What a difference a day makes…
On the first open water dive, we could hardly see beyond a meter or two. Just two days after that, the wind had dropped, the swells dissipated and the underwater visibility improved dramatically. This is diving in Bahrain, I’m told. Have a watch of this video to see what I mean.
We started the day earlier as we intended to perform three full dives in order to finish all the prerequisites of the PADI Open Water Diver certification. With the sea being a lot calmer, we also managed to get to our dive site much quicker. We anchored at a different location in the Fasht Alathum reef and proceeded with the required exercises during the first two dives of the day.
I did notice a change in me this time as I was much calmer and the fear I experienced previously had receded another couple of notches at least. I guess familiarity, the knowledge that I am more in control through the experience gained and the presence of experts around me increased my sense of safety. That led me to concentrate more on the technical aspects of the dive and on finding my buoyancy point. Though I am not very satisfied with my buoyancy yet, I understood that it takes divers twenty or more dives to find that magical point. Buoyancy is so critical to the enjoyment of a dive as it allows the diver to effortlessly glide through the water, stop and hover to enjoy the scenery and marine life and virtually become weightless. If you had watched the video above, you will have noticed how calm and effortlessly buoyant both Alex and Ant were. I aspire to be like them one day and I don’t mind putting in the work to achieve that.
Once again, I thoroughly enjoyed the exercises I did underwater under the expert leadership of Alexandra Pawson – though I must confess that fully flooding the mask and clearing it only to remove and replace it again weren’t very pleasant experiences. My eyes were smarting for quite a bit.
We achieved three full dives on that day; two were for all the remaining course exercises but the third was left to me to plan and execute from declaring the objective of the dive, pre-dive briefing all the way to returning onboard. I declared that dive for the sole purpose of enjoying the marine life and take some videos of the experience. I had taken with me the GoPro Hero 4 Black camera which succeeded in pleasantly surprising me with its video quality even at normal 1080p HD underwater. That third dive was at yet another location of the Fasht Alathum reef. Our dive master Ant found it earlier and guided us back there for the dive. This site which had richer coral presence and many more fish to see and enjoy. We even came across a baby prawn which proceeded to lodge itself into one of the coral crevices as we swam past it.
I was really happy to have witnessed the beauty of one of Bahrain’s reefs and its teaming life. Although I understand that what I had seen is a very much depressed version of what it had once been, the life returning to the area should encourage us to protect our seas and all life within it.
The sea evidently has the capacity for forgiveness, but it does take a long time to forget and restart its journey to splendour once again. I look forward to diving in an Arabian Gulf that is as beautiful as that I’ve seen around the Maldives and other spectacular dive spots around the world. This beauty rightly has a price; the environment must be protected not just by governments, but everyone who comes in contact with it. Ultimately, it is our own responsibility, each and every one of us, to ensure that the environment not just survives, but flourishes.
Some initiatives are easy to adopt: using reusable bags for our shopping is one of the easiest and possibly more effective environmental change that people can immediately adopt. It’s high time that plastic bags in particular be banned. Not littering is another. The amount of rubbish we came across – from a dead sheep carcass to soda cans and plastic containers just floating on the surface were mind boggling and very hurtful. This situation can so easily corrected. Common sense is required, really, and respect for what we have been entrusted with to leave for future generations in as good as or better state than we have received it. We need to own our own experience to achieve this.
To say that this diving experience was inspiring and wonderful would be an understatement. I now believe what Alex told us when we started in the pool on the first day of training, once done, we’ll be asking ourselves why we waited this long to start exploring the underwater world. My answer to that is to follow the Chinese adage which asks when it would be the best time to plant a tree. The answer is twenty years ago. The next question is when is the second best time to do so, which is of course right now.
I’d like to thank my diving instructor Alexandra Pawson for her patience, passion and quiet but determined demeanour in sharing her knowledge and experience, and knowing when to push to get us to believe in our own abilities. Thanks also go to the Environment Arabia and EcoArabia team for organising this course and providing enthusiasts the professional and safe environment to start the journey to explore the underwater world. Halel Engineer, Michael Arora, Anthony and Jaffar you are a star team.
Now that I have successfully completed the course and am an officially certified PADI Open Water Diver, I know that a new world of inspiration and wonder awaits. I can’t wait to continue my exploration of this wondrous world.