Some diving pics

Silke, one of the folk I dived with towards the end of my Divemaster course in Bali, has very kindly sent me a few photos. They’re pretty good, and as my camera died towards the end of the course I’m going to make full use of them.

Incidentally, the camera is repaired and “awaiting despatch” from Olympus‘ repair centre. Yay!

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Divemaster day 16… all over bar the paperwork

I was back at Nusa Penida / Nusa Lembongan today, racking up dives 58, 59 and 60. My companions were the same group from yesterday minus the token snorkeler who opted to stay home.

For the first and last dives, I was buddied with Peter who’s still progressing on from his Open Water. Both dives were modertately tricky – the swell at Manta Point and the fast current for the Lembongan Point drift dive. He did OK, but definitely needs some more dives to get to grips with buoyancy and using his legs instead of his arms! Encouragingly, his air use has improved in just the last two days.

Lunch, for a change, was veg fried rice and some sate chicken. I split mine with the fish as we were “parked” in shallow water. Watching the swim up for the tidbits helped while away the final surface stop.

There was a downside to the day, though. My camera casing flooded at Manta Point and the camera seems to have died. Another one for the insurance. They’ll love me. Annoying as I wasn’t below the depth at which the camera itself isn’t rated as being waterproof. I don’t think it’s still under warranty, though.

The main thing, though, is that otherwise everything went well. I got the 60 dives I need and – bar some form-filling on Sunday with Putu – I’m all passed!

So, thanks to everyone at ProDive Bali. I’ll forget some names, but: Erna, Kadek, Putu, Peter, Robert… and everyone else. I’ve had a great time. And also to all the paying customers – without you I’d have had nobody to experiment/practice on!

I’m looking forward to the next couple of days off. Finally I can wash my trunks and get a lie in. Oh, and have a beer!

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Divemaster day 14

Change of plan – I’m getting used to these. As I helped sort out the gear for the Singaporean group I was due to dive with, another bus arrived crammed to the gills with Americans on a Discover SCUBA course. Eight completely amateur divers and two staff wasn’t the perfect ratio so I was switched from Tulamben to Nusa Penida.

Actually, I was fine with it. A larger group is usually more fun and it also meant I’d not be away from “home” for the night. OK, the fact that seven of the eight Americans were very attractive women may have had a slight bearing on my feelings, too. Also, I’ve not supervised a “Discover” class before and it sounded like a new challenge.

I have to say it ended up being one of the best days I’ve spent here so far. The group were great – chatty, friendly, full of questions and keen to learn. Harold, the only guy in the group, was a great person to talk to for the boat trip over. Coming from Iowa and living in Khazakstan, he’s obviously got some stories of his own. The girls all (as far as I could gather) live in China, doing various things.

The purpose of the day was to give these people – barring one with an aging Open Water certificate – their first ever experience of SCUBA diving. This is why we needed three diving staff as well as a boat handler. Anyone who’s learned to dive must remember their first time.

There really is a lot to deal with all at once. Controlling the BCD; breathing underwater; equalising ear and mask pressure; all those hand signals; and the biggest problem – maintaining buoyancy. It takes a good few dives to work out how much weight you need, how to dive level and so forth. First attempts usually end up with beginners doing good impressions of a cork in boiling water – up, down, up, down. Oh, a cork with waggly arms. And randomly kicking legs.

Some people get the knack sooner than others, and the task at hand was to guide those who’ve not quite grasped it. The best way to learn is to be under there, and this is also a discovery course – not a lesson. The group were here to experience the diving, not to learn the skills as such. So we kept tight-knit groups, and those who could just about manage the buoyancy thing swam nearby while those with trouble were escorted with a secure hand on the BCD.

I ended up escorting one of the girls who was struggling a bit. I remember all the same things from when I was doing my Open Water. Relying too much on the BCD for changing my buoyancy rather than using my breathing. By halfway through the second dive, I think she got it. It’s quite a challenge maintaining your own buoyancy while controlling someone else’s using just their BCD and a bit of pushing, pulling and so on.

As the dive progressed, she became more level and her positioning improved. She stopped using her arms to swim and used her legs less as she learned to go with the current. Towards the end of the dive, I was swimming near and around her and only rarely nudging her in the right direction. As with so many things, the best way to learn is to do.

I’m really glad to say that the whole group left with big smiles. Harold even said he reckons it’s possibly the most amazing thing he’s ever done – and at 48 with five children I’m sure he’s seen some pretty amazing things!

The waters were clear, the swells stayed down and the sun was hidden by cloud just enough to help stave off sunburn.

A great day, marred only by my smacking my head on the rear van door as I was packing the equipment away. These things are built for Indonesian height requirements and I have the bleeding head to prove it. Ow. Still, no stitches required and I don’t feel concussed…

As I walked back to my hotel, I dodged the usual cries of “transport?”, “sunglasses? Cheap shirt?” and “massage”? I was almost curious at one point as I was offered “sexy massage? Banana massage?” I really, don’t think I want to know what a banana massage is, but I’m keeping that term for use at a later date.

Tomorrow I have yet another early start to join the group I was due to be with today up at Amed. Putu reckons this is his favourite dive site so I’m really looking forward to it.

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Divemaster day 13

Early start. After I got in from the cybercafe (late as I had to sort out the stolen debit card mess), I had an SMS telling me to be at the shop at 6:30am. Argh.

As ever, I woke before my alarm and got dressed. No chance of breakfast this morning – the staff were still snoring when I snuck out. The walk to the dive shop is about ten minutes and I made it there shortly before the bus arrived.

We waited five more minutes for the first of our divers – a couple from Holland – and then set off to collect the rest of the group from their hotel somewhere outside the city.

The destination today was Manta Point on Nusa Penida, so we congregated at the boat near Nusa Dua and loaded up. There was quite a party this time – the aforementioned Dutch couple, a Frenchman living in China, an American couple with two kids and a Kiwi woman with her two youngsters in tow.

The children and the Kiwi lady were all snorkeling, and the rest diving. And it’d be my job to guide both their dives. As I said, the first one would be Manta Point, and that’s not the easiest due to high current and low visibility.

On the way, the two American children were ill and I can’t blame them. The sea was the calmest I’ve ever seen it approaching and around Manta Point, but still it’s quite choppy. I busied myself with setting up equipment and lying on my back to offset the queasies.

At the site, the dive briefing was given (by me, natch) and we plunged in. And then we hit problems. Well, this is the thirteenth day of my Divemaster

My BCD wouldn’t inflate using the low pressure hose. I’d swapped into this one as one of the guests had been issued it. Thing is, I know I’m fine on the surface and that I can control my buoyancy without it. At worst I could inflate it manually if need’s be. Fine for me, not good for a paying customer. The downside was that it was an extra-small, so she ended up with my medium one.

Then we struggled to get her to sink. I think this was partly due to her BCD now being too large and difficult to get the air out of – she couldn’t get it to deflate completely. Also, we didn’t seem to have enough weights on board to ensure all our divers could become negatively buoyant.

And finally, our French diver had to pull out when he couldn’t equalise after the first metre. He had half-expected this as he has an injury from a recent jet-skiing accident and his doctor had told him it would likely be another couple of weeks before he could safely dive. To his credit, he did the correct thing – tried it, didn’t push it at all and gave up at the first hint his doctor was right. He said he’d have regretted not trying as he’s heard how good the diving is here.

So with one unsinkable person, who was also not too chuffed, and one with bad ears back on the boat, we regrouped and descended. The major downside of the messing about swapping weights and so on was that everyone had used a bit of air. Thankfully there’s not much swimming involved at Manta Point – just get to the rock and float around hoping the manta appear!

Which they didn’t. We stayed down for around thirty minutes before the first diver hit 50 bar and We had to start our ascent. Then… Mr Sod and his law put in an appearance. Just as we were ending our safety stop at 5m, a manta ray swam around 5m beneath us.

The previous two dives here have been swarming with the things. Today of all day – my first one in charge of a dive – and the darn things play hard to get. Hey ho. As I said on the boat, you can’t guarantee anything with wildlife – and at least we did see one.

We headed up to Coconut Bay (where I’d been dropped off for my hotel the other night) for lunch and our seasick munchkins were off the boat first. The young girl who’d been the most ill was sat on a rock all wrapped in a towel feeling sorry for herself. I went up and asked her if she was feeling a little better. She said, “Yes, thanks – and I’m really sorry for being so much trouble.”

I could have hugged her. She’d had a dreadful journey over and all she was bothered about was putting people out. Thankfully as our lunch break progressed, she got a lot more lively and by the time the divers an snorkellers set off for Lembongan Bay she was on her feet and starting to eat. Her mum’s excuse – “we’re from the mountains!” No such excuse for being so well mannered, though. That’s just good parenting.

Her mum was the lady who’d had the BCD issues and she opted to stay on the beach for the second dive and look after her two nippers. In fairness, not a bad place to be stuck for an hour or so as an alternative. A few people around to chat to, great water to snorkel in and the sun was just right.

The rest of us tootled off a few minutes’ boat ride away so a much simpler site. Again, I gave the briefing and down the three of us went – all sinking this time! Lembongan Bay is a long and spread out area of coral. The water’s anything from two to twenty metres deep – the hardest thing is to find the deeper areas so that you’re diving rather than snorkeling with a tank on your back! It’s also a huge expanse of really cool stuff. If you’ve dived in the area before, there’s nothing really unique to it. It just has a lot of everything and it’s beautiful.

Because of the shallow depth, we managed an easy fifty minutes out and partway back. To try and name everything we saw I’d need an encyclopaedia and about two weeks. The main thing, I’m glad to say, was that we had three happy divers after this underwater swim. I just felt sorry for Patrice as he’d joined us on the boat and didn’t even snorkel in case he got water in his ears.

All aboard, we doubled back to pick up our castaways and set off for the mainland. I’m glad to say that nobody felt ill on the way back, partly as the sea was as calm as I’ve ever seen it around here.

So, back to the dive shop for bills to be paid (and haggled over) and my tasks for the next three days to be laid out. Erna’s managed to sort it so I have three dives a day for the next three days. This takes me well into the realms I need for certification. It does mean another night away, this time up at Tulamben. No complaints there, as I like the diving off the wreck and drop-off.

Another early morning tomorrow, though, and don’t expect an update till I get back. I think the internet will be expensive or non-existent up there.

As I sat down to dinner at the usual Gong Corner, I was surprised to have Maria walk up to me. She’d just arrived back in Kuta after a trip all the way over to Flores and back by boat. By her own admission she’d not showered in four days! But it sounds like a great trek. I’ll have to add it to my “maybe next year” list. She wandered off looking for accommodation, but my place is full. Still, I offered her the use of the shower and the offer of the spare bed if she wants it. As I said, I’m away tomorrow night so she’ll have the place to herself for long enough.

Oh, and apologies for the lack of photos recently. I have been taking my camera, but always left it on the boat. If I’m in charge of people, I’d rather my attention was on them and not my camera. I’m hoping the Singaporean group will send me some of the better ones from their dives with us.

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