20.000 Leagues Under The Sea - almost
During the course of four days, I became a certified PADI diver this month!! This opens me the door to a whole new world and gives me the opportunity to see underwater worlds all over the world. But let's start from the beginning....
Diving has always been something I was thinking about doing, but never really had the chance to do it. Here in Coffs, there is the Jetty DIve Shop. Whenever I walked to the beach or strolled around the Jetty Strip, I walked by it. One day, I went in and checked out the open water course to become a diver. I talked to my host dad Patrick, whose family used to own a diving store at the British Virgin Islands, Caribbean, and who is also a diver, and asked him whether he'd recommend it. A little later, he told me that it is a good place to learn how to dive and he would even financially support me... wait, what??? First, I thought I didn't read the message correctly. I couldn't believe it and didn't know how to show him how thankful I am. So Patrick, when you read this, thank you so much for helping me and introducing me to the world of diving!
The next day, I went right to the store and signed up for the next possible course.
It is a four day course, first day in the classroom, second in a pool and the last two out on the ocean. I was excited, told my friends and everyone at work what I'm going to do. Until the course started, I had to wait though... five long days. The morning of the 10th of January it was time. I got up early as we always started around 7 - 730am. In the classroom there were already two other people waiting - Liam and Sophie. Both were doing the PADI open water course with me. Andrew and Lindsay, our instructors for the course were super chill and easy going and told us what we were about to do for the upcoming days.
As I said, the first day is going to be in the classroom and that's literally all we did. We received a learning book and watched a study video for each of the five chapters. After each video we filled out a review in the book and answered the quiz. That took about 6-7 hours! Without the coffee during the breaks, I'd have fallen asleep for sure. At the end of day 1, we all passed the quizzes and the final exam - the written test was done. When I went home, I couldn't wait for the next day to come as I was so excited to finally go diving. Even though it was only in a local pool, but that didn't matter.
On day two, we packed all our gear up in the van and drove to the Coffs Pool.
I was about to put on my wetsuit when Lindsay said we had to swim 200m first. Easy. 10 minutes floating. No problem. Alright, now we can get ready. It was a weird but cool feeling to have all the gear on. We started in the shallow zone of the pool so we could still stand and did a variety of skills. Later, we swam into the "deep" zone where the bottom was 2m down. It was enough though to dive down and float in the water like there is no gravity, breathing slowly in and out through the regulator... It was amazing!
The next morning and with it day three of my diving course came up and I was more than ready to go out on the ocean. Our dive spot was South Solitary Island.
Sophie, Liam and I weren't the only people diving that day. With us came a group of about 12 tourists from Sydney, Brisbane and other places from around the world who were just diving on their own. One of them, an elderly lady was testing a frame for a camera. We talked and I asked how much such a frame would cost and she said around 1000$... wow, I chose quite an expensive new hobby. At the Jetty Dive Shop we all assembled our BCD's, got our fins, masks and weights and packed it all on the trailer. Just a short drive later, we were at the harbor loading everything on the boat. Andrew was our skipper and Lindsay was going in the water with us.
The boat drive was a little choppy and took about 30 minutes. When we arrived we saw South Solitary Island in all its beauty. Heaps of birds sitting, nesting and flying around the island, a sea eagle sitting on a higher rock and the light house watching over the ocean.
As the rest of the group got ready to do their dives, Lindsay told us again what was about to happen now, what hand signs we were going to use and what kind of skills we were learning. Cash, his assistant instructor was helping him.
I was only half listening, already thinking about what it is going to be like under water. We got all ready, I went in the water last and then rolled backwards into the ocean... A little colder than the pool and quite the surf but I was in the water. All of us swam towards the mourning line and waited for Lindsay to tell us what we were going to do.
Liam and Lindsay went down first, Sophie and I followed with Cash coming last to watch us for safety reasons. Liam had some trouble equalizing though, so he had to swim back to the boat and skip his first dive unfortunately. The two of us continued descending and as we kept equalizing we saw what was going on around us. Heaps of fish school around us, we saw a small sea turtle and even encountered a couple of Grey Nurse and Wobbegong sharks! It was literally out of this world. My mind couldn't process what I was doing and seeing at the moment.
We finished our skills and ascended again with a safety stop where we practiced our bubble rings again. Back on the boat, I was about to change into my trunks, when Lindsay said we have a second dive to do in a bit. I totally forgot about that in my excitement! Now I was even more pumped to go back down again. After a cup of tea and a few bites to eat, we went back down to the beautiful underwater world of the South Solitary Marine Park. Practiced more skills, fought the quite strong current which kept pushing us back and forth and encountered more amazing species as Lion fish and Puffer fish. One thing that was worrying me the whole time, were all the sea urchins that covered the bottom of the ocean and rocks like a mine field. And it hurts like crazy like Cash told me out of experience. We came back up to the boat, just in time as it started to rain and as we drove back to the harbor, the rain was following us. Cleaning up was the next part of the dives, but we all helped and it was done in no time. I was already thinking about the next day and the next two dives.
Dive three and four were at South Solitary again. First, we had to do a few more skills to become certified divers and on the last dive we could focus on exploring the underwater world. Some of the skills we did were removing the mask, letting the regulator free flow and practicing running out of air. This time I didn't forget we had a second dive, but the crew still thought it was quite funny how excited I was the day before. Lindsay took his GoPro with him and we got some good shots.
We drove back to the harbor and on our way we were accompanied by a couple of dolphins playing with the surf of our boat. Nice little surprise and everyone had fun watching them. Coming back to harbor meant we passed the course and are certified divers now. The four days passed by way too fast and I'll never forget my first dives ever here at South Solitary. We filled in our dive logs and I spent about 150 minutes under water. I asked Lindsay how long his TBT (Total Bottom Time) is and he answered "About 34 days"... Shit. Long way to go for me, but I look forward to explore more underwater worlds and use my new learned skill as often as possible.