Now I’m doing “proper” dives. Open water is just all the basics your need to physically dive safely. The advanced adventurer diver course pushes you to do more. The idea being you are more independent and confident in the water and with your surroundings.
First we had a short classroom session and then it was straight on the boat to our first dive location. There was zero prompting about checks, we are meant to know what we are doing now. Up to us if we cock it up and have problems, like dying, as a result. It certainly focuses the mind.
The first dive was all about body position and buoyancy control. You are in a kind of skydiver position, which on land is agonising on your lower back. In the water however you are weightless so only need a bit of effort to keep the correct posture. In this position you are basically hanging in free space, ideally never touching anything on your journey. You then gain a sort of extra set of controls over your body. Breathing in deeply you can be heading for a rock and just drift slowly upwards over it. Then the other side, breathing out all the way will bring you smoothly back down again. It’s really quite a cool trick to learn. It’s super important to keep the body position and control your breathing. Both to conserve air in your tank and not to end up popping to the surface like a cork.
After a tank swap and a short ride to the next site we focussed on navigation. I’ve used a compass a few times out hillwalking, but under the water, with everything else that is going on, you really have to pay attention. We did a simple straight line out and back for a number of kicks. Next was a square box, that you might use to check an area for a lost diver. Each time we were meant to come back to a sort of red coral covered rock. Unfortunately we overshot the mark on my nav but we weren’t far off. Just the visibility was down to 2m in places which made it hard. It was also difficult to stay in contact distance with Phil. Apparently we did ok though as Joel, our instructor, was impressed.
We had 2 hours now for some food before our super exciting, nerve racking, increased danger, night dive! Yup, diving, underwater, at night. Because breathing down there isn’t dangerous enough, let’s add some sensory deprivation too. Wahoo!
I’m man enough to admit I was a bit nervous about this. I’ve only been diving for 4 days in my entire life and only just learnt to do this safely in normal, perfect condition, well lit, warm water. Descending into the inky blackness, I could feel my heart rate rising. Again we had pretty poor visibility to start with so all you could see were the shafts of light piercing the middle distance. Looking over at Phil and Joel they looked like spaceships slowly falling out of the cinematic fog in a sci-fi movie.
The bottom came up pretty quickly out of nowhere and we grouped up before heading off around the site. You had to be pretty careful to scan the area you were driving. More than once I was illuminating a fish or a cool bit of coral, drifting along, only to look forwards again and find my face inches away from an aggressive black sea urchin. Everything was fine but you gotta stay aware of your surroundings. We were also lucky that Joel was so cool and brought his UV torch along. This changed the entire experience. Wherever you pointed the UV light the corals lit up like some crazy sci-fi avatar disco show. Some of them didn’t light up at all and others were brilliant oranges and reds. They looked like lava flows down the side of the rock faces with sleepy fishes hovering around.
Such a cool experience, we were totally psyched getting out of the water. It’s a whole other world down there and now we can be a part of it. We reflected on this during the boat ride back to shore; the incredible stars above us, the lit up shoreline of bars and restaurants, the boat chugging along and flying fish jumping out of the way. I am so privileged to be a part of this world and have the opportunity to travel like this. Perfect.