Our children came to Indonesia this summer. The five-ish weeks they spent here were carefully planned, thought over, researched, and booked. (Mostly by Scott who would make an incredible travel agent if he wasn’t such an awesome engineer.) One of the trips was a 5-night boat trip to Komodo Island. Scuba diving was listed as a possible activity but none of us were certified. Our “cruise director” said it would be no problem and that we could do our certification on the boat. Our experienced dive friends said the exact opposite. The kids found classes in the States and began their courses but Scott and I had issues with schedules and out-of-country trips and decided to do the online course and certification on the boat. Once more our diving friends thought this was not the way to go. That gave us one week. We sent out inquiries and crossed our fingers.
Backstory: (Because what would a good story be without a backstory.)
I am prone to panic attacks. A crowded church or loud restaurant can have me fleeing, heart pounding, to the nearest quiet spot. I always sit with an escape route. I have given up most night driving. (Well, I have given up ALL driving in Indonesia.) I have learned some calming techniques that include Altoids and drinking bottled water.
With only one week to pull this off Scott and I started calling around for somewhere to get certified, or at least an opportunity to try out the equipment in a pool. By Wednesday we had nearly given up hope until I talked to ODY Dive in Jakarta. They understood our dilemma and had us start that night. Two LONG nights of course work and tests and we were ready to head to the pool. We knew this was going to be the big test for me. Every night I practiced breathing through my mouth. Friday we met our instructor at the pool. Scott was excited but I could see in his eyes that he was worried about me.
We got all our gear on poolside and then got into the water. So far, so good. We had the hand signs down and were ready to submerge. As we sank there was some water in my mask. (I now know this was normal but that day I didn’t expect it!) The instructor questioned us with the “okay” sign as we submerged. Scott returned the “okay” sign but I created my own signal for “Oh hell no!” and immediately headed back to surface. I could see that Scott’s hope of a family picture underwater was rapidly fading. It was time to put on my big girl pants and suck it up. I could do this. After a few more practice breaths with the regulator at the surface I was ready. And this time, I did just fine. So fine in fact that I passed the pool part of the certification, (woohoo!) which was good because our open-water certification was set for the next two days and we were already booked for Thousand Islands.
Saturday morning before the sun came up we joined what seemed like half of Jakarta at the pier to take a water taxi out to the Thousand Islands. We found our dive group and waited for our turn on one of the boats. After an hour-long, pounding trip in a boat that looked like it could be used to run drugs in Miami we were at our island. Now the fun could begin. Our room was a small building with two beds and most of a bathroom. By that I mean it had a sitting toilet and a shower. (For those who don’t travel in Southeast Asia to actually find a sitting toilet and not a squatty potty is a big deal!) The table where we had our meals and a deck to relax on were outside.
Each dive master had a group of 3 divers. The third in our group (Henry) was going for his advanced so our dives were just Scott and I with a dive master. I was happy for the personal attention. We were scheduled for two dives each day. The first dive was off the pier to get our requirements out of the way. It was close to shore and a bit murky but the required tasks were similar to what we had done the day before in the pool and I was able to handle them without too much stress. In between we relaxed near our room and had meals prepared by the staff. The food was pretty awesome.
Our second dive was out amongst the islands. We went out on a dive boat to some of the bluest water. It almost did not look real. Having finished our requirements during the morning dive, we were free to just enjoy the reef. It was amazing. The colors were vibrant and it was truly like nothing I had seen before. I will admit that about 20 minutes in I felt a little panicky but with Scott holding my hand and some intense concentration, I finished the dive.
The dives the next day were easier. We had spent our free time the night before talking to the other divers in our group and the dive masters. It was good to learn that the other beginners were just as nervous as I was. The experienced divers had lots of stories and encouragement for us as well.
So one week after beginning our search for a class we were PADI certified. If someone had told me that Scott and I would be scuba diving in Indonesia a few years ago I would have laughed but I guess the joke is on me.
PADI = Professional Association of Dive Instructors