Back to diving though . . .
Hallowe’en (ahhh, that was SO long ago!) dawned under an overcast sky, and saw Lisa and I anxiously eating breakfast before our first ever sea dive. Ever the prompt Canadians, we were there right on time, got all ready in our wetsuits, and sat around for 45 min while Matt put everything together for us.
Once we got to the beach where the river runs into the sea, we unloaded from the back of the pickup and got a briefing from Roos, our dive master for the day. He explained that we would be heading out to a part of the Aliwal Shoal called the Chunnel, which had lots of ledges and potholes for fishes, sharks and turtles to hide out in. We piled into the boat, and Fran, our skipper for the day waited for a break in the HUGE waves to get us past the breakers into open water. Once past them, it was straight out into the ocean for about 15 minutes to get to our dive site. On the way, we saw a mamma and baby humpback whale breeching and jumping not far from the boat. It was an incredible sight to see. The baby just seemed to be having a ball, jumping up and crashing down in the water. They are gianormous mammals and so graceful at the same time. Just before we got ready to dive we also saw a pod of dolphins swim by the boat – so far the dive was going well and we weren’t even under water yet!
The boat dropped off the experienced divers first and then circled back around to drop us off. We had to flip backwards off the boat in full gear – something I would have been terrified to do three weeks ago – but since my new mantra is “I have jumped off a tower”, it was easy to lightly flip 3 feet into water. We were ready to go!
A couple last minute words of encouragement and advice from Matt and we started descending . . . well, we tried to descend, but being the anxious new and over-breathing divers that we are, couldn’t really sink like we were supposed to, even with an extra 5kg of weight. So he had to pull us down to deeper water. Once we were there though, it was incredible! We stayed around a depth of 12m for about half an hour on both of our dives, and saw a huge potato bass (grouper), schools of angel fish, schools of other fish, and about 5 small sharks (about 1.5m long). The sea floor was alive with life; coral and anemones all over the place. It was so fascinating to be underwater just existing in an entirely different world. Luckily the current wasn’t very strong, so we didn’t have to worry about fighting it, and when it did come along, it just moved us gently along the ocean floor, with the fish and other sea life.
It was a bit difficult to completely relax and breathe in and out through my mouth ‘normally’. Every once and a while I would get the hang of it, and have a few awesome minutes of floating through the water. Then I would see something really cool, usually a shark, and get all excited and remember to breathe, which usually resulted in me trying to cough away my dry throat (bottled compressed air is nowhere near as lovely to breathe as our lovely humid regular air), another impossibility while breathing through a regulator.
I felt a bit sad both times Matt indicated it was time to ascend to the surface, looking in an aquarium will never quite be the same again, knowing that it’s possible to actually exist, even for a little bit, in that environment. But the next steps have already been taken to spend more time under the sea, in 4 days I’ll start my open water course and hopefully in a few weeks be swimming with whale sharks in Mozambique!