To pee in my wetsuit is the sarcastic answer. The long answer is a bit more complex. It means in this and the next two posts you will get to know why I’m crazy about diving, how to get started with diving, some funny stories related to diving and most of all what is it with the whole peeing in the wetsuit thing.
Somehow, every time, when I say that I do scuba diving, people think it’s dangerous and that it is some kind of extreme sport that is associated with high risk. Somehow it is when you are not careful, ignore basic safety rules and play all yippee ki yay cowboy. However diving is not only about jumping into the water and watching fish, there are rules on how to watch marine life. When you do it for some time you figure out it’s more like an escape from reality and very much eye opening when it comes to environment matters like ocean pollution, shark finning or global warming.
A normal diving day
Bet you watched movies like the James Bond series where the agent and his sexy girl put on the gear, jump into the water to disable an underwater device that is going to destroy the world. Yeah, this isn’t how reality looks like, at least not for fun divers… although I like to think that one day a cool James Bond-like diver will cross my way on the dive boat. Right, focus! Fantasies about handsome guys to the side 😛 In my previous post I mentioned what a normal diving day on a boat looks like but actually it’s similar when you are not on the boat. The difference between a dive safari and every day diving excursions from the mainland is that you are not on the boat the whole day – dahhhh. Still, diving normally starts in the morning and depending on the amount of dives you do per day – two or three and sometimes a night dive, finishes in the late afternoon.
The most inconvenient thing for me is to put on my long wetsuit. In the Maldives I was diving in a shortie only because it’s easier to put on with a broken wrist but I do prefer a longie for several reasons. I don’t get cold underwater that quickly and it protects the skin better from jelly fish bites and when for example a strong current pushes me towards the reef and I don’t scratch my knees on the corals, well can’t fight a strong currant. Anyhow, getting into a long wetsuit that is made out of neoprene and hard rubber is a bit of a struggle. Imagine putting a condom over a watermelon, yeah that’s a good comparison how it feels like… but that actually is part of the fun. The remaining gear is much easier to put on although it has its weight. BCD attached to a tank, regulator screwed to the tank and connected to the BCD, fins, mask, dive computer, underwater camera and a weight belt. Although I use a BCD with integrated weight pockets where I put the lead, this way I don’t burden my back. All that, depending on the amount of lead you are carrying is around 20-25 kilograms.
On land quite heavy but weightless in water… hence all divers before and after the dive make jokes – why am I doing this to myself? A yeah I remember I see that beautiful coral garden. With all that on, you jump into the water and enjoy the dive. After the dive the fun begins. Before getting back on the boat, first you hand in the camera to the boat staff, so that it doesn’t get damaged when you climb up the ladder. Sometimes, depending on location and dive boat rules you need to take off your weight belt or weight pockets and hand it to the boat staff. The best thing however is to take off your finns in the water holding onto a rope where the waves are smashing you in every direction… love that… this is when get most of my bruises 😀
After the dive you have a surface break, approx 60-90 min to let the nitrogen disappear from your body and you repeat the whole procedure again. Honestly after a diving day I feel exhausted as hell but in a very good way. This is the type of exchausion you have for example after being at the gym, your muscles ache but the feeling of accomplishment is totally worth it. Once after a diving day in Komodo, I came back to my hotel, took a shower and put a sheet mask on my face to give the skin some moisture. I was supposed to take it off after 20 min but fell asleep. Woke up four hours later with the mask completely dry already and still on my face… Well, at least the skin got a proper amount of moisture. You might think, heavy equipment, feeling tired and exhausted after the whole day, so why the hell are you doing that to yourself? Is this how your holidays looks like?
The dive driver
For me there are a couple of diving drivers. Firstly, the feeling of freedom and weightlessness in the water, it’s a bit like being in space. Imagine underwater you just hang there, endless space and you in the middle of the big blue. I can’t really find the proper words to describe this unbelievable experience. When I let all the air out of my BCD and strat to go down I see the big blue below, the sun beams breaking through the surface, it looks like some kind of portal to a different dimension. Then I take a breath through the regulator and there it is the feeling of freedom, freedom in the ocean with tons of water above and a whole marine life around me. Wouldn’t trade that feeling for all the wealth in the world.
Secondly, the ocean and the rich marine life. As a kid I had a screensaver on the computer with a coral reef and colorful wish, and was wondering how a coral reef looks like in reality. Also at school during biology lessons, the teacher was going through the whole animal kingdom and we had homework to write essays and find interesting facts about each animal group. I was spending hours in front of the computer looking at cd-rom cyclopedias – yep that was in the era of cd-roms way before easy internet access and google. The most fascinating animal kingdom group for me was surprise, surprise fish! All those colourful pictures of moray eels, lionfish and sharks just sparkeled my imagination like New Year’s Eve fireworks. I absolutely love the ocean and all the life in it, there is a completely different universe under the surface. Colourful hard and soft corals, reef fish swimming around you, reef walls stretching from 10 meter below the surface and going down 100 meters, and ofcoz sharks! I dive to look at sharks in their natural habitat as for me they are the most fascinating creatures ever… have you ever looked into the eye of a shark? Quite an experience. Remember the first time when I saw a shark, it was in Sipadan, Borneo. I was so excited I couldn’t sleep at night. Same now in the Maldives, I saw a whale shark for the first time in my life… I was so incredibly happy, thrilled and just aaaaaaaaaaaaa that speeing was off. Also in the Maldives during one dive, there was a school of grey reef sharks passing by and during another dive at the 5 meter safety stop – will explain later what that is 😉 we were surrounded by at least 15 tawny nurse sharks – that was pretty much cool! To let you know, sharks are not dangerous. My friend MSz asked me, how can you dive with sharks, they eat people. Well, the movie Jaws did mess up a bit with people’s perception about sharks. Thing is, if you don’t attack or frighten them, they won’t do anything to you. Look, if somebody attacks you, you would fight back, right… The same is with sharks. Look, gaze, admire, don’t ever try to piss them off.
Thirdly, I dive for the experience and all those positive adventure feelings that diving is offering. Aside from watching marine life, there are many other diving experience options, like cave diving. Did it once in Mexico. Imagine cristal clear water, then you go down and swim towards complete darkness with only a small flashlight. WOW… What a feeling when you can’t see the surface as you are in a cave filled with water and the navigation is based on a line, plus relying on your dive guide. At some point during the dive the guide showed me to stop and look up… jaw drop as we were in complete darkness but at the surface were two holes shining like sapphires as sunlight was shining on them. Other options are for example, wreck diving. Honestly not a big fan of that although seeing a toilet on a sunken boat covered with corals and a lionfish sitting in it is quite cool. My favourite is the unexpected encounter that fills you with total bliss. Again, Komodo, Christmas Eve, my last diving day. There weren’t many mantas that I saw during the past days, but hey ho the ocean is not a zoo. Towards the end of the dive we arrived at a manta cleaning station and there were four big mantas dancing around the station. The spectacle was going on and on, I couldn’t stop watching… for a moment the time had stopped, there was nothing else besides the mantas. I felt like Christmas, birthday, Easter and all other holidays happened on the same day. Although time might have stopped, air consumption didn’t… When it was time to surface up, I didn’t wanna go but thought that it would be very unprofessional for the dive guide to drag me out of the water. That actually brings me to the next point.
If at least once you go on a dive boat or dive trip you notice that divers are friendly, easy going, helpful, kind people who like to share and exchange experiences. Generally, during the first diving day when you are new on a dive boat people ask each other where you from, how long you dive, where did you dive etc. so it starts and over the next couple of days they become your closest friends. During my diving trips I met many fantastic people, like the lovely Dutch couple Serge and Kim in Marsa Alam in Egypt. We are still in touch and I promised to visit them in the Netherlands… Unfortunately I haven’t done it yet for several reasons, like the whole covid situation but plan to do it this year. Or Nick Cheng, also known as LongHu Comedian, who I met during diving in the Philippines. The sense of humour this guy has is just mind blowing. The quote from him that brings up a smile on my face every time when I’m sad, is “I’m a comunist I fuck everybody equally”, even now can’t stop laughing about it.
The most memorable moment however spent with fellow divers was Christmas Eve 2019 before the whole world went mental with covid. Again, Komodo… people on the boat asked if I had any plans for the 24th Dec. Didn’t have any really so asked if the guys have any… They didn’t have any plans either. As the hotel I was staying at was organising a Christmas BBQ, suggest they guys come over for dinner and drinks. To be frank it was the best Christmas Eve I’ve ever had. We were six divers in total, the food was very good and the wine even better. e had a couple of bottles, after the hotel restaurant was finishing service we moved over with the wine to the terrace of my room.
Well, think the mood was extremely fun as the eldry Belgian couple next door asked us to keep the noises down 😛 The best thing however was the facial expression one of the guys had when he entered a room with an air con. We gave him a sweet nickname – AC Manu, as he booked a homestay room in the city that didn’t have an air con, only a fan… well in tropic hot and humid climate air con is a must. So, after spending a whole week without cool air, AC Manu opened his arms in front of the air con device saying yes, oh yes never again will I book a room without air con.
All that and much much more clubs together to make diving a special hobby. There are ups and downs but I think that carrying heavy equipment, splitted and broken nails or the constant taste of salt in your mouth is a very small inconvenience to survive in order to see National Geographic-like underwater sceneries, encounter animals in their natural habitats and meet incredible people. Ohhhh, I nearly forgot, there is also the diver’s smell. It’s a mix of wet neoprene, sea water, salt and sweat. Gosh how I love that smell, if there was a fragrance resembling the diver’s smell I would not only buy it in large quantities I would also spray my whole apartment with it.
As this is the first post from the diving series, next time I’ll let you know about getting into diving, some safety measures, underwater language and what’s the thing about peeing in the wetsuit, so stay tuned 😉