Discovering the Diver Within
I’ve mentioned it before but…in April 2013 on my belated honeymoon at Japamala on Tioman Island, Malaysia (pretty amazing place to stay if you have the opportunity) I reluctantly went snorkelling with my husband of eight months. When I was little it was a job to wrench me out of the water, sea or pool I was a fish and loved swimming, underwater especially. But something happened along the way (might well’ve been seeing Jaws) and the sea no longer held any appeal for me. In fact it pretty much terrified me.
Snorkelling at Japamala was just about bearable, the water was crystal clear and not too deep and the pier that stretched several hundred feet into the ocean marked the beginning of the deep water and for me, the no go zone. We snorkelled a few times, me holding J’s hand and positioning him between me and the deep. Then we had friends come and join us, yes on our honeymoon, we’re sociable people, even though J will forever deny that, and we made plans to take a boat to a close by Mini Island known for its snorkelling and its black tip sharks. I was pretty terrified especially when our friends got in the water and were excited to see several sharks swimming underneath our boat. At this point there was no way I was going in the water and was having a mini breakdown. After some gentle persuasion by J I did go in, after all there were boat loads of Chinese tourists in life jackets being towed by boats, how bad could it be? In fact it wasn’t bad at all, and surely a hungry shark would eat them first. It was my first experience of real magic, an underwater paradise teeming with all sorts of life. As we swam all the way around this little island we’d seen only baby sharks and I was beginning to relax when J made the sign for shark and pointed about ten feet away. To a HUGE blacktip, it was seven to eight feet long and thick and the way they move is EXACTLY like in jaws and just as terrifying. But instead of freaking out I grabbed our disposable underwater camera and started taking pictures. Of course I was shaking so badly none of them came out but that’s not the point I had swum with sharks. Admittedly sharks that are not known for eating people but who knows if every black tip shark got the ‘we don’t eat people’ memo.
After that we snorkelled whenever we could and knew when we were planning this trip that we would be buying fins in Thailand pretty much as soon as we arrived, which we did. So we snorkelled a few times in Thailand and then headed over to Malaysia where, having been out of the water for too long, we made plans for a four day three night snorkel trip to Redang Island, which you can read about here. Our snorkel trip suddenly and rather unexpectedly turned into our doing our PADI Open Water Certification. We had never even talked about diving before this and the only reason I can give for it coming about, is that whenever we would snorkel I was constantly flooding my tube as I tried to get deeper, so it seemed in that moment a logical step. Tim, AB, Lorenzo and Janine, our instructors and Master Divers at Redang Kalong were FANTASTIC and our first diving experiences were pretty magical, we felt totally safe and we saw big sharks, turtles and all sorts of other wonders. We were hooked pretty much straight away. If you are new to diving I highly recommend them, they were calm, strong and reassuring and put us at ease with their obvious experience and wonderful senses of humour.
We had scheduled to come to Gili Meno in Indonesia for a month long before any thought of diving. It has wonderful reefs for snorkelling and we knew after several months of fairly on the go travel we would be wanting to recharge for a while. And what a wonderful decision that turned out to be. Karl, the owner of Tropical Hideaways, our accommodation on the island, is also the owner of Blue Marlin Dive and after a week of doing nothing more strenuous that walking to different restaurants and lounging by and in our salt water pool we signed up for our PADI Open Water Advanced Certification which involves five dives which must include deep and navigation. We chose, wreck, peak performance buoyancy and Fish Identification to complete the five. Sulman, our instructor, and Gili Meno born and bred, was an excellent guide and our baby diver skills quickly advanced. Diving is one of those things where you can always be learning. Every dive since has been a bit more learning, a bit more fun and a bit more experience.
There are a dozen or so dives sites around the three Gilis; turtle heaven, exactly as its name sounds somewhere you are more than likely to encounter one or more of the many majestic green sea and hawksbill turtles that call this area home; Deep turbo where we swam amidst a swirl of a thousand jacks; Simons reef with coral canyons and a wicked current. The diving is great for beginners as well as more experienced divers, with great visibility and abundant sea life each dive we went on delivered something new. We would happily return to Meno again and again to dive the lovely waters.
There are a few dive outfits on Meno and a lot more on Trawangan and Air. Blue Marlin were great for us, they have the only dive pool on Meno, both local and European instructors, a very family atmosphere, unsurprising with only 350 local inhabitants. Any equipment issues were dealt with quickly, our instructors were fantastic and all of the guides we dove with were knowledgeable, competent and also good fun.
Having done our PADI advanced and planning to leave Meno to go to Bali we suddenly had a change of plan and stayed an extra week to complete our first Emergency First Responder training and then our PADI Rescue Diver Certification. This would be the course I would recommend to anyone planning to do any diving. It was hard work, especially with our very talented but crazy instructor feigning every underwater emergency you can imagine and some you would never dream of but what a wealth of knowledge we came away with.
This has been a journey I could never have imagined, I am realizing that believing in yourself is pretty magical. It is a little known fact that you are pretty unstoppable when you do Xx
Blog updated 22nd November 2015