There are many challenges in moving to a new country, some you have no choice to face, others can be tremendous fun as I found out when I recently learnt how to dive. After all, crystal clear, turquoise lagoons, a coral reef that almost entirely circles the island and a sea temperature rarely below 25 degrees is quite appealing. So I signed up for the open water diver course and I discovered and experienced that Mauritius is a brilliant place to learn how to dive!
Having parted with some rupees and filled in a few forms, signing away any personal liability, you get one of these manuals with instructions to read and remember Section One (77 pages) and answer all the test questions at the end of each sub-section. The manual was a combination of physics, biology, fashion and plumbing.
The first lesson was in the pool at a nearby luxury hotel but I had to get kitted up first.
You need a snug fit as the water seeps below the surface of the neoprene shortie wet suit and keeps you warm. Now the mask.
I had always had problems with leaking when diving before (from the face mask). The advice was that it should just stick on your face if you just put it there. I found one that did and did not have to strap it on as tight as I had put masks on before. Good tip!
Size 43 blue fins now checked for size, time for that jacket thing. Good tip number 2, peel the heel of the fin back down, it is so much easier to put on.
The jacket, or BCD as they call it, was surprisingly comfortable. This is great, I thought, it will be easy to swim like this underwater. I had forgotten the most important part, the cylinder, the regulator (breathing system) and weight belt.
The golf ball is to make me stand out from the other qualified divers. That actually was not too difficult!
And finally, the weight belt to counteract ‘positive buoyancy’!
I set off for the first dive in the luxury swimming pool to learn how to breathe and move underwater, get used to the equipment and manage some safety procedures in case of emergency. Walking the 100 metres to the pool, bent almost double with the weight of the cylinder and equipment was fun and I heard a few giggles from the tourists relaxing on their sun beds.
So, at last, into the pool and my first experience of scuba diving. Wonderful! Cleaning your mask underwater was a vital skill to learn. This involved letting some water in the mask, tilting your head backwards and breathing out through your nose being careful with my contact lenses. I repeated this manoeuvre several times as the two young bikini clad ladies swimming above me were totally unaware of the view they were affording me!
The next lesson was in the sea and really good fun where I felt the feeling of being almost weightless underwater, saw lots of colourful fish and coral and practised more emergency measures like running out of air and complete removal of my mask.
The third lesson had to be aborted at there was a terrific and persistent rainstorm. This is a tropical country and when it rains, it rains but it is not cold.
Despite being ready and it not mattering that it was wet in the sea already, conditions were just too rough, too windy.
Now some Mathematics to learn and to understand my ABT from my TBT!
..and finally, after the training, the theory, 244 pages of the manual, the dives and the exam, you finally get one of these! I am proud!
Thank you to everyone at EasyDive, Le Morne, especially the extremely patient Guillame, (..”Now this is very important..”) who helped me get this far.
I have signed up for the advanced course and underwater shots are promised for a future post!