Now let’s go back to September… remember in Costa Rica, when the four of us tried scuba diving for the first time? We all completed our e-learning (theory stuff on the computer), and our confined water skills (practicing skills in a pool). The next day, we went out in the boat to do our Open Water Dives with our instructor Georgia. I was terrified. I liked swimming in the ocean, but I was always afraid of seeing fish, especially big ugly ones. The conditions that day were terrible: the visibility underwater was about 4 metres and the swells were huge. I was already feeling pretty nervous about diving, so unfortunately I panicked and did not dive.
On our first day in Galapagos, I hit a milestone. While my mom and Jake went diving, my dad and I kayaked and snorkeled. I squeezed my dad’s hand when we got into the water. But in the span of about an hour, I went from terrified to not scared at all! At one point, I turned around, only to see a HUGE sea turtle right behind me. It freaked me out at first, but then I thought that it was pretty cool, and I followed the sea turtle around. On our 8 day cruise in the Galapagos, we snorkeled at least once a day, and sometimes twice. I became totally comfortable swimming with fish, turtles, sharks and sea lions. We also snorkeled a lot in Fiji, and I officially overcame my fear of fish at Million Dollar Point in Vanuatu, when I dove down into a school of about 1000 medium sized fish!
When we got to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, I decided to give diving another go. I did what’s called a Discovery Dive, where you hook arms with other new divers, and there is one instructor per four divers. I didn’t see too much (because I couldn’t decide where I was going), but I liked the feeling of weightlessness you get underwater. That’s when I decided to try certification again.
In Gili Trawangan, we found “DSM Divers”, and I was finally going to get certified! Things were going well with my instructor Cyril: I did the pool refresher again, and I didn’t have a problem with any skills. Then we did my first open water dive (OWD). I had some trouble equalizing my ears so we only went to 5m depth, but we saw a turtle and some nice coral. Cyril was a great instructor. He was so relaxed and supportive, and always finding solutions to any problems.
Unfortunately, I woke up the next morning really sick, and I stayed sick for about four days. I was really upset that I couldn’t dive. But, Cyril recommended to us Atlantis Dive, a dive shop in Sanur, Bali where I would be able to (hopefully) finish my certification!
After Gili we went to Flores island, but when we got back to Bali we were organized for diving.
Even though the dive shop itself is in southern Bali, most of the diving they do is in Tulamben, a 2 hour drive north of Sanur. Tulamben is famous for it’s wreck: USAT Liberty. In WW2 it was crossing the strait between Bali and Lombok, but it got torpedoed by the Japanese. They ran it aground because they knew it was going to sink. In the 60s, a nearby volcano erupted and the lava flow pushed the boat over and it rolled back into the sea. Now, it’s home to many corals and fish, which make it the best dive site in Bali.
Our day started early in the morning, when the Atlantis bus picked us up from our hotel in Kuta. First we went to the dive shop to get sized for equipment. There I met my instructor Robbie, an Indonesian. Then we drove north to Tulamben. The dive shop is associated with an oceanside hotel, which is their base there. The Atlantis customers get good prices, and it’s a great place to start all the dives.
The plan: I had already done one training dive, so I needed three more. On the first day I would do two training dives. Hopefully I would only have one skill left to do on the second day, so my parents and Jake could join me for my last training dive and an extra “fun” dive.
When we arrived, Robbie and I got straight to work. The dives in Tulamben are “shore entrance dives”, which means you have to walk into the water, instead of going in from a boat. We walked down to the wreck, then I had to set up my equipment. Scuba equipment is pretty complicated! There’s the tank, the “buoyancy compensating device” (BCD) which is a vest that you can inflate/deflate to float or sink, the regulator (the mouthpiece that controls airflow), alternate air source (extra regulator), pressure gauge (tells you how much air is in your tank) and depth gauge. Setting it all up is hard at first, but it gets easier every time.
Then I had to get into the water with all that equipment on. Easier said than done! Imagine walking into the ocean on moving rocks, with a huge heavy tank on your back! I really felt like a giant tortoise.
First, we descended slowly to 5m. When descending, you have to equalize the air spaces in your ears because of the pressure change. You do this by plugging your nose and gently trying to blow out of it. The air can’t come out your nose so it goes into your ear drum. I wasn’t so good at it at first, but of course I improved!
Then, Robbie had me do some skills. Over the course of the three training dives, I did skills like:
-the mask fill and clear (filling your mask, then clearing it by putting two fingers on the top of it and blowing out your nose)
-mask removal and clear (taking off your mask underwater, putting it back on and clearing it)
-“out of air” scenario
-compass navigation swim at the surface & bottom
-regulator removal & retrieval (taking out regulator, throwing it over shoulder, finding it and putting it back in mouth)
-taking off the weight belt at the surface and putting it back on
-taking off the BCD at the surface and putting it back on
Most of these skills are pretty easy. The hardest for me is the mask removal and clear, but I had no problem with any of them.
Next, Robbie and I explored the wreck a little bit. I loved it! So many fish! So much coral! Even a turtle! I didn’t have a camera, but when the four of us dove there the next day we got some good shots. I came back to the hotel with a big smile on my face – I was so excited!
After some lunch, Robbie and I got ready to dive again. This time, we went to the coral garden. It wasn’t nearly as good as the wreck, but we still saw some cool stuff including a shark! We also did some more skills.
All this time, the rest of my family was working on our presentation for the Green School of Bali (be patient: that’s the next blog entry). When I told them all about the dive spots, they were really excited as they would be diving with me the next day! That night though, I had no trouble falling asleep (taking off and putting on a wetsuit is hard work in this heat!).
I was almost certified. In fact, I only had one skill left to do the next morning! It was “CESA” (controlled emergency swimming ascent). This is a “last resort” skill: you only do it if you somehow run out of air AND somehow there is nobody around to share air with you. But, you still have to do it to get certified with PADI. Safety first, I guess! Anyway, CESA is when you go down to minimum 6m depth and slowly swim up to the surface without going faster than your bubbles. But swimming up on one breath is dangerous because of the pressure change. Air expands when it comes up, so the air in your lungs can expand and you can get a lung explosion injury. So you have to constantly blow out while swimming up. I was a bit nervous for this skill, but turns out it was no problem at all. At the surface, Robbie gave me a big high-five. I was finally scuba certified!
Then my parents and Jake came in too with their divemaster Kadek. We explored the coral garden.
That was our very first dive as a family! That afternoon, we dove on the USAT Liberty wreck.
My family liked this spot as much as I did!
I feel like I’ve come such a long way since Costa Rica. Thanks to tons of snorkeling, I went from being absolutely terrified of fish to loving the ocean and everything about it. After three instructors in two countries, I am finally scuba certified! I haven’t done much of it yet, but I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve done so far!
Diving has opened up a whole new world for me. When I dive, I learn a lot about the underwater ecosystem and the threats to it. But also, I feel an emotional connection with the ocean, and that makes me want to protect it. Diving is not only a fun and relaxing activity, but it can also be a way to save the ocean. Of course, garbage in the ocean is a huge threat. Plastic bags look like jellyfish, and sea turtles choke on them. Here’s a good way to show it:
But a few days ago, I read about a project that I wish I had found out about a long time ago! It’s called “Dive Against Debris”. Any dive shop can sign up for it. Then, any diver can volunteer with them to do a special cleanup dive. They pick up trash, and analyze it afterwards. Then they upload their results to the worldwide interactive map that shows where the garbage is getting collected. It’s worth it to check it out: http://www.projectaware.org/diveagainstdebrismap
Even though we didn’t get on to Dive Against Debris, I still pick up every piece of plastic I see while diving and snorkeling. If I hadn’t had so many amazing experiences underwater, I wouldn’t feel so connected with the ocean and I might not be so committed to protecting it.