Day 196: A Real Diver?

Mon. 25th February 2013

Finding Nemo - Clownfish in an anenomeI’m now 2/5ths of the way through my course. So far, so good, but I clearly have much to learn – not just knowledge from the books and instructors but experience and skills that only come with practice. As always, there is revision and homework before each of my dives today and so I chose 11:30 rather than 9am for my first dive so that I would have time to revise in the morning. Even so, with the need to keep up to date with blog and photos on top of studying, the time quickly passes.

Having our homework testedAt the pre-dive knowledge check and briefing session, I’m introduced to Adrienne, a photographer who will be joining us this morning. I was a little disappointed with yesterday’s underwater photos and so it will be interesting to see how a professional does it. We’re even going to the same dive site we were at yesterday – so, I’ll have to think of some other excuses!!

Looking like a real diver too!This morning’s dive is a Drift dive – allowing the current to carry us along, just as it did when we went snorkelling in Rangiroa. There are new techniques to learn for each module  and dive type. Today it is the ‘negative (buoyancy) entry’ – on the ‘go’ signal, you roll off the side of the boat and then instead of surfacing to check that everyone is OK you carry on heading down. This helps to get to the bottom quickly and hence underneath any current that is flowing and might push you past the dive site.

A hungry turtleThis turns out to be easier (and more fun) than it sounds and the mask means that there is no danger of water getting up your nose. Whether it was confidence from this manoeuvre going well or the bright sunshine making the water seem clear and bright but the whole dive was just a joy from the first minute. I felt more comfortable in the water than ever before and was relaxed and in control of both breathing and buoyancy – two critical factors in making my tank of air last longer. Just round the corner - a pair of White tipped sharksThe video later showed me using my arms far too much but I really felt in my element for the first time while diving (this is my 16th dive). Like a little kid, I was rolling on to my back to watch the sun shine down from the surface and hanging upside down, suspended in the water, to get a better view under the rock and coral formations.

And the fish we saw:

  • Looking up at a CuttlefishLarge Cuttlefish, with its eerie green eyes,  rippling its sidefins to slide through the water. Watching it change colour as it moved from sand to rock.
  • A pair of White-tipped sharks who we caught resting on the sea bed. They were much larger than the Black-tipped sharks we saw in Rangiroa.
  • Three turtles. In Akumal, we had one of our favourite experiences as we snorkelled above a pair of green turtles. Here, I was able to swim alongside one for a few seconds, just admiring the grace with which it moved and the tenacity of the Limpet fish attached to it.

Sorry, didn't do the fish identification module!This is not to mention all the colours of the Angel fish, Butterfly fish, Parrot fish and Clown fish or the schools of Jack fish and Fusiliers.

Perhaps it is no wonder that I was buzzing when I got back on land to Janet. Before now, I liked diving and appreciated having the skills and abilities to go diving. I had got started diving because I tore a muscle in my leg just before the start of a tennis coaching holiday that we had booked in Greece. Cuttlefish up closeThe first week we were there I could do little other than lie by the pool watching the introduction to diving courses. By the second week, I could walk but still not play tennis so I did the Open Water Diver course as much as a way to pass the time as anything (even then Dave could not sit doing nothing!!). Now, I really love diving. The feeling of just hanging, weightless in the water so effortlessly while getting to see a whole new world.

Doing my homeworkToday’s second dive and my 3rd and final optional module is a Night dive. This leaves the afternoon free to spend with Janet – or at least that is the theory. There is, of course, homework to be done before the dive as well as blog and photos to keep up with. We also need to work out when we are going to leave Gili T and where we are going to go when we do. Joking aside, it is not proving to be straightforward to carry on east as we had hoped as most inter-island ferries seem to be stopped for the foreseeable future on account of the weather.

While I was diving, Janet was enjoying herself too!Diving at night, as promised, puts a whole new slant on diving. It is just getting dark as we enter the water with the torches, so we can orient ourselves before it gets fully dark. Then, what you can see is limited to what is in the cone of light from your torch. Strangely, the colours of the coral come out better (more vivid reds) because your light source is much closer to them. We also got to see a different set of fish and creatures than we necessarily would at day time. For example, there was a Moray Eel in the classic pose with just its head poking out of the rock it had made its home. There were also several Pacific Lionfish which were magnificent in their purple and yellow stripes and mane of spines. Beautiful to look at but strictly no touching.

Diver's eye view of the approaching boatAt our safety stop at the end of the dive, we douse our torches (holding them upside down in one hand) and swirl our free hand around and see dots of bioluminescence light up like stars on a clear night sky. Diving at night was a real treat and somehow much more relaxing than I expected it to be – perhaps because you are all wrapped around in the dark and so your focus is in the patch illuminated by your torch. The only downside was that we surfaced in the middle of a swarm(?) of little jellyfish. They might have been small, but they still stung. Ouch! ouch!

Classic Clownfish in anenome shotThere was one final treat waiting for us after we had got showered and changed. Adrienne had completed her video of this morning’s dive and put it on the big screen in the bar. Wow! She really captured what I saw underwater. I’m so glad that Janet had the chance to see what I had been raving about all day. (It hasn’t changed her mind about diving though!). It also showed what could be done with a normal camera taken underwater. I am a little daunted by the height of the bar that has been set for my photography efforts – but at least I did get some tips from her as to how to setup my camera and to compose the shots.

[Note: Sadly, most of the photos in this post were not taken by me – how I wish they were. They were taken by Adrienne on my dive this morning and are so good, I wanted to share them. I believe this is the only time we have used pictures that weren’t taken by one of us in a blog post. So, we are only cheating a bit!]

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