Tuesday, September 3, 2013

I am a PADI Instructor now

Last weekend, in Eindhoven, we had our PADI Instructor Examination. Before this, we had a very instructive and tough Instructor Development Course.
Compared to the long and hard days of working during the IDC, the IE was a piece of cake. Our Course Director, Bill, was a great support during the IE and surprisingly, we had a lot of fun.
Anybody who is nervous before an IE, you shouldn't be! You are allowed into the IE for a reason. Just do your best and after two days, you can call yourself an instructor!
The first day of the IDC was a 'dry' day. No diving. We made two exams: dive theory and PADI standards. The dive theory exams consist of five parts: Physics, Physiology, RDP and Decompression Theory, Skills and the Environment and Equipment.
After the exams we had some time to prepare our theory presentation and our briefings for the next day. I had to give a presentation about the eRDPml, which was easy. After that we had to give a briefing about one confined water skill, and two open water skills. Mine were neutral buoancy in the pool, and use of alternate air source and a controlled swimming emergency ascent in open water. We had finished early so we had some time to relax.
The second day was the 'wet' day. It was going to be a cold day, the first day of September in the Netherlands, and it was freezing!
We went to the pool to do a 'skill circuit'. We had to do five skills: mask off, hovering, use of alternate air source, the CESA and equipment off on the surface. After that we did our presentation of our own skill, and the debriefing.
Then, we went to the lake were we would do our open water skills. We had to do one rescue skill on the surface, and two skills underwater.

We were with a group of eleven people. I want to congratulate everybody that passed the exam! It was a good weekend and I wish all of you good luck and a lot of fun on your future adventures!
I want to thank and congratulate the RED group in particular: Bert, Corinna, Marc and Antje, have fun working as an instructor!
Thanks to the course directors and especially Bill and Wendy and of course thanks to Yme for being such a relaxed examinator!

PS: This Friday I will be heading to Aruba!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

ECO: be a healthy diver

As I was explaining in the last post about Polynesia, I promised to spend more time writing about ecological traveling and the environment. A few days ago, I got my PADI instructor manual, so I am going to be an instructor soon, and I believe I should start to make steps to teach the (dive) community what I find important. I've always been very conscious about the environment, and I think everybody should be. This post will be about a being a good diver for the ocean, and a healthy diver for yourself!

Perfect dive conditions: ocean versus lake.

The Enviroment
Without the ocean every creature on earth is unable to survive. Here are some tips about making a deal as a diver.
- Most of you know this already; NEVER harm or disturb animals under water. And with this I include shark feeding! Sharks are known as agrresive animals, so every time a human will be feeding a shark under water for 'fun', this shark will always relate divers with food. Even when they don't have the bait with them. It also disturbs their diet. The shark will be less willing to hunt for the food itself, knowing it gets fed anyway.
- Never throw plastic, cigarette butts or whatsoever in the water.
- If you find something that doesn't belong under water, please take it with you and keep it in your bcd till you exit the water.
- If you find something that does belong under water, please let it stay there, for other people to enjoy.
- Try to stay neutrally buoyant, if you're not, you might kill coral by disturbing it with your fins. If you have problems with your buoyancy, which is understandable for a beginner, consider a Peak Performance Buoyancy training.
- If you want to be taking photos underwater, your buoyancy should be controlled perfectly. There are too many times I saw people sitting on living coral, taking a picture of that nudibranch.
- Some dive guides or instructors might pick up or touch animals underwater for the diver's pleasure. If you are not okay with that, you should tell him/her when you are up.
- Always respect the ocean, whether your swimming, diving, snorkeling, boating or on the beach. Even if the ocean looks calm on the surface, you never know what might occur underwater. Angry sharks for example...

Being in a good condition is always a good thing. Although people claim that diving is not a real 'sport', and I agree with them, being put under pressure asks a lot of your body. Here follow some tips about being in good health when diving.
- Drink a lot of water! When diving, you can lose two liters of water. You will notice you are dehydrated afterwards, so drink a lot of water before and after diving. It also helps you equalize better.
- And don't drink any alcohol before you are going to dive, and keep the alcohol consumption limited after and during diving.
- Don't eat heavy food or food that makes you gassy before diving. Try to eat a lot of fruits and take some snacks with you if you know you will be on a boat for some time.
- Try to exercise at least a little. Especially when you are a professional diver, sometimes you don't have the time to sit down. Swimming, mountainbiking, running or pilates or yoga are a good idea. Don't exercise too much after a day diving. This might increase the risk of decompression sickness.
- Be prepared for an emergency, not only the dive proffesional or boat captain has to know about stuff. When an emergency occurs, you could make yourself useful! Think about taking a course in basis life support and oxygen providing. If you want to go further in diving, go for the Rescue diver course.

I hoped you liked this more serious article. I'd like to see it in the comments!

Photo credits: Bert J.

Monday, June 10, 2013

PERSONAL: Journey to Polynesia

As a second blog post, I would like to tell you about French Polynesia, where I made my best dive ever. It was about a year ago, I wasn't a proffesional diver yet. My father and I went on holiday to Polynesia, mostly to dive. Polynesia is a big group of islands in the South Pacific. It is a long, horrible way to get there, but the rewards once you get there are amazing. Unfortunately, it is French territory, so people speak only French and Polynesian. And about ninety percent of the tourism is French. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against French people, but they speak no other language than their own, making it hard to communicate with locals and fellow travelers. Polynesia consists of five groups of islands: The Marquesas, The Society Islands, The Tuamotu Archipelago, The Gambier Islands and the Austral Islands. On our journey we visited several islands in the Society group and in the Tuamotus. The Society islands are mostly big, volcanic islands. The Tuamotus are made up of hundreds of atolls, big and small ones. The islands we visited were: Raiatea, Bora Bora (most of you will know Bora Bora, considered by many the most beautiful island in the world), Tikehau, Rangiroa, Fakarava and Tahiti (the biggest and main island).

Polynesia: ever so dreamy.

RAIATEA is the seconds biggest island of the Society group close to the main island of Tahiti. Raiatea shares the same lagoon with her sister island of Tahaa; the vanilla island. Raiatea is often referred as the 'mystical island', because people believe the island swarms with ghosts. Diving here is very versatile. And deep. Like most Polynesian dives, they go very deep. This requires at least an advanced certification in my opinion. In the waters of Raiatea is something very special going on. Between Tahaa and Raiatea is an underwater cave, in the lagoon. The dive shop we dove with, Hemisphere Sub, usually doesn't dive there with tourists. So it was really exciting to dive there! It was going to be my first cave dive. It is also a real cave, not just a cavern. It is not a complex cave, just one big chamber. The cave has a maximum of 70 meters. We only went to 50 meters. That day I discovered I'm a big fan of cave diving and I would like to specialize in that area one day. The darkness and quietness is something that appeals to me in cave diving. It's amazing to be perfectly buoyant, floating through the cave seeing only the lights of your buddies. Amazing.

BORA BORA is supposed to be one of the most beautiful islands in the world. To tell you the truth, I didn't see it. We stayed on the main island of Bora Bora. In the lagoon are several motu's (little islands) filled with incredibly expensive luxury resorts. That's why Bora Bora is a popular destination for many celebrities and disgustingly rich people. The main island is just boring. You can definitely notice more tourism, also a lot of Americans. There is a lot of garbage and street dogs. And there is supposed to be this one very famous, beautiful beach, but we just couldn't find it, I think because it wasn't there. Ok, maybe I sound spoiled but I was disappointed about Bora Bora, because everybody said it's number one in everything. The mountain and the lagoon are impressive, but that's it. The island looks nice from the air, but unfortunately not down there. We didn't dive on Bora Bora.

View on Bora Bora from Raiatea.

TIKEHAU was an absolute haven of tranquility. Almost no tourism and no big hotels. We stayed in a small pension that held up to twelve guests. The dive shop was beside the pension. Tikehau is an atoll in the Tuamotus, so it is not a  big island where you could drive around, but only small motu's at the edge of a massive lagoon. Here I made my deepest dive till now! It was on air, a single-tank dive to 208 feet (63,4 meters). This is also where my blog title comes from. I have a very deep fascination for deep diving. One of my dreams is to go to a hundred meters (330 feet). But after I made the deep dive in Tikehau, when I became a Dive Master, I realized that what I did was irresponsible and stupid. But more importantly, very stupid from my instructor that time. She went even deeper and I don't think she noticed I was in narcosis. Next time I go that deep, or even deeper, I need the proper training, use the proper equipment and go with an experienced buddy. One of these days I'll be writing a post about technical diving. 

Sharks! The seas of Polynesia are filled with sharks. Not one, not two, but sometimes hundred of sharks you are able to encounter on one dive. As a big fan of sharks, I love this. 

RANGIROA, an island I fell in love with. Not necessarilly above water, but under water it is simply amazing. The most dives we did there were in the Tiputa Pass. Like the name says, it's a canal, or a pass where water from the ocean flows into the lagoon. The lagoon is the second biggest in the world and the pass is relatively small, making the incoming current very, very strong. First, we made a couple of dives outside the pass with outcoming current. I was surprised in the wonderful state the coral was, the abundance of small and big fish and the visibility. The Tiputa pass is famous for her dolphins. On one dive we saw two dolphins swimming next to each other. Beautiful. Of course the many sharks, manta rays and eagle rays are a feast for the eye. On occasion there is a possibility to see Great Hammerhead sharks and in the other pass, the Avatoru Pass, there will be Silvertip sharks.  
The day I did the dive with incoming current, I was a little nervous. It was going to be a deep dive and when I saw the current at the surface, it was definitely strong. We were dropped of in the big blue. When all divers were ready to enter the water, the captain counted to three and on three we were all supposed to make a roll-back from the boat.  Because the current was already strong, this method prevented us from drifting away from each other. Once in the water, we were told to descend immediately. Once you do this, the first seconds you will lose your orientation. You are upside down, descending into a blue world, not being able to see the bottom of the ocean. After a few seconds I located the instructor and I gave him the okay sign. We went down to about 150ft/45m. Down at that depth we saw amazing things! Dozens of sharks, schools of barracudas, three manta rays and two eagle rays gracefully swimming next to each other. We were drifting with a mellow pace towards the pass. Once we were actually inside the pass, the current started pushing us inside the lagoon faster. I think this is the closest humans can come to flying. When skydiving you're just falling and not many of us have the opportunity to go to space! It was amazing to fly at speed through the water and not as scary as I first thought. When we surfaced I litteraly couldn't get the grin off my face.

A Dolphin over the Tiputa Pass.

FAKARAVA is a very quiet atoll close to Rangiroa. Diving here is amazing, just like anywhere in Polynesia. Here we dove in two passes. The one closest to the dive shop was not as excited as the Tiputa Pass and sometimes the current got a little scary. On a day-trip to the Tetemanu Pass at the other side of the lagoon, we saw hundreds of sharks! Crystal clear water, and a hundred sharks passing, that was a good day. The boat trip took about five hours but it was worth it.

TAHITI is the biggest island of Polynesia. We stayed close to the capital of Papeete, which is a nice city. Papeete knows already a lot of tourism. Along with Moorea and Bora Bora they are the most popular destinations under Americans. We made one dive in Tahiti. It was a beautiful wall, and of course, a deep dive. Sometimes, there is a possibility to spot whales. After the dive we made a trip to the tropical rainforests  and I was surprised how beautiful it was. No tourists come here, so there is no garbage, big hotels and herds of people. Only huge mountains, rivers and waterfalls. Absolutely stunning. 

I learned a lot from my trip to Polynesia. The local people respect the ocean, in fact, it is everything they have. It is their source of life. As a traveler we have to learn to appreciate that. Especially as divers, we are every day in, or on, the ocean. As a diver, it is important to learn to respect the ocean. She is big and  unforgiving. And if we keep destroying our oceans the way we do, the people of Polynesia may not have a place to live in ten years. This is why I like to spend a moment after every post to write about ecological traveling or sustainable diving, if appropriate. 

Photo copyrights:
Dreamy Polynesia - Bert J.
Bora Bora - me
Sharks - Bert J.
Flying Dolphin - Bert J.
Tahitian inlands - me

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

GO TO: Aruba

Alright, Aruba is not a prominent dive destination like neighbouring islands of Bonaire or Saba. But when I was working on the small Caribbean island the past six months, I noticed it has a lot to offer.

 Crystal blue waters under a bright sunny sky has attracted tourists to Aruba for years.
 Note: My photographic capability is not proffesional.

Aruba is a perfect family destination. The beaches are vast and among of the most beautiful in the world. Eagle Beach was voted the 4th best beach in the Caribbean by Traveler's Choice 2013 from Tripadvisor. And Baby Beach is resting on a good 15th place. 
Planes filled with Americans land every day on Aruba. Aruba is a very popular destination for Americans. Aruba has gone a huge transformation in the last decades, the island is filled with a restaurant of every possible American fastfood chain and the largest beach, Palm Beach, has transformed to a strip of high rise hotels, restaurants, casino's and shops. Personally, I am not a big fan of it. I prefer the low-key pensions and remote locations.
Let's move over to scuba diving on Aruba. People who celebrate their holidays on Aruba don't come for diving in the first place. Most tourists who take a walk on the beach and see a sign with TRY SCUBA DIVING will try it. So you have a lot of beginners or first-timers. And Aruba is a perfect location to take an introduction dive or to get certified. The waters are relatively calm and shallow. 'Scary sharks' usually stay out of Aruba's waters and there is an abundance of marine life.

A school of Yellow Grunt fish at Arashi Reef.

Also for advanced divers, Aruba has interesting things to offer. For more challenging dives, divers can go to the south or eastcoast. The eastcoast is normally very rough and because people usually don't dive here, the reefs are still very intact. The south and westcoast has a varity of wrecks to offer and the southcoast has some nice slopes with beautiful soft and hard coral. Snappers, jacks, barracudas, moray eels, angelfish, parrotfish, drum fish, lion fish, sea turtles and spotted eagle rays are common in the Aruban waters.

French Angelfish.

As I mentioned before, Aruba has a lot of nice wrecks to offer. The most famous one has to be the SS Antilla. The Antilla is the third biggest diveable wreck in the Caribbean! The Antilla was a German freighter and was sunk during the Second World War. It sure has a lot of history! The wreck lays on her portside with the bow positioned towards the island. She rests on a maximun of 17 meter/75 feet. Unfortunately, 
the wreck is destroyed pretty badly and still parts are falling of, making it dangerous to penetrate. The dive is perfect for beginners as well as for advanced divers.
One of my favorite dives in Aruba is the Jane Sea, a wreck in the south coast. The Jane Sea is perfectly intact and she stands majestically upright on the sea bottom, around 70 to 90 feet. The wreck is easy to penetrate. Beside the wreck is a beautiful reef, making the dive perfect for a wreck/drift dive on the reef.
The Sonesta Airplanes is also a very good dive in Aruba. Two air planes were sunk in the south coast. The planes are close to each other. One of them is quite damaged but the other one is perfectly intact. The best thing to do at this dive is to go inside the intact air plane in the back, then swimming al the way towards the cockpit. The chairs inside the plane have been removed making this very easy. Make sure to go really slow, because in the main time you will be ascending. You will enter the plane around 85 feet and leave the plane around 60 feet. If this is a little out of your skill level, it is a good idea to look through were once were the windows of the cockpit inside the plane.

Part of the Debbie II at Blue Reef.

I hope you enjoyed my first post on this blog! I have a lot of ideas so more will follow. I also want to add that this is not specifically a blog to read for divers. Of course I will be writing a lot about diving. If you are not a diver, I hope that maybe one day I can inspire you to go diving! Maybe you're thinking about it already! If you really think it won't be for you I only can say: I hope you will enjoy your 30 percent of the earth. 

Chao, Liselotte

All photos in this article are taken by me.