So the diving adventure has begun… Well the real diving adventure anyway. Two 14 hour days at sea has just seen me through my advanced open water course, consisting of 5 extremely different but equally amazing diving experiences.
It started yesterday morning, the sun rising over the bay, the sea a cool 29 degrees. Our first dive of the day was a peak performance buoyancy adventure dive – essentially placing weights in different locations on your body and seeing the effect it has on your body positioning. Not the most exciting dive however the setting was gorgeous. A a collection of large frames and nets had been placed on a sandbank close to a coral reef, creating an obstacle course of dips, turns, hoops and beams. We then continued to swim through a tunnel in a nearby pinnacle. A chimney of swirling fish engulfed us as we ascended through the middle, a vortex of colour glowing fiercely from the early light which penetrated the sea’s surface.
The morning soon progressed into early afternoon as we embarked on our second dive: underwater navigation. This dive taught us more complex compass navigation, a scenic feature navigation scenario where we had to find out way back using different reefs as references, and, finally, an opportunity to lead our own dive safely. I found this particularly enjoyable which is strange because my geography skills aren’t exactly the greatest in the world… However, it’s reassuring to get some practice on orientating myself under the water because it allows me to venture further when diving without an instructor and still have confidence that I can find my way back.
However, nothing compared to the experience last night had in store. My first night dive. The water jet black against the night sky. We jumped in and instantly the world we entered appeared alien. The solid pillar of light emitted from my torch was all I had illuminating the path in front of me. We soon encountered 6 Goliath grouper, each one over 2 metres in length on a hungry prowl for prey.
A glimmer of blue flashed across my torch beam… A Blue spotted ribbon tail sting ray gliding silently over the sand before me, before flitting into a nearby crevice.
Already my heart was racing, a mixture of excitement and adrenaline pumping through my veins as I tried to come to terms with what was infront of me. I continued.
We slowly hugged the wall of a nearby rock, corals and anemone of all shapes and sizes decorated it’s surface, every couple of metres an urchin sat, creating pockmarks on the huge tapestry of life. We rounded a corner and I found myself confronting tens of stars. Or at least that was my first instinct. Last time I checked though, stars don’t move. These stars were swaying and floating, left, right, up and down. It wasn’t until we swam closer that I realised they were over divers – each one a piece of flashing mosaic, sparkling and waving their dive lights in search of something spectacular withing the gloomy depths.
Porcupine puffas. Two of them, each one the size of my forearms crunched through the shells of crabs, snails and shrimp, spraying a seafood cocktail into the surrounding water. The taste must have travelled far because soon enough a great Barracuda slithered into view, it’s snake-like body twisting and turning as it hunted for a tasty meal to end the day.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, it did. We headed back to the ascent line and turned out torches off…
Blackness hung around us, an endless tunnel of nothing. Then a spark… And another… This time a slightly larger one… Astounded, I waved my hand at the light. The water it displaced burst into colour. A firework display of blue exploded in front of me, sparks of magic dust enveloping us with the glows and twinkles of a billion bioluminescent plankton. Perfect.
I woke this morning with the phenomenon still fresh in my mind and set off again, this time on a deep dive to thirty metres to observe the wreck of sunken the WWII battleship HTMS Sattakut. It’s main tower loomed ominously in the sand. Fish swam idly through its long winding corridors and compartments. A fresh layer of silt was being kicked up by a nearby grouper chewing on an unfortunate and struggling rabbitfish.
You can’t help but shiver in the presence of such a colossal vessel with so much history. We swam over the large artillery which must have claimed the lives of so many… We swam over rooms no doubt were once filled with the cries of the wounded… It truly is breathtaking to observe such pristine monuments of the past and relive the amazing stories they once told. With the bells of curiosity still chiming around my head, we set off for the boat, leaving the 50m long warship eerily waiting in the murky abyss…