I've always wanted to go scuba diving. As a kid I was engrossed by the Jaques Cousteau specials, and I wanted to be there to discover it myself. Still, it took me a long time to get into it. I first got my PADI Open Water certification in 1988 or so, but then I didn't dive for the next 10 years. Mainly this was because I didn't have any friends who were into diving, and I wasn't sufficiently motivated to do it on my own.
In September 1998 my boyfriend (now husband) Simon and I were spending some time in Austrialia, and I proposed that we should take diving courses, where he'd get certified while I relearned everything. So we did, with Kelly Dive in Airlie Beach. Simon got his Open Water certification, and I got my Advanced Open Water. Then we spent a few days on a liveaboard on the Whitsunday Islands where we got to see lots of cool organisms.
Here are brief descriptions of the diving we (or I) have done since getting qualified.
Red Sea, March 2000. Since we hadn't been diving in awhile we took a Scuba tune-up course with the local dive shop to make sure we'd be familiar with the equipment, tables, etc. So then we spent a few days diving in with Emperor Divers in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. Simon had problems with his ears on the second day, so I did the third day on my own. I found that my main interest was in "fishspotting": learning the names and facts about the underwater organisms that I encountered. I bought Helmut Debelius's Red Sea Reef Guide to help me with this task.
Gozo, July 2001. This was during our honeymoon. We went with St Andrews Diver's Cove in Xlendi, Gozo. This time Simon again had trouble with his ears (on the second dive) so he explored Gozo on foot and by bus while I spent some time underwater.
Monterey Bay, California, February 2002. Simon went to a conference in California, so I rented a car and drove south for some diving with the Monterey Bay Dive Center. Since there were no groups going, I got a guide for two dives. Monterey Bay is quite cold in February, and I wore a super-thick wetsuit, a hood, and neoprene gloves. I found that my booties weren't quite up to the task of keeping my feet warm: by the end of the second dive I could hardly feel my feet. Still, it was worth it: saw several nudibranchs and barber slugs, lots of anemones and starfish, and different kinds of sea cucumber. The highlight was the Metridium field, a big area with loads of large, ghostly white anemones. Diving in California is definitely a matter of invertebrate spotting rather than fish spotting.
Tenerife, Canary Islands, April 2004. Water temperature: 18 degrees C. Max depth for the trip was around 25 meters. I had a break from scuba diving because of being pregnant with my daughter (Ellen), and then feeling that she was too young to be away from me for long periods of time. But finally she was more than a year old and I felt I could leave her for much of the day and have Simon look after her while I went under the waves. So whilst on holiday in Tenerife I got in a few dives with Atliantic Divers. I was a bit disappointed: although there was a good selection of fish, there wasn't much attached to the rocks: very little in the way of coral, anemones, sponges, you name it. Just lots and lots of very nasty looking sea urchins with long black spines. Still I enjoyed being underwater again, and I got to try out the dive computer that Simon had gotten me for Christmas. Now after diving with one, I wouldn't want to be without!
Monterey Bay, California, August 2004. Water temp: 13C. We were in CA visiting friends, so I convinced Simon that he and Ellen could find some fun things to do while I did some diving. This time I did 4 dives over 2 days, again with the Monterey Bay Dive Center. In some ways it wasn't as good as my diving here in Feb 2002: the kelp was at its peak of growth, so you had to get through lots of it to get out to the dive sites (I did shore diving, as I did the previous time). The real problem though was that there was a Red Tide, which meant that the top few meters of water were thick with algae and it was difficult to see anything. Below that the water was much clearer, but much darker than on my previous visit, so I didn't see the wonderful creatures stuck to the rocks as well as I had last time. But my guide Dave made good use of my low air comsumption, and we did some quite long dives. We spent alot of time out in the Metridium fields, which I loved as much as last time.
Jersey, Channel Islands, July 2005. Water temp: 18C, max depth less than 10 meters. We were on Jersey for a family holiday: Simon Ellen and me, and Simon's parents. I booked three days of diving with H2O Sports in St. Helier. There weren't any regular dive groups going out, so I got a guide, who turned out to be Phil, the guy who owns the dive shop/school! All the dives we did were in bays on the northeast side of the island: St. Catherine's Bay, Bouley Bay, Bonne Nuit. The visibility wasn't great, as the warmer water temps had triggered a plankton bloom, but there was still lots to see. The rocks had some fish (mostly wrasse) swimming around them and plenty of things attached to them: snails, seaweeds of different varieties, sea squirts. There were some areas of short kept, about 1.5m long, that looked beautiful as it swayed in the surge. The kelp had its own little ecosystem, with all sorts of interesting things attached to it. Out on the sandy areas there was plenty to see as well: lobsters small (tiny ones that hid in the links of big chains) and large (edible ones that hid under rocky overhangs by day and walked along the sand at night), all sorts of crabs including hermit crabs, mostly inhabiting whelk shells. I saw plenty of whelks, some scallops, a good number of cuttlefish, and one squid (seen on a night dive). Also saw some different kinds of anemones, including some (incorrectly called parasitic anemones) attached to the shells of hermit crabs.
Hughada, Egypt, February 2008. Max Depth 30 meters. It had been a few years since my last dive, and I was desperate to get back to it. This time, instead of leaving my family to fend for themselves while we all were on holiday, I went on a holiday on my own! I went with Emperor Divers again since I was so impressed with them last time I was in Egypt. I took a Scuba tune-up course, and then did a week of diving. Heaven! I discovered how important it is to keep your head warm on a dive: I got quite cold on my first few dives, but then one of my fellow divers loaned me his hood, and after that I was fine. On this trip I also experimented with underwater photography, using my Olympus digital camera with a scuba-worthy underwater housing. You can see the results of my experiements here.
Becasue of the trouble Simon has with his ears, it looks like he won't be doing much if any diving with me. But now that I've had a taste of the underwater, I find that it's addictive, and I won't give it up. So I will be doing diving on my own from now on (well, not on my own, but being teamed up with a random buddy by a dive leader just before the dive).
At present I'm still a fairly inexperienced scuba diver, having done only a bit over 50 dives. Until December 2003 I only owned the mask, snorkel, fins, boots, and dive watch that I bought in Australia. However, for Christmas 2003 Simon bought me a dive computer. Now I know just how much time I'm spending at which depth, and, more importantly, the max amount I should be spending at each depth before a decompression stop is advised. Knowing I'm keeping well within the limits makes me a much more confident diver. It's also cool to know the water temperature.
Last modified: 4 Dec 2011