DIVING IN SAUDI ARABIA AND LOVING IT! PART 2
**please read my previous blog DIVING IN SAUDI ARABIA AND LOVING IT! PART 1
“…it’s for the thrill of the unknown... seeing creatures underwater and craving to see more of them again and again. For me, diving is neither a sport nor a hobby… every dive is always an overwhelming experience of life in a different world that ordinary people do not often see” -MMO
After a weekend diving trip in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia last month (May 2011), our group immediately arranged another diving trip for June 2011- although we had the same Red Sea target, this time it had to be in Jeddah, KSA.
In between the preparation (and waiting time) for the upcoming diving trip to the Red Sea in Jeddah, I was up to my neck organizing a Discover Scuba Diving Event for our PISD- Riyadh Group (which came as a success by the way) and a series of lectures for OWD, AOWD and Rescue Diver lecture sessions in our house in the evenings.
So, last Wednesday, 1 June 2011, our group of nine divers hit the road to Jeddah Saudi Arabia at 11:00pm. The long drive (almost 10 hrs) was exhausting as usual but the thought of diving at the Red Sea (again) kept my spirit high.
Although things didn’t go quite well as we hoped and planned especially that Thursday, we were assisted by co-PISD guyz Rannier and Dennis from Jeddah and our group had a quick siesta at the Rose Garden Suites before we go to Al Nakheel Beach Resort for diving. Of course, shopping for diving gears and stuff along the way was, as usual, one priority.
DAY 1: LATE AFTERNOON DIVE
We reached our first dive site (Al Nakheel Beach) around 5:00pm and we hasted gearing up for our first dive while the sun was still up. There were a lot of people in the resort and divers were everywhere. While we were at the divers’ dock, I look down and saw some divers exiting the waters and some making different entry styles. For a while, I was a bit scared. It was my very first diving adventure in Jeddah and the waves were big and strong even near the shore. I kept my fingers crossed--- I can do this, I thought.
Our Instructor advised me to buddy up with Kahlui and Allan for that late afternoon dive. Eric had some throat infection and colds so he didn’t dive with us and he let me use his dive computer. Contrary to my expectation that I might have difficulty in our first dive, it turned out to be a cheerful, calm and good dive with my first time buddies (KL and AGA).
DAY 1: NIGHT DIVE
When the sun finally set in, we started preparing for our second dive: night dive. I had mixed feelings thinking about my first ever night dive: reluctant because I just started with my advanced open water diver course and I haven’t had read about the night dive section yet (although I have watched the video about it; anxious because I hardly had enough energy left from an exhausting trip earlier; excited because I’ve heard so many stories from co-divers about a totally different scene underwater at night; happy because my instructor allowed me to join the group for the night dive.
All geared up (Eric’s new dive comp. and LED flashlight with me! Yey!!) and after a short discussion about night dive plan we gathered on the other platform to enter the water.
I felt the splash of cold water on my face as I slowly joined the rest of the divers who were already waiting in the water. I couldn’t remember if I was more scared than excited or more excited than scared. I’ve always hated being out in the dark on-land…how could I possibly involved myself in a night dive?! I looked around and see the cheery faces of my co-divers and I started to feel more relaxed. I felt the LED flashlight that Eric had dangled on the left side my BCD jacket and turned it on just as I saw the other divers did. I felt my mask once again and fixed the regulator on my mouth securely.
Upon the signal of our Instructor to go down, we descended slowly. The water was obviously colder than it was an hour before during our late afternoon dive. Everyone signaled “ok” and I did too… then we were instructed to stay close together as a group and be right next to our buddies all the time.
As we carefully went deeper, I started to feel that the water has started to become a lot colder. I glanced at the dive computer and it registered 45 feet. I look around and noticed that my co-divers were feasting their eyes on the night spectacle. I saw flashes of lights as if they were dancing along the corals. Some fishes were attracted to the light and so they swim closer to us. I bet though that some were rather uncomfortable with the lights (and probably us) so they hide in the reefs. A few more glides and my flashlight caught a sight of a very big lion fish- the biggest one I’ve seen.
For what seemed like forever, I stayed in awe on the very different picture in front of me during that night. There were a million thoughts running through my mind as we glided slowly around an extraordinary scene of glowing corals and reefs and the translucent little creatures joyfully dancing and playing around us as if enjoying the night as much as we, divers, do. We were all huddled not too far from the coral wall which extends way down below and way far across in a seemingly endless depth and length that my flashlight could not fathom. Everything I focused my light on was beautiful… everything just seems to glow…everything was so peaceful and yet so inspiring.
I felt like I was dreaming in wonderland (or was it wonder-water??!!) until I felt a soft nudge from my Instructor as he signaled if I’m OK. I replied to him guiding the light to my hand for an “ok” signal. I checked my air and realized that I have already stayed long underwater although the length of time was not enough. I reckoned that it was already time for us to ascend so I rolled my flashlight around the site once again, as if to say goodbye to the nightly creatures I didn’t want to leave behind.
DAY 2: MORNING DIVE= DEEP DIVE
I woke up early the next day excited for my first ever DEEP DIVE. Fortunately, it’s part of my Advanced Open Water Diver Certification Course. From the hotel where we stayed at, our group hit the road off to Al Bilad Beach Resort @ 7:30am that Friday.
There were more divers in Al Bilad than in Al Nakheel where we stayed the day before, but the divers’ dock in Al Bilad is smaller. The water was very clear and there were so many fishes along the shore—a real eye candy for snorkelers. But the waves were huge though- and the corals were really some pain on the feet and legs . Too many times, I fell from the big waves and I got bruises from them too!
While assembling our gears and equipment, I realized that I am really going to DEEP DIVE for the first time. I mean, I have previously thought about it, but when I was right there listening to our Instructor about our multilevel-deep dive activity, I started to feel goose bumps in my stomach, a sign of an anxiety coming up. I couldn’t help but ask our Instructor if he really believes that I can go to our planned depth. Questions started forming in my mind—what if I cannot equalize during the deep dive? What if I accidentally tip off my regulator? What if I run out of air fast? What if…. What if?!
I had to plead for a confirmation (and another re-confirmation) from my Instructor that I will be able to do it. I asked Eric several times if he was so sure that I can do a deep dive. For one, I didn’t trust myself—afterall, I’ve always been afraid of water all my life (except for the last seven months or so that I have involved myself to diving at least) and I don’t know how to swim!
So finally, it came to me that I was left without a choice rather than to go for it. Our instructor assigned me to buddy up with my co-AOW Diver students. There were four of us: Allan, Joel, Me and Grace. I was instructed to stay close to Allan during the deep dive.
Slowly we descended and I kept my eyes focused to the group. At first, I was very conscious of the depth we’re heading to that I almost have ignored the amazing underwater environment of the Red Sea. Then I forced myself to relax. I shrugged off the thought that it is a deep dive. I told myself that it is just an ordinary dive-and it should be an enjoyable one. I heard myself telling my “scared” self—“hey girl! It’s the Red Sea!!! You didn’t come all the way here to panic and get anxious eh??!!” Then I was free!!!
At 40 feet, I glided with my buddy across the vast coral wall that was totally more stunning with the splash of sunlight softly touching it. There were innumerable tiny little damselfishes- playful as they are- seem to be everywhere I go. And my favorite two bar anemone fishes (they’re actually, my daughter Alia’s first friend-fish named Nemo from the movie).
After a while, we were signaled to go deeper. I checked my SPG and it read 60 feet. It was a normal dive- cheerful and fun with Ka Louie joining me and Allan from time to time. I forgot that it was a deep dive!
Then we went down deeper. I felt some pressure but it was not enough to make me uncomfortable. My dive computer read 95 feet! I looked around and everything felt warm and relaxing. We glided around, pointing to unique species around the site. The visibility was so good…it was unfortunate that we forgot to bring along a camera for the deep dive.
DAY 2: NOON DIVE= FUN DIVE
We could hardly stop laughing and giggling after the deep dive as it was a really great first time adventure for me. Reaching 95 feet below, calmly and with so much excitement, was a feat for myself that I will never forget.
We spent the next hour surface interval waiting for our cylinder tanks to be refilled from the dive shop. I felt my head getting bigger as everyone in the group kept complimenting me for doing the deep dive successfully. Of course, everyone in the group knows that I was previously afraid and I was particularly uneasy of depths. I know I wouldn’t have done it without our group’s support too. These divers were like family to me- and I am so lucky to be among them in this divescapade.
At 12:30pm, we were geared up for our fun dive!
After a short briefing, our instructor agreed that Grace and I will be buddies in our fun dive (fourth and last dive during that weekend) and Eric, Jason and DM Dennis will be watching us. (You see….when we, ladies go diving….the men in our group think that we need babysitters… lolz). We planned to do some fish feeding underwater so we brought some packs of fish food along. However, during descent, I had difficulty holding my fish food and equalizing at the same time, so I dropped it (*dropped it, I guess , is not the right word since I saw the bottle of fish food zoomed afloat when I released it). I stayed closer to DM Dennis during the ascent and I noticed that he was holding a pack-ful of fish food so hundreds of fishes came towards us. It was almost impossible to see through them as there were just so many fishes right infront of my face.
I moved my way farther from the fish crowd and came near my buddy, Grace. Before I could signal anything to her, she put out her fish food (which she had tucked inside her BCD) and then again hundreds of fishes rushed to where we were. It was a cool sight, seeing all those fishes in different sizes and colors so close to our faces (Geez, I even tried to catch them but I cannot even touch one!) Grace and I tossed the bottle of fish food several times and we enjoyed watching as more and more fishes gathered in front of us teasingly.
After fish feeding, me and my buddy glided around the site together (holding hands at times, because our “watchers” were very strict that they call our attention immediately if we get far from them by 10 feet!
We had fun taking pictures as a group in the platform (Al Bilad’s) and Eric also took several videos of us gliding through the stunning clear waters of the Red Sea with its hundreds of thousands different species of marine life (too bad I do not know their names yet! Argh!!!) Finally, just before we ascend, I saw a rare white spotted brown Pacific Angel shark and a very big black eel along.
FOUR DIVES WRAPPED UP!
At the end of our last dive for that weekend in Jeddah, I found myself convinced that all the efforts, time, money spent for a dive trip was well worth it. The Red Sea never runs out of ambiguity and for a new diver like me, it is the unknown that kept me thrilled and excited on every diving adventure.
To say that I have overly enjoyed our recent four dives in the Red Sea, Jeddah will not be enough to explain how much I really liked it- not only because of the breathtaking splendor underwater—but most importantly because every dive presents a unique experience for me- and most of the time- it breaks off boundaries within me that I never thought I could. Reaching a depth that no ordinary people usually arrive at gives me the feeling that I could conquer my fears…and that I could always find something beautiful in just about anything.
It’s a liberating feeling… a humble, yet wonderful achievement. For most people who know me since I was young (I have always been a weakling when I was growing up…and I was always the “scared one” who didn’t want to go anywhere dark or quiet”). But now, when I think about places I’ve been, creatures I’ve seen and depths I’ve reached—I smile….knowing that the little scared weakling had finally gotten better off more than enough.
What makes me happy?
People. Everyone around me who believes and inspires me- my family, my husband, my two beautiful girls, my friends and colleagues.
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..