My team was stuck. We had decided to take a short cut to Sodwanna bay through a game reserve and, since the road less traveled is always more fun, we had gotten stuck in the mud. The guys jumped out and pushed and pulled to get the SUV’s out of the mud while the girls kept an eye out for lions in the area. Boys will be boys. They laughed as hollered as they got one car after the other free. If this was the beginning of our adventure week of scuba training we were in for a treat!
We showed up at the lodge as it was getting dark. I had expected a rustic setup as we only needed a place to fall into exhausted sleep at night, but the lodge was stunning. White linnen covered the beds and the kitchen was fully equipped with extra freezers and more than enough space to cook for our team of 20 people.
Most of the rooms walked out on a wrap around porch next to the pool. In the background I heard the familiar sound of the compressor filling cylinders for the next day’s scuba launch. I was in heaven.
My team are all novice divers and had just finished their e-learning theory of the open water scuba course at home. We did the exam at the kitchen table the following day and then headed outside for gear training and a fitting session. Each prospective diver were given a wetsuit, boots, fins, mask, buoyancy control device (BCD) also known as a buoyancy compensator, and a diving regulator. The divers tugged and pulled to get their wetsuits on and exchanged sizes until everyone was fitted into a wetsuit that would keep them warm in the water. Next Christo and Petro (our SSI instructors) showed them how to assemble their diving gear so that the BC is connected to the cylinder and the regulator gives air to the diver. Each diver were checked and helped until they could assemble their gear on their own.
Day 2:Pool sessions
Gear was assembled and wetsuits put on before everyone went into the pool and took a few minutes to breathe under the water – a new sensation for anyone who has never tried scuba diving. They floated around the pool until they could breathe easily before the instructors began their skills lessons.
The students had te clear their masks under the water by blowing air through their noses, they were taught to retrieve their regulators should it somehow be bumped out of their mouths by someone swimming past and they were taken through some emergency procedures like sharing air and what to do in case you lose your group under the water. The instructors took time to explain and teach buoyancy and the importance of conserving the reef, how to equalise your ears and how to do a giant stride entry into the water. They listened to fears and guided the students through panic to calmness. They joked. They laughed. They played… but most of all they laid the foundation of good diving practises that will help theses divers for years to come.
Day 3: Off to sea
The team was ready early that morning for their first sea dive. The drive to the beach was mostly quiet, the nerves showing on the prospective diver’s faces. They had trained and studied, but this was the big show… the ocean was waiting.
Christo and Petro waited on the beach for everyone to arrive. The group quietly got into their wetsuits and Christo smiled at the stressed faces. They got their gear ready and the Sea Xplore team loaded it onto the boat. They got their briefing about what to expect on the dive and what they had to do. “You are going to see amazing things down there and once you get on the boat your mouthes will be running nonstop about what you’ve experienced,” Christo said and laughed knowingly in Pieter’s direction – the only qualified diver on the boat.
The group pushed the boat into the water and after Christo did a safety turn in the water they were off to deep sea for their first experience of life under the sea.
Just over an hour later they were back and it sounded like a bunch of birds in a tree, twittering to each other and chatting nonstop. Petro got off the boat and strode towards me on the beach. “They CAN dive after today! Conditions out there were crap!” The team didn’t know any better so they relived the beautiful coral reefs and the fish they had seen over and over. The ride back to the lodge was far from quiet!
Day 4: 2 Ocean dives
Going back into the ocean for their consecutive sea dives came much easier the following day. The stressful expressions of the previous day had been replaced with excited anticipation as my team got their gear ready on the beach. The sea conditions had improved and the group came back from the first dive of the morning beaming and regaling us with stories of the dive. We had a quick lunch before I headed out with them for the second dive of the day. It had been 2 years since I had gone diving and I lost myself in the beauty of the reef and the weightlessness I love in the water. I had forgotten why I loved diving and with one breath of air under water I was hooked again.
When we got back to the lodge we had a nice surprise. Sea Xplore had decided to give the kids older than 10 years a “discover scuba” course. It basically consisted of a pool session to train the basic skills of diving and a sea dive in which each student has an instructor with them at all times. The kids swam in the pool like koi fish in a pond – enjoying the freedom of breathing under water. They would head to sea the next day for a sea dive.
Day 5: Qualifying dives
The ocean was choppy and foamed in the wind as we got ready for the last qualifying dive in the ocean. Motion sickness was on everyone’s minds as we got on the boat for the short ride to two mile reef. The divers did their last skills session in the ocean and enjoyed the beauty of the reef before officially qualifying as open water divers.
After a short meal it was time for the two boys to head to the deep sea with their instructors. Their moms joined the dive with nervous faces. It was one thing to dive in the ocean and quite another to watch your child taking the same risks. The boys were scared but still decided to get on the boat. We jolted in the waves as Christo steered the boat masterfully through the waves and finally got to the reef. It was time to dive. The boys got their gear on and I took the buoy line before we got our count down. “3…2…1…GO!” We fell backwards into the water and started our descent. I waited at the bottom for the divers to come down, counting the number of people as they slowly came down. Last of all the two boys came down to the reef with big eyes and exhaling fast – their instructors never leaving their sides. They pointed and looked around with excitement and finally slowed their breathing and calmed their flailing arms and legs. They looked around the reef and saw fish that they had only seen in movies and on television. We had two future divers. Their mothers took pictures with them before finishing the dive and returning to the surface.
It was the last dive of the trip and everyone felt a loss as we visited around the fire that night. The next morning we had to pack the cars and head back to normal life on the surface while our hearts were left on the bottom of the ocean.
Kenny made sure he took his with him when he asked Manda to be his girlfriend – UNDER WATER!
Facing the facts:
A lot of people are scared of scuba diving because they are afraid of sharks, don’t know how it works or feel intimidated by the exam. Here are some facts to help you with those nagging questions:
1. You do not have to be fit or even able to walk to scuba dive. Yes, you read that right. Even people with disabilities can dive.
2. You are more likely to be killed in a car accident than to become shark bait. Sharks attacks are rare in general and they are more interested in fish than people. The odds of getting attacked and killed by a shark are 1 in 3,748,067 according to the Wild Life Museum. You are more likely to die of a heart attack (1 in 5).
3. You are never too old to learn to dive. The current oldest active scuba diver in the world is Ray Woolley, he is 95 years old.
4. You can dive even if you have high blood pressure – go to your doctor for a checkup before diving but as long as you take your blood pressure medication you can dive.
5. You won’t be allowed to dive while pregnant. The influence of diving on pregnancy is unknown and therefore not allowed.
6. You have to be 10 years old to do a diving course and can get a full certification if you are 15 years or older.
7. The weight of the water won’t crush you. As long as you equalise your ears you won’t even feel the pressure of the water around you.
8. Dives last between 20 and 45 minutes in general, depending on your ability, stress levels and the depth at which you dive.
9. Cost involved:All your diving gear and launch fees are included in your diving course. The price will depend on the size of your group and the type of course you want to do. You can get a quote for a diving course from firstname.lastname@example.org or phone us at +2717 634 5799.