Here’s a brief introduction to our newest friends and world travelers:
Long time childhood best friends, Sonia and Hemanshu are a long distance relationship couple that live in Australia and India. Initially, travel was just a way for them to meet up with each other but now it has become a ritual where they meet every few months in a new country. Apart from loving travel, they’re very passionate about leading a very wholesome & organic lifestyle that they incorporate not just in their daily lives, but also during their adventures around the world.
Little over 5 months ago, in June, we were on our usual trip to Thailand to meet each other & explore this scenic country. The agenda was to visit lots of Buddhist temples, eat till our hearts content, chill on the sunny beaches & get around to some of the pristine islands.
Diving was definitely not in the cards until we made our way to a tiny island called Koh Tao. There were literally so many dive shops that it was just hard not to want to even consider diving. We’re both passionate swimmers who in fact learned swimming together as kids & were literally inseparable in the pool. During some of our previous trips the topic of learning how to dive would come up, especially because it has always been a dream for Hemanshu to learn it professionally. So now, it seemed like it was a calling to finally take the plunge & go for it. We shopped around a few of the recommended dive centres until we finalized one that we found would best deliver what we aimed to achieve. Although, we must let you all know, the dive centre we chose was a bit pricier than the countless others, however, the quality & hygiene of their equipment, the actual dive centre itself & the experience of the dive instructors was top class, so it was definitely worth spending that little extra.
Let’s now dive into the detail of how it all works. So there’s either the try-dive option, where tourists can opt to go on 2 or 3 dive trips with a dive master. Essentially it’s like taking a tour around a beautiful reef with a well-trained & informed underwater guide. This is fun for those who just want to try some fun scuba diving to check out a few fish & corals below the ocean.
Then there’s the more rigours option, which are the dive courses. Be warned my friends, don’t be naive like Sonia who thought that you are taken into the ocean, taught the required skills under water, after which you do a couple of dives & hey presto, you have an open water certification.
No, No, No….it just does not work like that. Proper deep sea diving is more a science than an art. As soon as we signed up, we were handed our course material along with all the online tests we had to clear. We had to theoretically learn a lot of technical concepts like how the human body works under water, what decompression sickness and oxygen narcosis is. What are the rights and wrongs to remember when diving, and the most boring bit was doing all the mathematical calculations to learn how to calculate the oxygen required by each individual based on their height, weight & age. This was not all, we also had a full day of confined water training with the instructor showing us all the equipment & how to correctly wear it, appropriately weighting us, teaching us simple skills like how to equalize our ears, clear our masks & the use of the most common signs under water, progressively advancing to more complex skills like maintaining buoyancy & navigating through different waters. Online tests done, in pool training done, final exam cleared, it was now finally time to hit the ocean.
We had a call time of 5am so we could be out & into the water before the rush of all the tourists. As part of the certification we had to also perform a 100mtrs open water swim test after which we strapped up into our insanely heavy equipment. Do not be overwhelmed though, the tank becomes absolutely weightless when in the water. Oh, and we totally forgot to mention, getting into those body hugging wet suits is a challenge in itself. There was certainly a lot of jumping happening on the boat just to get ourselves in it. It was a lot of fun though, especially with Hemanshu’s suit being a tad bit smaller, and boy he just got stuck inside it. Equipment & weight checks done, buddy check completed, we’re all set to jump into the blue. We tried various entries like the giant stride, the somersault, but the backward tumble was our absolute favourite.
Once under, it’s like entering into a movie from a lost sunken kingdom where the flora & fauna are so bright & varied in their shape, colour and appearance, and look so magical.
We now had the opportunity to put all the skills we’d learned over the past 2 days into practice. Yes, it was a fun dive but the focus was more on practicing and perfecting the skills we’d learned. Of the 4 dives we did, the first 2 were heavily concentrated on performing various buoyancy, navigation and breathing skills. Once we had more control of what we were doing and the instructor was satisfied with our capabilities he took us to deeper waters where try divers weren’t allowed to venture. We thought what we had previously seen was beautiful, but the deeper we went we were absolutely blown away.
Navigating through jagged rocks, schools of various fish, and the labyrinth-like coral reefs is probably one of the best things we’ve experienced and we’re now hungry for more.
After our trip to Thailand, in October we travelled to Philippines to now take our diving that one step further and get our advanced certification. We did not just do that, but also got our enriched air nitrox certification. This now qualifies us to dive down to 30mtrs & we can add extra oxygen in our tanks rather than the standard mix that contains 21% O2.
To sum it all up, we highly recommend getting a dive certification even if it’s just the basic open water one because the benefits of knowing what you’re doing make the experience far more worth it. For instance, in a fun dive, you literally get a crash course in safety and dive skills while you’re getting to the boat, or are on the boat and you can only to go down to a depth of 12mtrs where everything is just big fish, small fish, flat fish & colourful coral. However, now that we’re certified we can venture into deeper waters, we know exactly how to regulate our breathing to conservatively use oxygen hence extending our time in the water, we’re more aware of our surrounding & ensure that our fins & equipment don’t kick the reefs or touch any fish, we can tell the difference between a butterfly fish, angel fish, surgeon fish, trigger fish & many more. Diving has now become a passion, so much so that our upcoming trips are being planned around where is the best diving site and we’re preparing to be Divemasters in the near future.
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