There are those activities that change you in many ways. Scuba diving is certainly one of them. The experience underwater has this lasting effect on how you experience the world above.
Dahab, a town that is Egypt’s most treasured diving destination, is the place I got to check scuba diving off my bucket list.
Scuba diving .
The town is a favorite to almost everyone who has ever been to Egypt. For the Egyptian who can afford the luxury of travel, it is the one place they love to escape to, away from the hustle of the hectic capital, Cairo. Reeled by its mellow ambience , amazing people and spectacular views of mountain scenery, many plan to spend just a few days in this town but end up either extending their stay or opting to go back later on one more time.
On this day, I am privileged to be in the company of a couple of cool Indians, two really amazing Kenyans, a beautiful Brazilian and a lovely Chinese. We have the same expectations; to eventually scuba dive, and to do so safely. All seem calm and in a jovial mood. It is the feeling one gets when you know you will be finally doing the one thing you have been longing to do almost all your life. The excitement is evident from each and everyone’s face as we leave our hotel for Dahab Days, our diving destination.
The diving instructor, Mohammed Elattar, receives us warmly. I told you before how everyone in Egypt is either Ahmed or Mohammed, yes? I am certain this now corroborates it all.
1. KEEP CALM IN DIFFICULT SITUATIONS
Mohammed sits us down and lets us know the dos and don’ts of diving. We sign a form that says that should something awfully go wrong and we die or get injured, none of us can sue. See, we have been granted this life by The Creator. It is precious. It is a gift. Signing this form has its implications, none of which is clearly positive to either my colleagues or myself. At this moment, we are choosing to give it away. We are absolving the company that is tasked to ensure we dive safely from any legal responsibilty. Despite everything, being the dumb kids we are, we happily sign the forms and hand them to the instructor. What did we just get ourselves into?
Following this, the instructor insists on why we should not panic when diving; that it worsens the situation when we do. We are meant to signal him calmly should we get uncomfortable by the water pressure, should water get inside our head masks or should we encounter any problem while diving. He guides us through the whole process of communicating underwater.
The instructor’s advice works just as well beneath the calm water waves as it does above them. Before you attempt anything, do your best to keep your cool. Panic always makes a situation worse.
2. BE STRESS-FREE.
We wear our diving suits and we are all set to dive. The costume feels sexy to wear. I particularly love its feel. It is very comfortable. It is the only suit I have worn so far in my life for more than five minutes. Suits were not meant for me, if you ever find me wearing one, please ask for a beer.
“The number one rule of diving is not to hold your breathe. Breathe in, breathe out, relax and enjoy!” The instructor tells Camilla who would be diving first. She doesn’t look scared. Off she goes.
This should always be life’s mantra. Never stress, breathe in, breathe out! There is nothing more basic than this. It helps you focus and calm your nerves.
3. BE PRESENT IN THE NOW, ALWAYS!
At this point Oliver who was last to have his suit on now has it on.
As we head to the diving spot, I have mixed reactions. Oliver says he is alright. He gives me hope.
To the instructor, we look courageous, perhaps more than the many clients he has been handling. At this time he asks us to get our heads inside the water and practise breathing. It is a trick!
We plunge in! The underwater world is different.
The aesthetic beauty of life underwater is incomparable.
You’ve got to constantly be in the moment when diving. You need to enjoy and experience the moment. You need to be hyper aware of the surroundings and avoid touching the corals that although beautiful, they might be dangerous. You are meant to always keep your diving buddy and the instructor in sight.
4. TRUST IS VITAL, TRUST OTHERS
It is difficult to believe that you can breathe underwater. Panic sets it. You remember the instructor illustrating how to breathe underwater; to slowly breathe in and out. At this time you are puffing. Trusting the fact that you can breath underwater is difficult. What if the equipment fails? How deep am I underwater? Such questions trickle in your mind.
After a while you get used to being underwater. You realise that all is well and that your diving buddy is beside you. They appear alright. You can hear the sound of air going in and out of the tank. All is well, you tell yourself. Everything starts becoming fun. You now start to enjoy marine life.
Trusting that you can breath while underwater can be the hardest thing to do. Underwater, you’ve got to trust both your equipment and the instructor. Once you second guess your decisions while your dive is underway, it won’t do you any good. This is good dry land advice too. Learn to trust people and don’t doubt. Otherwise, it is impossible to enjoy the things you are doing.
5. GO BEYOND THE SURFACE
We explore marine life. Life out there is peaceful and very beautiful. All kinds of fish swim around you. The reef eco-system is amazing! The colours are breathtaking . EVERYTHING is perfect and in its right place. The underwater world as it is revealed by scuba diving is a whole new frontier. I now hold the belief that the underwater life is the best! You can’t convince me otherwise.
Scuba diving is all about exploring what lies beneath the water. The stuff that lies there is totally amazing. In moments when stuff are boring and grey from above, they are exciting and all colourful from below.
The next time you find it difficult to get along with someone or when you get involved in an argument, look below the surface of who they seem to be to get the good stuff of who they really are. The truth always lies just below the surface.
6. BECOME APPRECIATIVE OF NATURE
The wealth of marine life is amazing! Experiencing this totally changes you.
Experiencing the underwater world and how fragile a reef eco-system is first-hand, you will surely learn to respect nature.
7. ALWAYS HAVE FUN
At this moment, the instructor signals that our thirty five minutes underwater are over and checks our oxygen tanks. He signals that all is well and that we can still stay down there longer. I did not want to go back up. It is fun down here. The calmness here is beyond words.
On land, I remember convincing the instructor that we dive longer than the time allocated. I remember him saying, ”We shall see!” I didn’t know the time was set based on your oxygen consumption.I hand him a cigarette while underwater.I had it staffed in my diving suit. He smiles. I quickly remember that it is Ramadan and that he is fasting. It won’t be possible for him to smoke here only because of Ramadan.
We have now been underwater for 45 minutes and our oxygen levels are getting low. The instructor signals that it is time to go up.
Despite the dangers and the risks involved in diving, the experience is a whole lot of fun making it worthwhile. If we can learn to always have fun in whatever we do, hardships will really not account for much.
8. LIFE BECOMES BETTER
The sight of land after diving is amazing. The fact that you can now breathe free air is totally satisfying.
Having finally gotten the chance to scuba dive is exciting. Happy moments have now been collected.
All things come to an end. In whatever struggles you are going through, it will certainly all end. Situations become better with time.
It is four hours past midday and lunch is served. We enjoy our lunch by the sea, talking about the whole experience. Few people were scared. They couldn’t dive. We laugh it away.
The instructor makes fun of the cigarette scenario.We talk about the parallels we can draw from scuba diving that translate into life lessons we can take with us.
If you haven’t scuba-dove before, would you do it now? Have you already done it? Share your experience! Leave thoughts as always, you know!
(PS: Photographs on land by the Huawei P9 & Underwater photographs by Sony RX 100 ii )