I’m very active but I rarely participate in water sports, unless I’m on holiday. I’ve snorkeled with turtles and swam with Dolphins but up until last month I had never been scuba diving before. If I’m honest I’m a little bit scared of the water because I hate knowing that once you’re in the sea, you are pretty much helpless. Even when I snorkeled with Turtles in the beautiful Caribbean ocean, my mind still taunted me with images of sharks. But being in the Gili Islands, I wanted to explore the waters.
Gili Trawangan’s perfect blue sea
Learning how to dive is actually easier than you think. We practiced our breathing techniques and found our buoyancy (floating) in a pool that was around two meters deep. It took a bit of getting used to, breathing through an oxygen tank instead of your nose, but after a few minutes I started to feel like Scuba Steve! I quickly realised that I needed to keep my breathing consistent otherwise I would sink or float, depending on which one I was doing too much of.
After about an hour of practicing our techniques we climbed into a boat and headed out to sea. When we reached our diving spot, we noticed that the sea patrol were circling the waters.
I turned to my more experienced co-divers to see that they all had glitter in their eyes and a wicked smile had spread across their faces. “There’s a Shark!” My heart almost jumped out of my chest as I exchanged glances with the instructor and whispered to Jordon “Is there a Shark?”. I thought it was a whisper but it was loud enough for the instructor to hear and he said with every bit of confidence ” There is no Shark”. And with that, I suited up and jumped backwards off the boat and into the water.
One of the things you’ll notice during your descent is that the pressure makes your ears hurt. I found it really painful, whereas Jordon didn’t. Once we had found our buoyancy and descended to twelve feet, my ears stopped hurting and I had my first real look at the underworld.
I felt insignificant, fish swam by us again and again and didn’t even acknowledge that we were there. You don’t realise how vast the ocean is, too. There are fish everywhere but because there is so much space it doesn’t feel saturated. Time doesn’t seem to exist either. You are so unaware of the world and what’s above you. It’s just you and the underworld, and it’s really peaceful.
We saw turtles and fish of every colour of the rainbow. Although I was concentrating on my breathing, I must have been breathing in more than I was out, because I often found myself skimming the seabed and hitting the coral! (I still feel guilty).
In comparison to the descent, the assent was quick and when we got back on the boat the more experienced divers who dove to 18 meters said the five words that I had been dreading to hear “Did you see the sharks?” Plural? SHARKS?!
The other divers had spotted not one but three sharks during their dive. They said the biggest one was about 1.5m and they followed it around for about 20 minutes. “I wonder if the Shark went back to his friends and said “I saw some humans today, they followed me around for about 20 minutes.” is what one of the other divers said. And even I managed to crack a smile.
I think my instructor knew that there was a strong possibility of crossing paths with a shark, but if he had told me this I would not have got in and I would have missed out on my first Padi diving experience.
If you are thinking about trying scuba diving, here are my top three tips.
The key to being a good scuba diver is keeping your breathing consistent. As soon as you start to panic, your breathing changes and you will lose buoyancy and start to go up and down. Take big deep breaths and in and out and if at any time you feel scared or have a problem, let your instructor know as they are there to help.
2. Look everywhere
This one may sound silly but as a new diver, you’ll be so focused so much on following your instructor that you’ll forget to do things like look up, or even look down. When I was down there I was turning around, looking down, looking up and even swimming backwards. I wanted to see everything.
3. Forget about the Sharks
Although people will tell you “there are no Sharks here”, you can never be sure. We dived in Shark territory, a few even swam with the Sharks but we were all returned to the boat in one peace. The fish generally aren’t interested in you. Respect the Ocean and you will be just fine. Well that’s what I told myself.
I would love to hear about your diving experiences. I plan to do my open water course so that I can dive more, where should I dive next?