Delayed diving

I did finally get to go diving today, but not as much as I’d hoped and later than planned. Two of our divers decided to have a lie in so we left Kuta at 9:30 instead of 7am which pushed the rest of the day back and meant it was my turn to be late meeting David. It wasn’t revenge for last night, I promise!

Up at Tulamben we met a honeymooning couple – Putu is taking the hubbie through his Open Water while the wife is already an Instructor with quite a few dives under her belt. To split groups, I was to take her and the two Dutch chaps (father and son) while Putu again concenrated on the student diver.

However, the younger Dutch guy had a slight cold and was bunged up. He opted to give the first dive a try, but had to resurface after barely getting to 3m. He could equalise, but said the pressure behind his eyes was like a knife. A wise decision not to push it. Unfortunately, when I surfaced to make sure he was OK and send him back to the restaurant, I lost contact with the others.

I decided after waiting for five minutes not to chase after them as by that point I’d be pretty much diving solo until I found them. Before checking on the son, I’d made sure the other two had buddied up and they already have a couple of hundred dives between them. They also hooked up with Putu and our student so their dive went well. I’m just peeved at missing out on another chance at the Liberty wreck as it’s a very good dive.

After lunch, I led them around the Drop Off which went well. Plenty of life down there although visibility isn’t what it was back in September last year. Still, there is a lot to lookout for and we saw, amongst other things, plenty of pipe fish, a huge lion fish and an eel trying to hide in the rocks.

As I said, I was late back to meet David so we’ll try and sort something for later in the week. Right now I’m hoping to find a seat at a cheap restaurant for dinner before grabbing a shower then heading up to the airport to meet Leah on her flight in from Perth.

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Divemaster day 10

Change of plans as I got home last night to a message from ProDive. Instead of helping with an Open Water class, I’d be getting up early and joining a group going to Tulamben for the day. I’m rather glad I didn’t go straight out on the beers after dinner!

Prompt on 8:00, the bus picked me up. Which was a shame as it was meant to collect me prompt at 7:40, but the large group of Singaporeans I was diving with were enjoying accidental lies-in! We met up with an American, Alan, at the equipment store and I joined him in a car for the journey north. The bus wasn’t big enough for all of us and the equipment.

Alan was great company on the drive and we talked about a lot of things. One thing he recommended highly was re-doing my Advanced Open Water with another school, such as NAUI or SSI. The simple reason for this is to avoid liability in case of an accident on a dive which I’m purely a spectator/pleasure diver on. A friend of his got caught up in all kinds of mess when someone in their dive group got into trouble. Their legal beagles sued every dive professional in the group, regardless of whether they were operating staff or fellow holidaymakers. His friend had signed up for the dive using his Divemaster card, and therefore was included in this.

Madness, and of course the friend was cleared but still had to cough up for costs (or his insurance did). Thing is, even if he’d used his Open Water card, PADI would be forced to reveal that he has Divemaster status. However, by certifying at a lower level with another organisation and using that card as ID, there’s no need for professional status to be revealed at all. Much cheaper than liability insurance and a once-off purchase.

This kind of waffle passed the time nicely and we tailed the Singaporean bus all the way to the dive site.

As usual, one dive on the wreck and one of the drop-off. Today’s dives were probably the best two I’ve done there. Visibility wasn’t as good as the first time, but we got a good variety of stuff. With a large group (9 divers plus Kadek and myself), I had plenty to do and the whole bunch were great fun. Also, everyone was good with their air so we managed 45 minutes on the first dive and 51 on the second.

Everyone had a great time and I’m diving with the Singaporeans for the next two days as well. Another four dives towards the sixty I need for Divemaster qualification.

I was supposed to meet Alan for a couple of beers this evening, but he didn’t show. In fairness, we were at least an hour later getting back to Kuta then we’d hoped as the traffic was awful. I also thought I had a late start tomorrow until I found out I was diving again – and I’ll be away tomorrow night, sleeping out on Lembongan.

It’ll be worth it if the place we stay has hot showers. I’m packing my Imperial Leather just in case.

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Divemaster day 5

Diving again today, but with some extra frills as I had a few tasks to complete and skills to demonstrate. I hopped onto the minibus with a young German couple who I’d met in the dive shop the day before while I’d been working with Putu and we took the lengthy drive up to Tulamben.

The Instructor with us today was Kadek who I’d done the two Tulamben dives with last time. It would be her job to monitor me as I took a little more charge of the dives this time.

At the resort where we got changed, I found the cutest puppy in the world ever. Some kind of laborador, all wobbly legs and waggy tail and with the saddest eyes ever. He also joined for lunch later. It was all I could do not to take him with us when we left later on.

We dived the Liberty wreck first, and on this one I was left more or less to myself while Kadek guided the two Germans. My task was to use mapping techniques to generate a rough layout of the area. Armed with a waterproof tablet and pencil, I counted kick cycles and read bearings off a compass. The visibility wasn’t as good as on the previous dive here, and the current had also picked up.

Still, despite all the other factors I got to see quite a bit of fishy activity and the young couple enjoyed clicking away with their underwater for the first time.

Over lunch we had a nice natter and I gave my first dive briefing. This wasn’t too hard as I’d sat through 42 briefings given by other people by this time. Just the basic details about the site, procedures and the like. Everyone seemed happy so we launched off for the drop-off.

This time I was leading the dive, from entry to the time we came back up. Fortunately, it’s a fairly small area and the prime wildlife are in easy-to-spot sites. We were lucky enough to spot a cuttlefish near the start and found the fan coral playing host to the pygmy seahorses with no problem.

Once we hit the main wall area, the colours and number of coral types increased rapidly and provided plenty of opportunity for clickage of the old shutter. We made it to one of the far corners where once again the current was really strong, and turned back.

For a first “guide” I think I did OK, but could have been better. I dropped deeper than I should have, mainly so I could observe the other two and make sure they didn’t sink too low. Also, we should have swum further towards the entry spot before we ascended to make the return to the restaurant less strenuous – this is a lack of familiarity with the dive site on my behalf.

By the time we drove back, my companions had decided to go for another two dives the next day so I can’t have scared them off! Unfortunately, Putu had other plans for me so I wouldn’t be able to join them but I’m glad they had fun and they wished me well for a day of torture that was to be inflicted upon me…

I had an easy night – couple of episodes of Dead Zone and a nice dinner – before getting an early night and plenty of rest. I was going to need it.

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Divemaster day 2

A slightly earlier start today, but again the staff here ensured I had my breakfast before I left and was picked up by the van. Today I was joined by two Dutch guys and a German, Lars, who was to be my buddy for the day.

It was quite a mixed group. One of the Dutch guys had done about 8 dives and was starting his Advanced course. The other had been underwater once, for about five minutes, as part of a discovery course somewhere. Lars had about 25 dives to his name, but had decided to stick with Open Water as he was only interested in enjoying himself and photographing things.

The day was spent assisting Kadek, the Instructor who was taking myself and the Advanced student out. There was a long drive ahead of us to Tulamben over on the east coast – about three hours. I’d had an offer the day before to stay over there and I wish I’d taken it! We got on well, though, and the van was full of chatter for most of the journey.

Rather than whinge about how long the drive was, we took it as an opportunity to get a glimpse of Bali away from the tourist resorts. I’ll tell you, the prices drop a bit. We stopped at one garage and I picker up a Powerade. I misheard the woman when she charged me and handed her IDR12k – she only wanted four! That’s around 25p. The former is what I’d expect to pay at an Indonesian petrol station based on the price-hike fuel stops usually charge. Only I’m used to Kuta/tourist prices. Outside of these areas, things are even cheaper. So if you’re ever in Bali for a while, stock up on this stuff by taking a trip out of town.

Finally we arrived at the resort, which was quite swish. We pre-ordered lunch and got down to sorting equipment out. Porters – women with folded towels on their heads – carried all the gear down to the rocky beach. Amazingly, they stacked two tanks and BCDs on their head for each trip. Pretty impressive.

I took my camera on our first dive which was onto the Liberty wreck. It’s the remains of an old US freighter torpedoed by the Japanese in 1942. It was towed as far as Bali and beached rather than sunk. The locals pretty much tore it apart, then a volcanic eruption in 1963 caused it to tilt and slide into the sea, finally being put to rest. It’s a great wreck dive as it’s in such shallow water, making it ideal even for those with Open Water.

Wreck Dive is one of the optional courses for the Advanced certification, which was one of the reasons we were doing it. There were huge shoals of fish everywhere, from the bright yellow to the dull grey. Some enormous species were spotted near the bottom, and Kadek located a very elusive stone fish. As in Lembongan, I found the fish less “shy” than anywhere else. They would all come up and stare you right in the mask before zipping off again.

All too soon, the dive was over and we staggered back up the rocks for lunch. I made sure to coat myself in suntan lotion as my back was pretty scorched from forgetting the day before. Owies. More chat as we chowed down and then got ready for the second dive. I spent a bit of time with Lars and the Dutch chap (I wish I could remember his name – I think it was Chris…!) going over some stuff. Chris had been having problems equalising, particularly his right ear. I’d had something similar when I started diving, only I think it was my left for some reason. He did say it got a little easier with each dive and I sympathised, so at least he knew he wasn’t alone and that it would eventually sort itself out.

Both he and Lars had had problems sinking on the first dive, so we made sure the extra weights they’d been given were transferred to their weight belts. A short distance the opposite direction from the wreck was the Drop Off where we geared up and plunged in.

The visibility here wasn’t a patch on the earlier dive, but the scenery was vastly different. Chris used this dive to do his Navigation, one of the compulsory components which he passed no problem. We then swam gently over some sandy plains for a hundred metres or so until we started to find signs of life.

The fish here certainly weren’t as numerous as at the wreck, but there were still some sights to see. Some spiny fish that would jump out of their coral and “kiss” you if you blew bubbles at them. Pygmy seahorses that looked like tiny lumpy clay models. Some very rare fish that look like leaves.

The last ones we only really spotted as a diver with some serious looking photographic equipment was poised in front of them for ages. The really looked like two thin leaves, or perhaps some kind of grass just sticking up from the ocean floor. But look close enough and they were, indeed, fish.

Chris suffered one of the problems I used to have when I was learning to dive – get to 3m or so and up he popped like a cork. I gave him a hand staying submerged and when we were out I handed on some advice. It’s something I did until fairly recently, and it’s largely an experience thing. Make sure you dump all your air from the BCD by the time you hit 5m or so, and if you do keep rising, don’t panic. You’ll breathe in a lot more which makes you more buoyant and just increases the problem. Instead, breathe out fairly quickly then in slowly so that you sink again.

Back on shore, I haggled a t-shirt off a local for IDR50k. I need a new one as my Blue Dragon one seems to have gone missing in a wash somewhere. I’m gutted as I don’t think it’s replaceable. Ah well, worse things happen etc etc.

We sorted out all our equipment and I had a word with the other ProDive staff about what was coming up. As I wasn’t staying over, tomorrow will be a study day for me to work through the entire Dive Master manual and exercises. On Sunday morning, I’m to take the book to the office and get the rest of the texts I need, and perhaps do some more diving. Essentially, I’m at the mercy of customers – if there are any then I’m to assist the Instructors.

I do have a huge amount to get through to pass the course, though. Exercises, stamina tests, rescue scenarios, knowledge of Open Water technique to demonstration standard as well as all the theory and dive experience to get in.

It’s going to be a busy couple of weeks!

Oh, dinner at the usual place. Chicken steak which was – need I say it – utterly delicious.

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