I’m an Advanced Diver, Yay!

This is a sequel of my previous post as i have written in too many words there without giving any details about how my course went so i was thinking maybe i can write it here before moving to my next dive trip after Phi Phi which is in Sabah, Malaysia (so stay tune).

Alrighty, where do i start? It had been almost 5 months since my last dive in Lembongan Island, Bali, so i was required to take refreshing skill sort of thing on my day one. It was just getting familiar wearing and using scuba gear again, i did it in a pool with a fun and wit divemaster JP from Blue View Divers. Half of my morning i spent at the pool, refreshing my skills and remembering what i had learnt like how to clear my mask, control my buoyancy without floating my BCD, find my regulator and re-put it in my mouth, and so forth. And then i spent the rest of my day at the dive shop reading my thick manual, learning theories about Peak Performance Buoyancy and Deep Diving until lunch time. Continued with Underwater Navigation, Underwater Photography, and Night Diving, and of course doing my written test afterwards (that is my friend, the most un-fun part, please i need to be IN the water!). But i survived on day one.

I had big dinner in the evening, felt like my brain had been squeezed to its limit and it made me super hungry. If you’ve ever been in this condition maybe all you need is same as me, italian food! With greasy and amazingly tasty pasta, i must say, dolce vita.. Ah yes, try Italian Restaurant named Cosmic, they have the best wood-fired pizza (second best after one in Gili Trawangan i suppose), nice atmosphere with wooden tables and brick walls. I was so full with good food even the loud beach party down my resort couldn’t impede me and my good sleep with full tummy.

I woke up in the morning feeling happy because it’s water time! After a long day suffering from learning theories i actually will do it all at this very day. But my course didn’t start until 1100 am in the morning. So i spent my morning by walking around the island, had toast and omellete and OJ for my breakfast. I was so ready! Went to dive shop at 1100 sharp, met an OW course student Ronan from Irish, we both were so excited to be in the open water. We walked to the pier, picking up another passenger (darn can’t remember his name, i’m gonna call him Dave from England), Dave is a divemaster has 300 logs and counting! Finally after a few chit chat with Ronan and Dave, the sea and the long tail boat i had been waiting to be on, appeared before my eyes.

If you think that i climbed onto that boat straight after i got there, wrong! That’s what i thought too. Remember my exams i had answered on the day before? Yes it needed to be corrected, appraised, and reviewed by my Instructor, Caroline. So we were sitting at the pier, learning (again), but this time it was brief. Finally, i got on the boat, going to my first destination “oh-i-need-to-look-at-my-log” site to do my Peak Performance Buoyancy lesson. Got there feeling seasick from high wave and fast long tail boat (not a good combination), i managed to stay calm until i splashed myself into the water, then in all of the sudden i didn’t need to push myself to be calm anymore because the water had done it for me. I kicked  my fins hard, breathed the salty air deeply, stretched every muscle in my body, put my reg on, and descended…

Guess i’m supposed to say; viz was good about 15-20 m, currents was strong at the surface but not too strong down below, started at 200 bar, with bottom time around one hour (isn’t it amazing?), ended at 20-30 bars. I had to pass this lesson due to my next lesson which was UW Photography. Once i was in the water, i realized there was something wrong with my mask, it kept fogging. Oh my i ALWAYS have this problem! Lucky my instructor brought spare mask, so i gave her signal “something wrong” and pointed at my mask, we stopped on sandy bottom area and i swapped my troubled mask with a new one, it stings i know, when salty water comes into your eyes. But i did it well, she even clapped for me underwater. She said when we were on boat, how could you be so calm and relax when changing your mask, i just smiled, proud of myself, haha.

Another things that i proud of are.. First, i was terribly bad at controlling my buoyancy, that’s why i was terrified when i heard that i’m gonna have to take Peak Buoyancy Performance, it’s a must, no bargaining. To let you know how bad i was, there’s a practice when you have pool lesson on OW course called Fin Pivot, you lay on your belly on the bottom, and try to push yourself like push up but on this practice use your lungs instead of your arms, you must deflate your BCD, and control your buoyancy only by breathing, when you breath in your torso will elevate because your lungs is full of air and this makes you floating, and vice versa with breathing out. I couldn’t do it, i kept breathing shallow, i could only either laying flat facing down or a bit up with my finger pushing my body. So on PPB lesson, my instructor had to teach me from scratch, took a little time to practice my Fin Pivot again, she wouldn’t go to next lesson until i’m able to do it. After a few of practices, out of nowhere i got this feeling, i breathed in deeply, tried to relax, let go of my worries, and focused on my whole body as i’m the master of my body and mind too of course, i told them to get up. As amazed as i hardly believe it, they obeyed me, i ascended a bit, and when i exhaled, i decended a bit, the deeper i took my breath the more i ascended. This confirmed me that i was ready to the next step, which is hovering. Oh Lord help me! I was still extaced from passing my Fin Pivot, but now i had to practice hovering. Ok, i’m not gonna embarass myself by telling the world how it went, let’s say i passed it after struggling a little. So yes now my buoyancy is excellent, this course really brushed on my basic skills.

Second thing, after i practiced one and two things about buoyancy control, it’s time to exploring the sea! Since i could control my breath and everything, i learnt how to conserve my air by practice, so that saying is true, practice makes perfect. I counted when i breath, inhale in 8 counts, same with exhale, that way i could save my air, that’s why dearly friends, we could have one hour bottom time with 20-30 bars left. I owe big thanks to Caroline for teaching me this. One more reason why we could have a long bottom time, that long until JP and Emma (she was Ronan’s instructor) looked worried when everyone else had been on the boat except me and Carol, is because we’re woman. Woman use less air to breath than man. I didn’t believe this until i found out by myself that Ronan’s bottom time was 15 minutes with 30 bars left. Man!

Next confined session is Navigation Diving, after we took break at Maya Bay (they were really good at finding quiet beach where it looked like no more space on that bay), i had pad thai noodles, yum! And had my lesson reviewed to make sure that i fully understand of navigation diving. She borrowed me a compass, taught me how to use it, and told me to practice over and over again at the beach. This skill may come handy someday, i or we divers tend to follow our divemaster/instructor when fun diving so busy admiring underwater lives that we’re kinda “oh we’re here again, we were diving in circle all along without noticing it” when our time is up and have to ascend. In fact we dive in rectangle, and counting fin kicks to be rectangled, or we can use environment marks like, this big rock is where we start and we have to finish near this rock again. Or we can use the sun, like from where it comes. Or we can mark our boat from the bottom, et cetera.. Our dives ended here for today, i was so excited i could hardly wait for my next lessons.

The next morning was time to do Deep Diving, with this course i’m now allowed to dive up to 30 meters deep, isn’t it exciting? I learnt on my confined session, that the deeper we go the more air we use because of more pressure, she told me this by bringing an egg and empty plastic bottle, when we reached 28 meters her bottles was so squeezed, and she broke the egg to see that it still coped as if it was still in its shell not scattered, interesting eh? I had problem with my ear when we were descending, for half second i kinda fainted almost fell on a carpet of sea urchins, lucky i became conscious quickly and lucky again my instructor was aware of my unusual behaviour and dragged me up to ascend. Then we started descending again but this time i could equalize well. I wouldn’t regret it because for the first time i saw sharks, feeding frenzy black tip sharks. Yep i made sure of myself to not get too excited and pet them, always love them, sharks rock!

We took break at Maya Bay with pad thai noodles again, i really didn’t mind since that beach is the most relaxing and calming beach i’ve ever been. We played water ball and i prepared my underwater camera, well technically it wasn’t mine, it belongs to my ex (now), but at that time we played by the role “what’s mine is yours”, ever heard about that? So when i took my course that camera was mine too, lol. Anyways, this lesson was the most exciting one, it has always been my interest to be able to take underwater pictures or movies even, with proper techniques of course. And my buoyancy control is the main key to do this stuff properly.

A few underwater photography tips from me (remember, i’m not a professional UW Photographer, so you might wanna take this as friendly tips):

  1. Water absorbs colors as you go deeper, so stay shallow if you wanna take pics with vibrant colors, unless you use color correction for your camera.
  2. Try to be in the same level with your objects and be as close as you can, this way you will get a more life pictures.
  3. Watch your gear, keep them tucked in. And of course watch your fins, you can easily get carried away hunting a good object you won’t realized that you just kick a 100 years coral.
  4. It’s okay to hold on something to keep yourself from being swept away by currents while taking a picture, to a rock for example, but remember only hold on to a solid object and use your thumb and index finger to hold on to. Make sure to wave it first with your hand before you touch it, you don’t want to accidentally squeeze a tiny shrimp with your finger, do you? Or worse, maybe touch a sleeping electric eel? Rah..
  5. Explore it all! Diving with your head over your feet only to follow a leatherback turtle feels amazingly exciting, do any style you can, take pic of as many object as you can find. And feel free to explore, look inside a sea cucumber, you might find sea spiders. Or look under a rock (without lifting it of course), you might find a blue spotted stingray, when you think “maybe there’s an interesting object hiding inside”, go look for it thoroughly and keep curious, “maybe here, maybe there”

My last confined dive would be Night Diving, this was a new experience for me. Leaving shore at six, had banana juice and banana nutella creepes before, i was super ready. If you think you know an area very well at day, you won’t feel the same at night. Totally different world! Even my instructor asked me to buddy check her, you know, BWARF. Something i’ve never done for the last two days,  found out that this was her first time she did night dive in this spot, no wonder. Too bad i didn’t bring my camera, because i saw this funny fish that slept like human, lay back with mouth open sleeping in a sea cucumber, adorable! I also happened passing by with a sea snake! Yes that black and white one, swimming next to me, my tips (again), stay calm and don’t make sudden move. But we ended up chasing that snake, haha. It was alot of fun. But this is my fave part, we made a stop in a sandy bottom, kneeling, and put our torch towards our body, waited a mili second then the most awesome scene i have ever seen, glowing planktons! Thousands of glowing planktons all over our body like a thousands stars in the sky. Beautiful, so beautiful.

Anyhoo, i learnt that that night when i did my night dive was when tsunami attacked Japan vigorously, made me shivering actually knowing that there was a tsunami and me at the sea at the same time. But here i am, safe and sound, and about to take my next course in.. Cebu island or Gili island? We’ll see.. 😉

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