Travelogue Asia 2017: Scuba Diving in Maldives

Asia, blog, Travel
Scuba diving has always been something in the back of my mind. The love for the ocean developed young, though I didn’t grow up next to the ocean – I vicariously imagined myself swimming with fish and “friendlier” animals while watching Planet Earth in my living room with my family.
Then my family discovered this tiny place in the middle of the Pacific Ocean called Hawaii. We fell in love with the hospitality of the Hawaiians, I discovered surfing and love for the ocean grew tenfold. The way your body and board glide with the wave on a surfboard is an indescribable feeling. It was through my surf instructor (and mentor) that I really understood the value of respecting the ocean. We have been returning almost every summer since.
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Hawaii

Our family move from Toronto to Vancouver and my love for the ocean continued to expand, vast and seemingly unending like the ocean itself.

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Vancouver

Fast forward, I’m planning this trip in Asia with two friends and scuba diving crosses my mind several times but almost immediately the thought gets buried by other planning considerations.

We arrive in Ukulhas, completely unaware that we’re in a prime scuba diving spot. But we’re waiting to checkin to our B&B and I notice a binder titled “excursions and ocean adventures”. Ocean adventures! On the last page, skipping all the romantic sunset blah blah dinners, I find myself fixated on the scuba diving page. “Look!” I point to the photo of a sea turtle next to a diver. We try to decipher the names, “discovery dive”, “adventure dive”, “PADI certification” and what they mean.

Curious I ask the employee working at the desk. He apologizes because he has no idea what he’s looking at either.

We find ourselves at the dive center the same evening negotiating prices for the diving license (certified by PADI, which is an educational and professional association for open water scuba divers). We agree on a sweet price and he compliments a free dive! We walked home and we’re laughing because of how spontaneous this decision was.

We are told that we will finish the course in 3 full days.

Day 1: the basics

-introductions
-in class review of all equipment
-safety orientation
-take deep breaths, inhale… exhale… inhale… never hold your breath (yoga proves helpful for scuba diving!)
We practice in the shallow waters of the ocean in a lagoon. It seems clumsy the way I move with all the gear. I’m so concentrated on breathing that I forget I’m underwater. The day ends feeling completely exhausted but I’m fascinated by it all.
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Day 2: the exercises

-exercises continue
-eager to do an open water dive
-seems like we’re learning a lot in a short amount of time
-quick swimming test – pass, breezy!
-realization that being comfortable in the ocean through surf and being a strong swimmer is helpful for scuba diving
-study/quizzes/exam – pass!
Our instructor reminds us of all that we learned yesterday. The review makes me feel more confident. We’re back in the shallow water we were in yesterday continue to learn and practice. I’m concentrated less on breathing and more with my surrounding. Breathing feels more natural now.
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Day 3: the dives!

-early morning start!
-boating away from Ukulhas
-stunning blue ocean surrounding
-soaking in sun on the roof of the boat as we wait for our first dive spot
-dive 1, 2, 3!

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Summary of 3 dives today: I saw… 5 turtles, 2 sharks, 1 million fishes. I made it to depths of 20m and stayed under water for almost 2.5 hours, changing tanks 3 times. It was indescribable! I’m in completely in awe about the whole experience!

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Day 4: bonus day of diving

Today’s dive was alongside brightly coloured and beautifully intricate coral. The best part is a tie between two moments. The first, when I was diving and looked up, there were hundreds of tiny fish (the size of your finger) and they were swirling together, like as if the were blowing in the wind underwater. The would lightly tap on my skin before swirling in another direction.

They were a couple of different groups of tiny fish that were gliding in the waters in a fluid movement – it was like a planet earth scene. We’re not in our constructed world anymore, we are strangers to another world underwater and in the ocean.The second best part was when the boat was stopped over a shallow reef. And it was a spot known for manta rays. Since manta rays need to come closer to the surface to get some sun. Then I asked if I could jump out and swim with them, and the crew said ‘absolutely!’ so I put on my goggles and fins, and jump in with the others. The waves were swishing around and I found myself exhausted from swimming again the current. I gasped for air several times and found myself drinking sea water.

The second best part was when the boat was stopped over a shallow reef. And it was a spot known for manta rays. Since manta rays need to come closer to the surface to get some sun. Then I asked if I could jump out and swim with them, and the crew said ‘absolutely!’ so I put on my goggles and fins, and jump in with the others. The waves were swishing around and I found myself exhausted from swimming again the current. I gasped for air several times and found myself drinking sea water.

It was tiring but I got so close to them, at one point a manta ray glided right under me, less than a meter below. And another moment when I could see it’s white belly and look at its eyes. I was moved because it was the wild. It wasn’t a confined tank or through the glass of a tank. If I could cry in the ocean, I would have.

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Scuba diving has been an incredible adventure in the Maldvies. I’m thankful that through this ‘sport’, my life has opened up a whole new world – one that is complex, intricate, interconnected… beautiful.

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You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
You belong with love on your arm
You belong somewhere you feel free

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Finding myself in nature. Expressing myself through art, writing and photography. Join me on this adventure!