A few weeks ago, we went to Dahab. While I’ve been to Dahab many times before, this trip marked a lot of firsts for me: my first time diving in Dahab (weird, I know, considering Dahab is like a second home to us), my first time diving with the exceptional Scuba Seekers Dive Center, my first time diving in 2 years and my first time diving after giving birth. It was also the first purely family trip we’ve taken in a long time.
After taking my Reactivate course, during which I went over some basic diving skills with my instructor and went on a dive, I felt more than confident to continue diving again. To be completely honest, I was always a bit apprehensive when it came to diving, which mostly stems from the fact that my initial training was not the smoothest, safest or the most organized.
I obtained my diving license a few years ago, actually a few months before I got married due to a deadline imposed by my then fiance, by which time I was to be certified as a PADI Open Water Diver. Because how else were we going to dive together on our honeymoon in the Maldives? Alas, at the time, I was unemployed and a little strapped for cash, so I found this deal on Groupon offering an Open Water course with a shady little dive center in Dubai. I won’t go into too much detail, but suffice it to say that at our final dive (which was in open water), we were instructed to dive to a depth of 30m in order to obtain the Advanced Open Water certification, instead of the 18m that was a requirement for the Open Water certification and which we were originally trained for. So yeah…not the most reassuring initiation into the world of diving.
This anecdote just serves to highlight how incredibly qualified and professional my instructor with Scuba Seekers was. Even though, I dove a couple of times before, I barely remembered how to assemble and disassemble my gear. Throughout the Reactivate course, he was very patient as we reviewed a few skills, one of which was taking off my mask underwater and putting it back on. I just couldn’t get the hang of it. So to calm me down, he used the old distraction technique and suggested we dive around the Lighthouse reef for a while. It worked, because after about 45 minutes of watching flutefish, lionfish, nemo and impossibly colored corals putting on a show for us, I gave it another try and I managed to do it, however, inelegantly.
My second dive was the following day at Eel garden, a mostly sandy sloping reef known as a habitat for garden eels found on the seafloor. While I didn’t see as much in terms of marine life as I did the previous day during my course, I attempted another skill which further increased my confidence as a new diver. Halfway through the dive, I reached 50 bar on my tank and we all had to start heading back. Once I reached 30 bar, my instructor signaled for me to take his alternate regulator. We argued back and forth for a little bit, with me insisting that I had enough air to take me back up to the surface. Finally, after checking my pressure gauge for the depth for the umpteenth time, and looking up to see how far we were from the surface, I decided I had no other option. So I closed my eyes, took out my regulator while continuously exhaling, immediately took his regulator, pressed the purge button and I was in the clear. We then resumed our ascent to the surface.
This was one of the most relaxing trips I’ve had in a long time, pre-toddler in tow and all. And even though I still spend more time than necessary nervously checking my depth and air supply during a dive, I am glad I got back into it with people who actually know what they are doing, even if it was just a half-day refresher course. It reminded me that despite the many risks that such a sport seems to entail, it is, after all, like any other sport: your breath acts as the bridge between the mind and the body, and mental clarity and joy exist somewhere in the space between a total state of alertness and a complete sense of calm.