 feet for those of you who are slow with the converstions). The best part was that we still had 6 more 'fun' dives without a guide. It was quite a high the first dive where just the three of us mastered the buddy system, the air checks, ear equalizing, navigation, safety stop for 3 min at 5 meters before surfacing. Susan, a natural athlete at any sport, was a perfect leader & made sure we were following everything we just learned.

The final day I had some ear issues and ended up not being able to dive. After trying to equalize for several minutes to no avail and sharp pain, I signaled that I had to go up. I temporarily became totally dizzy as can happen - Susan and Ariella were right there to drag me back to the boat just as we had learned for such situations, and the dizziness went away. Kinda scary though. Luckily for me, we were at dive spots where the best diving was in shallow water where snorkeling was just as amazing. I mean, amazing snorkeling.

I won't even try to describe the other world that we saw under there - i'll let the underwater photos do the talking [that is, once I have a fast internet connection to post more photos - I'm in Lombok, Indonesia as I write]. Imagine a soundtrack of breathing Darth Vader style. All of you divers know what I mean - for those who haven't yet - just do it. Most of the earth is ocean, you gotta check it out. I feel very very blessed, as I do every day right now.

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