The first dive. Early morning, P.Dayang
The island is pretty small. The place near the dormitory is was abuzz with different diving groups. The dormitory we stayed at was run by a local family who provided us with food as well. The rooms were very close to the shore, and as soon as I got onto my bunker bed, the sweet sounds of the waves lulled me to sleep. Early morning, we were ready and well fed by around 8.00 am. The first dive spot was a 40 minutes ferry ride away. This was it. I suited and geared up, ready to delve into the blue expanse of the South China Sea. The surrounding was a sight to behold. Lush green mountains, clear skies and pristine waters. We queued up to jump into the water – with a 12 kg oxygen tank, tight wet suits, goggles, and flippers!
One arm outstretched, and holding my nose with the other hand, I took one big stride & simply fell freely into the water! The chill waters engulfed me as I broke into them, took me a couple of feet underwater & back to the surface. Like a little child struggling to walk for the first time, it took me a while to gather myself and get into a comfortable state. To be amidst all the beauty, to take in the feeling of being in a huge water body, was overwhelming. Once our group of 6-7 beginners were ‘off’ board, we started our underwater drills.
The first dive commenced with our basic tests like cleaning goggles, managing the regulators etc. We knelt down on the seabed 5 m underwater and performed the tests in a row. Having completed them, we slowly warmed up to diving around the area in a group. A visibility of only 15 m doesn’t help much when we are already in unfamiliar territory, and more over, one that does not belong to us. Nevertheless, slowly but steadily, I warmed up to the environment, and began to soak in the feeling. I could move around almost effortlessly, feel light and slow and simply amazing. I began to enjoy the experience thoroughly, and by the end of it, I was only craving for more. The maximum depth we reached on the first dive was only about 10 m, and by the end of the 5th dive, we spent most of the dive time at 18 m. That’s about 5-6 storeys, which may not seem that much, but remember, it’s underwater!
On the first day, we performed 3 dives, each of which lasted roughly an hour. At about 6 pm we called it a day and freshened up for dinner. We dined and chatted on wooden benches on the shore. There we were, in the middle of the sea on a small dot of an island, going about dive stories.
By the end of the next day, we were 5 dives old. And needless to say, exhausted. For the evening tea break, I came to the beach to find some banana fritters being served. Relaxing on the beach, partly wet from the dives, soaking in the tropical sun, and relishing the banana fritters. It just couldn’t get better.
During each of the dive, as a beginner, I was fascinated by the sights of the underwater. Once, I was literally diving amidst a school of colourful fish, ranging from angel fish to clown fish. That was also when I spotted a fairly big sized squid a few feet away from us. And not to mention the really cool tiny christmas trees, which disappeared into the sponges when touched, like an underwater version of touch me not! At one point, when we were making our way back to the surface, I spotted a huge angel fish, that just appeared and disappeared simply, like that!
It was not all smooth, I also had my share of tough and slightly tense moments. It is important to control your buoyancy during the dive, so that you remain a couple of feet above the sea bed and adjust as and when needed. Coarse tuning of buoyancy is done by directly pumping air into or out of the buoyancy jacket that one wears. Fine tuning is actually done by breathing in and out – changing the volume of air in the lungs. During one of the dives, I was so lost in observing things around me , I didn’t realize that slowly I was going up and almost hit the surface. The whole group was ahead of me, way below at a depth of 16 m, and the assistant instructor failed to notice this. Whoa, I had to remain calm, and join the group. Slowly contracted my lungs, and pumped out air from the jacket and made my way back to the group. Phew.
Sometimes I had a problem exactly opposite to the above, I went so low to the seabed and stirred some sand, creating a haze. That’s a common problem with most beginners though. Barring these hiccups, the dives were fairly smooth.
Nothing less than a unique experience. I had a whirlwind of a time. The trip went by quickly, and I was so craving for more dives. It’s a totally different, almost of out the world experience. And for all you water lovers out there, you simply have to go dive! – at least once in your lifetime.