My company, Gulf Broadcast, is running a video production training course in November. I’ll be conducting the training with the help of my GB team. The course is a perfect opportunity for corporate communication officers and executives where they will learn the basics of the craft and will be able to apply the techniques learnt to create their own company videos. Just think of the amount of time and money they will be saving. More importantly, they will gain complete control of their projects and will ensure that their message is never misinterpreted.
If you want to know more about this course, or indeed know of someone or a company that can benefit from it, please help me spread the word. Visit Gulf Broadcast’s Training section for more information.
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Blame (dive master) Ant for this title, but he’s not very far from the truth. The underwater world is so different and fantastic that even in the nearly desolate Bahraini reefs, it’s still good times.
An example: I had a problem with my mask during the dive and I didn’t realise that it’s lip was actually resting half-way across my nostrils. Needless to say, that allowed the water to go both into the mask and into my nose. Not a pleasant experience I can tell you. And no, I honestly didn’t realise that was happening. I was happily guzzling air like a champion! What was pleasant is meeting Freddy who came to check me out while I was trying to adjust the bloody thing!
Even a few days after that dive, I still smile when I remember meeting Freddy. Diving is like that I guess. You take a good memory out of every dive that will last you for quite a while, allowing you to dive into that happy place regardless of where you are and what situation you’re struggling with at the time.
This video is shot in 4K with the GoPro Hero 4 Black. Let me know if you like, actually go ahead and give it a thumbs up on YouTube and subscribe to my channel if you would be so kind! 😉
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.
If you didn’t know, I’m a bit afraid of the sea. It freaks me out. I don’t know much about it, I don’t understand it and my preferred food isn’t fish. I hope that I won’t become their food either. So what do I do? I get voluntarily enrolled in a PADI Open Water Diver course. Today was to be the actual day where we got to go out to the open sea and dive to re-practice the principles and exercises we learnt on Friday, and swim around with the fishes and explore some of Bahrain’s reefs. To say that last night’s sleep was a bit fitful, well, it would’ve been about right.
The boat sailed on time from Manama and headed to Fasht Aladhum which is approximately eight kilometres east of the main island of Bahrain, opposite Sitra.
The trip took less than an hour through a choppy sea with meter high swells at some times. We arrived at the dive site and proceeded to set up our dive kits while the captain fought with the waves to keep the boat steady. Ant, the dive master, jumped in and laid the “down line” and ensured that its tether lied on a sandy patch on the sea bed to prevent any possible damage to any of the surrounding fragile corral or reefs. I loved the fact that EcoArabia were walking the talk and living up to their name. The team were at pains to ensure that they leave their dive sites with no damage. We were briefed to ensure that we should not touch anything and just enjoy the sights and sounds underwater and be careful how we swim so we don’t bump into the reef and damage any of its components.
The time had come to jump in.
“Life is about challenging yourself, and seeing where that line in the sand is on your beach.” Bert Kreischer, Trip Flip TV show.
Remember that anxiety I felt? Well, when I actually jumped in for the first time, that fear and apprehension I previously felt mostly dissipated. Not immediately and not completely, I grant you. Once I gained my bearings and arrived at the down line together with the re-assuring presence of my buddies and instructor, those ugly feelings were replaced with confidence aided by recalling our instruction and training. I was itching to follow that line down and start exploring a world I was not privy to, and until recently, was not even an option I would have considered had that challenge not been laid down by one of my EO forum mates.
I followed the line down to the sea bed with Alexandra where she proceeded to test my skills and understanding of her training and I was happy that I performed them all to her satisfaction. How did I know that I had done so? Well, she wouldn’t have let me off, that’s for sure. And I would not have been rewarded with a leisurely exploration of the reef and sea bed. The fun part of the dive had started. Alexandra led the way and I kept up. I am grateful to her for pointing out several interesting features that I most definitely would have missed because my mind was going through checklists and trying to adjust my swimming attitude, trim and many other things, especially at the start of the dive. That’s why I actually opted not to take my camera with me on this dive as I wanted to concentrate on learning and observing first had. I’ll be sure to take it with me on the next dive.
My observation on this dive is that Bahrain’s reefs are no where near as beautiful as those of the Maldives, and the water was so murky today that it was impossible to see beyond a couple of meters which was probably due to the choppy sea. Nonetheless, I noticed plenty of life down there: sea urchins were everywhere, many brain corrals, crustaceans and of course many kinds of small fish and plenty of them.
When my tank’s gauge read 100 bar I signalled Alex. It was time to simulate a “no air” situation as we agreed. Alex and I went through the procedure and rose to the surface. That ended the dive.
When I got back on the boat, it hit me. I actually enjoyed the experience! The dive was too short and I was ready for more. I thought it had only lasted for about ten minutes; however, according to Alex, the dive actually lasted forty-three whole minutes!
I now revel in the images of what I witnessed under the waves; how the fish were darting in and out of the reef and rocks, the different kinds of fish available, the plentiful sea urchins and even a small jelly fish that I had to swim around to avoid its tentacles. I was amazed at the marine life I witnessed. I had the impression that everything was dead so I was pleasantly and happily surprised to see some actual life down there. I had expected a lot less.
Of course I cannot provide any scientific comparison of what the situation was a number of years ago with what I saw today. To me; however, as a person who experienced this world in Bahrain for the first time, at least there is something to responsibly enjoy. I do hope that the government here declare some of our reefs as nature reserves. I know that at one point, even this Fasht Al Adhum reef system was considered for dredging and converting into yet another city. If this were true, that, in my opinion, would be an unfortunate and inconsiderate mistake against future generations. It is vitally important to protect these fragile environments to allow their resident marine life to flourish along with responsible eco-tourism.
Our last dive in this course is coming up on Monday. I can’t wait to visit another reef system under the guidance of experienced divers. I do hope that the weather and visibility underwater will have improved by then so that we can enjoy the experience more. I’d like to take that dive as an opportunity to take some pictures and videos underwater. It should be fun!
Read the first article detailing my journey to the PADI Open Water Diver certification
Hear this. I don’t much like the sea, generally. Read that as I’m some what afraid of it. Terrified actually; however, embracing the “do something that scares you every day” mantra and at the behest of a nag of a friend who drove our whole EO Bahrain forum to take up the challenge, we dove right in and signed up for the PADI Open Water Diver course. The course being run by another friend’s company, Environment Arabia, didn’t hurt. We knew that we would be taken care of. Little did we know the amount of work we needed to put in!
Day One started at 9.30 and immersed us into the PADI Open Water Diver text book and its five modules; theory, charts, calculations, water properties, pressure, underwater behaviour, diving computers and plenty of other concepts – a lot of which were foreign to us – yet expertly explained by our instructor Alexandra Pawson and adequately comprehended by us. My guess is that if we retain 20% of what was delivered, we’d most definitely have much more survival chances than what we started with, and be able to enjoy the underwater environment to boot.
Alexandra has been diving for most of her life. Her passion was quite evident and contagious, though she definitely is a strict task master and doesn’t take crap from us neophytes. I’m also convinced she’s got webbed feet which I’m sure will come really useful when we actually get out to the open water tomorrow.
Once the PADI certified test was done just before lunch, we got more of the practical on-land instruction, a full briefing of the exercises we were about to do in the pool and the expectations. At this point, my apprehension was actually magnified at least three fold! If I had been terrified of the sea before I started this gig – thank you JAWS! – I was absolutely petrified by now.
The instruction was very clear and specific on the various things that could go wrong in a dive and how those dangers must be mitigated with good habits, the adoption of specific systems and very strict safety measures which must be adhered to at all times. Familiarity with basic diving equipment was required. We had to assemble and then dis-assemble all the gear under the watchful eyes of the instructor and her assistant and we had to do this several times. Once that was done, off to the swimming pool I went to start the practical side of things.
The very first thing I needed to do was prove that I was an adequate enough swimmer. I think “adequate” is a good word to describe my swimming acumen. The way I learnt to swim was a dream that I could do so when I was a child, and plunging into the deep end of the Athari natural spring based on that conviction, only to drown, save for the kind gentlemen who recognised my flailing arms and disappearing form underwater was anything but swimming and decided to intervene by dragging me into the shallow end. I couldn’t fail now though! I had to do it! So through a combination of bravado and every combination of swimming style I had, I managed to do the required length to the satisfaction of the instructor. Elegance aside.
The moment I was waiting for had finally come. We were instructed to strap on the BCD (see, I’m even talking the lingo now!) which is the Buoyancy Control Device, put the regulator in our mouths and put our heads into the water and try to breathe. To say that was awkward at first is an understatement. The realisation after a while that one can actually breathe underwater was shocking! Yes, I know that’s what the equipment was supposed to do, but physical experience is a different thing. By the end of the session – and guzzling two full cylinders worth of air – I was getting more comfortable with the breathing apparatus and my continuous presence under water.
We conducted many exercises which will actually be repeated in the open sea. I found a number of those exercises easy enough to do but had considerable difficulty in others. I couldn’t get my balance, for instance, although I strapped on a number of weights and got help adjusting them. I don’t know if people get to be naturally more buoyant one way or the other, but I experienced continuously tipping forward or backwards. By the end of the lesson I felt better about my balance and buoyancy and realise without a doubt that there is considerable room for improvement.
The exercise of removing the re-wearing the BCD on the surface was difficult and I couldn’t do it. Fortunately, Alex was patient enough to demonstrate other methods of achieving the same result which I was able to follow. Having a professional there to demonstrate how those could be done, calmly, was invaluable and reassuring.
Of course, we were required to do those exercises both on the surface and underwater. I found the underwater iterations easier to accomplish and will become easier with experience. It will be very interesting to re-do those exercises in the open water as the buoyancy will be much different at sea than it was in the pool.
By the end of the pool session my confidence grew, and with that confidence the level of terror I had started with has certainly lessened considerably. I’m actually looking forward to experience diving in the open sea to discover a completely new and different world.
The major insight I gained during the training is this simple fact which I absolutely didn’t know before I started: the BCD is key to a safe dive. It can be inflated when at the surface to help you stay afloat, and that inflation quantity can be minutely adjusted to get the level of buoyancy one requires to float in the water, reducing the amount of exertion one needs to enjoy the underwater world.
It’s too early to decide whether I’ll make open water diving a hobby and seek opportunities to go diving whenever I can; what I can tell you is that after only one day of training, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would recommend it to anyone, especially if done with friends and under professional instruction and guidance.
[updated 5.9.15] I wanted to know what blogs are still being published in Bahrain and I went searching. I found eleven, other than this one. There must be more, surely. In 2006 when I was aggregating all the blogs I remember that the list exceeded 200 at one point. That number has crashed to eleven which are mainly concerned with lifestyle. Food and fashion is the top earner it seems. I remember MyBahrain.ME did a feature on the blogging scene last year with the ladies appearing in the picture above which offered a glimpse of the current blogging scene.
I’m very happy for their success of course and wish them a lot of luck, but am I missing something here? Aren’t there any other Bahraini blogs? If you know of any please contribute. I’d like an updated list to help nurture blogging in Bahrain again.
Update: I received a reasonable refund from VIVA after they heard my complaint. Their management contacted me personally to resolve the issue and offered a way to stay as their customer. I appreciated their offer but demanded a refund for the over-charging which they satisfied. I have now moved back to Batelco. I hope my experience with them now will compensate for the experience I’ve had with them previously. With competition, they seem to be improving but there is plenty of scope for them to rise higher.
While it’s a fact that telecom companies are nothing but glorified automated billing systems, why aren’t they forced to let their customers know of the expiry or anniversary of their contract?
At the moment, VIVA, and I suspect the others too, carry on with their completely unethical practices of not notifying their customers that their contracts have ended, and continue with full unethical intent to charge them ad infinitum the very same charges per month even after their customer have fully paid their smartphone packages.
When I questioned VIVA why this is the situation when my iPhone contract expired in Dec 2013 and they continued to charge me nevertheless, their reply was that it is not their policy to inform their customers that their contracts have expired. I pursued the matter further to try to get a refund to no avail.
Type of complaint: VIVA did not inform me of the iPhone package plan expiry on the anniversary of the original contract (Dec ’13) and kept charging the same amount beyond that until Feb ’15 when it was discovered.
Type of resolutions requested:
Refund the difference in charges from Dec ’13 to date
Force ALL telecom operators to inform their customers on the anniversary of their purchased packages; either offer an upgrade or downgrade by customer choice
I’m available to meet to submit all correspondence with the operator to gain an equitable resolution.
I believe that the action of the telecom operators in this regard is unethical and should be corrected. All telecom operators around the world are essentially automated billing systems, it is their ethical duty to program those systems to inform their customers of the expiry of their contract and offer competitive packages to retain them. It is not the responsibility of a simple customer to keep track of these dates.
I look forward to your response.
The TRA’s response was not slow in coming, I just received a telephone call from them to inform me that they cannot accept and progress the complaint because it is up to company policy how they deal with this issue. When I asked them how I can escalate this matter, the response was that they didn’t know, effectively blocking any further action. To say that this was the response of the governing body is very disappointing. To me, this situation is taking advantage of customers in a completely nefarious manner. The bait and switch con doesn’t have anything on this.
There are two ways I can take this issue forward now: one is to go to court and the other is to get a member of parliament to sponsor a bill forcing a correction of these cons. I don’t have much hope of success on the first because of the necessary time and funds, and the second is equally as bad because parliament seems to be more interested in municipal, rather than legislative affairs.
What’s the solution then? How might a person effect change in this country whose very bodies that are supposed to protect citizens rights aren’t doing the jobs they are designed to perform?
I’m in the process of switching away from VIVA, hopefully never having to go back to them for any further service.