DIVING IN SAUDI ARABIA AND LOVING IT
It was long ago in a warm Saturday afternoon of August 2009 when I wrote a blog about my first official badminton game (http://medimaldita.weebly.com/2/archives/08-2009/1.html). I can’t say I’m already good at badminton right now, but it’s safe to say that I, somehow, already learned the basics of it.
More than a year after that “first” badminton challenge, I’m ready to dive! J
While I was busy trying to learn how to be a badminton “pro”- (raised eyebrows, anyone?), Eric took up a diving course at the Red Sea Diving Shop in Riyadh. Although I have lived almost my whole life in the island of Mindoro, just thinking about the sea –underwater breathing, sharks- gives me goose bumps.
It turned out that Eric enjoyed scuba diving too much, that he almost had to give up his tennis games and badminton practice sessions just to go diving on weekends. I refused to understand it at first, because of the expenses involved in acquiring scuba diving gears and stuff—and also the travel time to Jeddah, Yanbu, Khobar- at wee hours of the night. That’s not to forget the books he had to read over and over again and the video CD’s he watches several times which made me think that he had to learn the art of scuba diving by heart.
As a non diver, I joined Eric in a Boat Dive in February 2010 but the weather was not conducive for diving so it was cancelled. I met the group of Scuba Divers who hailed mostly from Al Khobar and Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. They call themselves Pinoy International Scuba Diver (PISD). Back then, my sole reason was just to accompany Eric on his out of town trips, so I did.
However, by end of Ramadan 2010, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia during the Eid Holiday (and my birthday, actually!) Eric had finally convinced me to try scuba diving. It was the very first time in my life to use a snorkel! I was so afraid to go by the deeper part of the pool (even with snorkel on). Although I had enrolled in a swimming lesson during a recent vacation in Mindoro, I didn’t have the confidence to swim by myself or even try to use the swimming techniques that my swimming instructor taught me.
It was a good thing that our Diving Instructor, RDA was very patient with me and my buddy, Maesyl. We were both beginners, although Maesyl had tried snorkeling before and she knows basic swimming too.
The First Dive. Discovery. Test Dive.
Everything felt strange although my wet suit fitted snugly on me. The other gears looked either too bulky or heavy—and the tank? I didn’t know if I could carry its weight. The mask felt awkward on my face. The BCD seemed too big for me…the regulator, the SPG, alternate air source, etc. (which one’s on the right and which one’s on the left??).
For one hour and a half… I did my best to grasp as much idea on the basics of scuba diving. I listened to the instructor, observed him and my buddy, and tried to follow every instruction he said. Geez… I still was not sure if I could do it.
The Second Session. Adaptation.
On the next day, still in Jeddah, RDA, the instructor, tried to teach us some basic skills underwater. Oddly, I found myself a little bit more relaxed than the previous night. Boy was I breathing underwater!
The Third Dive. Practice.
Two weeks later, another confined water dive training session was scheduled for me, my buddy and some other diving newbie’s from Riyadh. It was held in a swimming pool in an Esteraha. Excited as we were, I and Maesyl stayed on the pool from 4pm till 10 pm! Now, that was beyond saying we wanted to learn scuba diving fast. With the pool water getting colder through the evening, I bit the regulator’s mouthpiece so hard that Eric had to replace it the next day!
The Fourth and Fifth Dive Schedule. Open Water.
When we reached Halfmoon Beach in Al Khobar for our First Open Water Dive Training, I was so anxious. Friends warned us that the salinity in HalfMoon Beach was very high and it would probably hurt our eyes. It was a relief that most members of the PISD (Pinoy International Scuba Diver) Group were there not only to assist us but to encourage us too.
To say that the open water training is different from the confined water exercise was an understatement. It was totally different and it was scarier for me. Think about real-time salty water and no pool bars to hold on to?! I remember holding my instructor’s hand and practically dragging him along with me because I was too afraid to be left alone (which, they assured, would never happen). I was afraid to sink, I was afraid to breathe in and out (even with the regulator on my mouth!).
Until I realized that I could do it and I should. That was my second dive on the same day of the first open water training when I instilled in my mind that I can dive and I will. The result was just amazing…
Salty as it was, I felt the warmth of HalfMoon Beach water on my face and on my hands as my body was covered with the wet suit. I kept telling myself that my instructor was with me and he will not leave me alone so I had nothing to fear.
At this stage, I started to focus on my diving experience while learning from it and practicing the skills from our confined water exercises. In a total of four dives, two of each on a two consecutive Fridays in October 2010 at Halfmoon Beach. I started to gain confidence and I slowly conquered my fear of being lost underwater. Although there was not much to see as there were only a few wrecks and a few species living underwater, HalfMoon Beach provided a shallow bay for a real adventure experience for beginners like me- that included seeing a big blue angel fish and a sea snake at depth of 25 feet.
PISD Group was very supportive of us, being always there to help us from assembling our gears to helping us carry them through diving, and sharing the fun experience in land and in waterJ.
First Boat Dive. Jannah Island Adventure.
I was so excited to join the PISD Group for my first ever Boat Dive on October 22, 2010 in Jannah Island- 2 hour boat trip from Jubail Coast.
On my wetsuit and scuba diving gears (including that giant cylinder on my back!), I’m ready to jump!!
Descending to almost 35 feet below, I discovered that there is far more delightful array of life underwater. Suddenly, there was too much marine existence in front of me. It was an adorable sight- the coral reefs, different species of fish- all beautifully colored on their own uniqueness, and other equally awesome sea creatures. Salt water in Jannah Island was not even a quarter as salty as that in Halfmoon Beach- which allowed me to do mask clearing more comfortably- a skill I needed to clearly see what was in front of me- coz I didn’t wish to miss seeing all those splendor underwater.
Unfortunately, during our first dive, there was a strong current and we were drifted for almost 50 meters from the boat. A smaller boat nearby where we surfaced was a relief.
After an hour surface interval (that’s the term they use for a diver’s break), I’m all set for my second dive of the day.
Slowly, we descended to a deeper spot. My SPG read 38 feet. Looking around for something interesting, I had unconsciously tipped off the regulator from my mouth! Wheeew! I was so afraid but thank God I was able to put it back fast, just as we have practiced during our confined water training. Even though, I still felt so frightened. At the back of my mind, I was thinking maybe I would have died right there and then if I didn’t put it back on. Of course, this was a bit of an exaggeration because my Instructor RDA was there with me as well as my Diving Buddy Maesyl and Divemaster Jun.
When I finally got over the regs- tipped- off-experience, I was again ready to explore the island below the surface. I followed the group (RDA, MA,and FLJ) around, watching every life form present in that part of the sea. When I looked up, there was a school of fishes passing by… I wonder what they were up to. Were they even bothered that we were there?
As we go through taking pictures and enjoying the fascinating creatures of the submerged world, I realized why Eric and all the other divers I’ve met enjoy every minute of scuba diving. Underwater, there’s just so much beauty everywhere your eyes may gaze upon. The quiet life at the bottom of the sea looks both tempting and inviting. For once, I run out of words to describe such a liberating experience!
I knew that I will be signing up for more and more dive trips here and there—probably anywhere I’ll get a chance to. I’m sure I’ll even have to come up with more excuses from work and other activities I have just to keep diving. Addicted I am!
At the end of the day, my first scuba diving experience, from training till the first Boat Dive will forever be etched in my heart- for it was through “diving”- this great, often feared activity, that I realized I could conquer just about anything in my life with enough groundwork, determination and good thinking.
To my instructor and my diving buddies at PISD—thanks guyz! I ‘m so happy to be a part of the group!
So, tara!! Dive na!!! J
What makes me happy?
People. Everyone around me who believes and inspires me.
Life itself is a happy experience. The world is a happy place.
I had my own share of struggles, life was not easy for us back then but my Dad taught me how to believe in myself, work hard , be kind and to be strong. He inspired me to go out of my comfort zone. He used to tell me that the possibilities in life are endless and so I believed him.
l Iost him quite a few years ago but he has left me with so much inspiration to follow my dreams - to visit places I have only dreamt of or have seen in the movies when I was little and to do things I thought were only for the privileged few.
Wherever I go, I always remember my Dad, wishing he could see me from afar and somehow be proud of me as I have always been so proud of him. Life is short and I promised him that I would make the most of mine.
Travelling makes me happy and in all other things, I choose happiness. We all should- always..