Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My First Scuba Dive

A new post!! Yes, yes, please don't fall over your chair in shock. This blog has just been on a sort of extended hiatus, NOT retirement!

I'm dedicating this post to John, who asked me what's up with Ore's Notes and encouraged me to start writing again. Yes, my busy schedule notwithstanding. And although I have plans to change the look of my blog and have made a project of looking for the perfect template..... He urged me not to lose focus of what was important and to Just start writing again!!! He helpfully shared tips from his highly prolific wife who also blogs.

So, here I am!!!

One might take my silence to mean that I’ve not been up to much. Sigh……… nothing could be farther from the truth. So instead to talking about how much I’ve been doing and how I don’t have time to blog anymore, I won’t. I’ll share some of the things that I’ve been doing.

Where do I start? How about the most exciting thing I’ve done in the last 6 months?

What could that be, you might ask? I went scuba diving!!!!!

And the strange thing is that until the moment I decided to take diving lessons, I can’t say that it’s something I’ve ever thought about doing. But you know what it’s like when an idea pops in your head out of nowhere and you just go with it? No? Okay, maybe it’s just me then.

I was blessed to visit Mombasa, Kenya last September for a workshop (the places that work takes me sometimes……..). The resort we stayed in was like a dream. I could have moved in there if I had the chance. One of the most advertised things about the resort was the variety of water sports they offered. On my first day there, my colleague and I walked to their office to find out more. As I spoke to the very nice lady there, she suggested a ‘fun’ dive, which even 12 year olds could do. Well if a 12 year old can learn to dive, then so can I, was my first thought.

The day after my workshop ended I went back to the water sports office to speak to the staff more about this diving thing. I met the instructor Emmanuel aka the dive master, who assured me that it was all very easy. He said I’d have to pass three tests first, before I could book a real dive in the ocean. Suddenly I grew nervous. I don’t relish tests. And this diving thing was starting to appear very complicated.

For the lesson, I wore a wet suit, as Emmanuel said the body can get very cold when in water for long periods. He showed me how to use the mouthpiece to breathe and that was very strange at first and initially I was anxious and panicked a bit, but I decided to stay calm and try it. Breathing techniques from Pilates really helped me out there. I was able to take slow breaths in and out through my mouth.

Me learning in the pool

I learnt the hand signals, because divers have to be able to communicate underwater with the diving master or other divers. He also showed me how to get water out of my goggles even when underwater (sounds impossible, right?).

Somehow I passed all the three tests he administered. So well apparently, that Emmanuel kept asking if I had dived before.

So, now I could book a dive. I was so excited, but also a little nervous. Emmanuel gave me some instructions: get a good’s night sleep, eat a good breakfast (not too heavy but not too light).

Our diving gear

I was scheduled to dive to a depth of 10 metres, which I thought sounded so deep. The upside was that my diving instructor would be there. Most divers are encouraged to dive with a buddy or a group. I believe only professionals go alone, but I think even that might be rare. There are certifications that you can take to enable you dive deeper.

On the boat, waiting for our fellow divers

We took a boat out to our dive site and sailed/drove(?) for about 15 minutes - far but not too far, as I could still see land. There were 6 of us: me, Emmanuel - my dive instructor, 3 German divers and their dive leader. They went first and I watched them do it. Unfortunately I could not get any pictures of myself since I was last to go in. Hopefully, there will be other dives in the future.

I’m sure you’ve seen divers on TV enter the water by sitting at the edge of the boat and tumbling backwards into the sea. Well, that's what we did. I didn't think I could do it, but I had to. I fell in and was a bit disorientated at first, but I saw the sunlight and kind of floated upwards towards it.

To descend, we had to lock our knees into our chest and release air from one of our many hoses (these are connected to our tank). Once down, I had to remember to breathe through my mouth with the regulator (inserted in your mouth and connected to another hose). I felt a bit panicky, but remembered that I had done it in the pool the day before. Also, being the only woman, I did not want to have any "Well, maybe it's because you're a girl...." comments later.

It is so beautiful under water. It is totally another world. I cannot even describe it. I saw shoals of fishes swimming together, lots of plants, starfish, sea urchins and even a stingy ray, which zipped away so fast when it saw us. I saw coral and the other divers, at a point.

At one point, I started to float up and started to panic especially since Emmanuel, my dive instructor, was not looking at me at the time. When he saw me going up, he pulled me down and released air from one of my hoses to bring me back down.

The pressure in my ears was incredible and I had to pinch my nose and exhale to reduce the pressure. Despite that, the pressure still built-up again. Afterwards, my ears were blocked for an entire day.

I was underwater for about 30 minutes and when I got back to the surface, I saw one of the German divers there. Apparently he had not been able to get used to breathing through his mouth with the regulator and called off his dive. He had also learnt the day before like me. I could tell that he felt bad and his dive leader did not make matters easier, with his teasing remarks.

I love to read-up on things online and so the night before the dive, I started reading an article on scuba diving on Wikipedia. I wasn’t able to finish it and it's a very good thing too otherwise I might never have gone.

I learnt that at 20m, some divers suffer from 'nitrogen narcosis', which is like a temporary mania. At 40m, almost all divers suffer from this. The deeper you are going, the mix of gases in your tank has to be different from if you are diving in shallower waters, otherwise, you can suffer from something else that can cause epilepsy, which causes the regulator to come out of the diver's mouth, which of course will lead to drowning. If you ascend too quickly, you can suffer from decompression sickness (also known as 'the bends'), from your body not adjusting gradually enough the changing pressure of the water. Basically there is more pressure underwater than on land and the deeper you go, the more pressure there is.

You also need to be super-fit apparently to do it. The medical form I had to fill out beforehand must have had all conditions under the sun listed on it -the first being that you cannot be pregnant.

Now that I have tried scuba diving, I LOVE it. It has dangers and so you need to pay attention to the instructions of your dive leader. Of course, this was an easy dive in comparison to other waters and conditions possible (I’ll never forget the film Open Water).

This was an incredibly long post, now that I'm reading it. Well, I hope it makes up for all the time away.


Anonymous said...

Good for you .You only live once.Water has never really held much attraction to me.Had the opportunity to try it once in the Seychelles(my partner then was from there..she was an absolute gem at it).I chickened out instead sat and watched shoals of fish by dipping head in water!!.
My absolute ambition is to run the marathon de sable..an endurance race across the sahara dessert.I need to be super fit for that.
Murky picture of yours...Still hiding the face.saw long and lithe legs.Wondering if you are married or have children?...forgive intrusion.
Anyway looking forward to your next adventure and your views .


Ore said...

Oh, you're the complete opposite of me then. Running has never been my thing. In fact, I'm quite hopeless at it - unless I'm running for my life, I would imagine.

And yes, clear photos of me on my blog aren't quite my thing either. :)