I LOVE the ocean. I love the color of the water, the feel of sand under my feet, I love the incredible organisms that live in it and the sheer vastness of the deep blue but from the get go, I was apprehensive about scuba diving. I am definitely an adventurous person but when it comes to "thrill seeking" activities, I'm a bit of a wuss. I wouldn't call Scuba diving a thrilling activity Per Se but there is a certain level of risk involved and for the inexperienced, it can certainly be dangerous. Knowing this, Vanessa and I decided that our trip to the Philippines was a perfect time to "test the waters" and see if we took to being Under the Sea.
Our hotel in Boracay, the Blue Mango Inn has a dive shop owned and operated by the sons of the owner and they give some of the best rates on the beach. Couple that with a very knowledgeable and super friendly staff and you've got a fantastic place to not only get your first dive in but your 10th, 50th and so on. We were both very glad to have a staff we could understand well and liked.
Dante was our first instructor. After watching the mandatory "Discover Diving" PADI video, Dante talked us through each part of our Scuba gear describing in detail what it does and how to use it. He even explained the parts that beginners don't really need to know about, just to give us a bit more peace of mind. I really appreciated that. Once he had quizzed us on what the parts do and how to use them, it was into the water we went!
We started off in very shallow water, just about chest height so we could get familiar with actually using the equipment. This gave me a bit of a false sense of security. It's one thing to be a foot below the water, knowing that if anything were to go wrong you can just stand up and breath. It's a totally different thing to be 40 feet below and have that fear of not being able to get to the surface to get the air you need. To be honest, it hadn't even crossed my mind at that point. I was too busy thinking about how cool it was going to be swimming around the amazing reefs not having to worry about resurfacing. The only thing I was honestly feeling timid about was my ears. For my senior year of highschool my parents paid for me to do a cruise with a bunch of my friends to Cozumel. While snorkeling, I made the mistake of diving down a bit too deep without equalizing my ear pressure and busted an eardrum. Hands down one of the most painful and scary experiences of my life. Needless to say, I've been a bit apprehensive about going too deep underwater since then. However, Dante showed us several different ways to equalize and insisted that as we went down the dive line, if we couldn't feel that release, we should go up a bit and try again. This helped me feel quite a bit more confident and as we got on the boat, my nerves were in far less of a mess than normal. We had a few other newbies going down with us that day and 3 instructors that would be diving with us. Our guide for the first actual dive was Peter, a very short, dark and cool as a cucumber Philippino who we both liked alot from the get go. He was very friendly, very helpful and very, very patient. As we reached our sight, the butterflies started fluttering and as we geared up I kept thinking to myself, "you know what to do. Ain't nothin to it but to do it!" Now I've seen the "roll out" scuba entry a thousand times on TV, but nothing quite prepares you for that first free fall plunge. First of all, it's only maybe 6 feet from the edge of the boat to the water but from where you sit it looks like 20. Second of all, you've got a 10 pound weight belt on, a 30 pound Scuba tank and a general knowledge of physics that tells you heavy things sink fast in water. I'd say it's quite logical to want to poop your pants a little. But as all Scuba divers will tell you, weight doesn't count nearly as much in water as buoyancy. And a functioning flotation vest is really all you need to keep your head above water no matter how weighed down you are. So I made sure Van went first in case I wet my pants and then sucked it up, squeezed the butt cheeks and "rolled out."
Once I hit the water, a mild wave of panic passed for just a split second and then up I bobbed to the surface without any effort. A few flip of the fins and I was holding on to the slimy yet soft dive line, ready to start our decent.
Down we went, one meter at a time, pinching our noses and popping our ears. At first, I couldn't get them to go for the life of me. Then I tried one of the other techniques they showed us, kept pushing air into my closed nose and eventually, Viola! So further and further down we went till finally we were on the sea floor. My first thought was "huh, it's warmer down here than I thought it would be. Then I looked at Van and realized she was having a bit of a hard time. I held her hand while Peter got her focused and helped her breath. I really have no idea why I took to it so well so quickly. I guess for me, knowing that there were plenty of other airtanks around gave me enough confidence that I could get air if I needed it to feel comfortable. There is certainly a level of trust in the equipment needed to know that it works and you don't need to be at the surface to breath. Once you get that and you get used to taking deep breaths in and out of your mouth, then you can enjoy the world around you.
We fed tons of beautiful but pesky fish and Peter dragged us along on a tour of the reef. We saw starfish,
blowfish, parrotfish, a HUGE sea cucumber, a ton of sea urchins which kinda freaked me out a bit and some giant clams. In a word, it was WONDERFUL!
Maybe not for V so much, who later said she kept thinking, "I can see all this on TV where I'm safe on my couch." although I think she really liked it, but it was definitely a dream come true for me!