This accomplishment merits a blog post all of its own, the momentous occasion being Jan’s completion of the PADI Open Water course. This is something that neither of us would have believed possible just a few short weeks ago but, after 8 weeks of looking out at the beautiful lagoon and ocean, she couldn’t resist it anymore and finally decided to have a go (Ian kept his mouth firmly shut!)
The idea was planted following a couple of adventurous and lengthy snorkelling trips far out in the lagoon and the realisation that, actually, it might be a bit better under the surface where the waves weren’t buffeting you and you could get up nice and close to the marine life that you were looking down on from above. So, given the opening, Ian didn’t hesitate and suggested that she sign-up for a “Try Dive” and we were soon down at our local luxury resort, Preskil, where Jan embarked upon the entry level to PADI’s dive education system. While she was at it we got the instructor to throw in a bit of the dreaded mask-clearing exercise, just to show that it wasn’t as bad as she feared.
It couldn’t have been because, after the Try Dive Jan signed up for the “Discover Scuba” session, which involved going out to the lagoon for a 6 metre dive in Trou Moutu or the “Blue Hole”. This is a sandy bowl under the surface studded with occasional outcrops of interesting corals and sloping down from 3 metres at the edge to a maximum depth of 6 or 7 metres in the middle – so an ideal dive site for beginners. There were a few more varieties of fish out here too, including flute fish, cornet fish and trumpet fish and a large shoal of Barracuda. (That’s about exhausted my knowledge!) The bottom was populated
with discarded Hindu idols, which made for a rather strange sight. Apparently, in times gone by, the local Hindu population used to deposit them here when they were no longer of any use. (I didn’t ask for details of the lifecycle of a Hindu idol in Mauritius!). The dive included the obligatory session of feeding bread to the fish and whipping them into a frenzy. (Not good for the fish but guaranteed to impress the new divers!)
After this dive was over Ian was holding his breath but, no Jan happily signed up for the Open Water course, so game on!
The first open water dive was in the Blue Bay marine park where the average depth is around 5 or 6 metres but unfortunately the coral is mostly dead –there are still lots of fish to see though as they feed on the algae and there are also at least two turtles living there, (we didn’t see any that day). The dive lasted 54 minutes which has to be some kind of a record for OW dive 1. At the same time the boat had taken Ian and another diver over for a
drift dive out through the gap in the reef to the open sea. This was also a long dive at 58 minutes so Jan and the instructor had to wait for a while in the water for the boat to come back for them. Jan had a nice rosy face at the end of that day.
That was in the morning and we had a nice lunch at the resort before the afternoon lesson which was a confined water session in the 2 metre pool. That took a bit of effort (on Jan’s part) after the exertions of the morning (and the lunch) and all the time Ian was stretched out, snoozing on a sunbed by the pool!
The next day Jan was feeling the effects of the previous day’s sessions so postponed her next dives until Friday and there was a further glitch when the instructor cancelled the Friday dives, claiming ill health (we have it on good authority that he was badly hungover). The consequent loss of momentum allowed second thoughts and feelings of dread to build up over the weekend so that, by the time Monday morning arrived, Jan was a nervous wreck!
It has to be said however that over the weekend the benefits were already evident – the earlier plans to go on a glass bottomed boat were torn up – “what would be the point now that I’ve been down there in among it all.”
Monday was the penultimate open water dive, out in the lagoon on a dive site known as Coral Garden. Whilst Jan and Christophe, her instructor, practised surface skills and a CESA before going on a dive down as far as 12 metres, Ian went down to 17 metres with a couple of other divers.
That left one more open water dive and this time Ian accompanied Jan and Christophe, (a bit like the old divemaster intern days at Wraysbury), on a dive outside of the reef, in the big bad open sea that’s the Indian Ocean. It was actually quite a difficult dive for a beginner as there were large tidal surges pulling us first one way and then the other and we were swimming along a sub-sea wall, trying to avoid being pushed onto the rocks. (Getting off the boat in a fairly large swell was quite hard too.) It was a really good dive however, with lots of interesting sub-sea formations and marine life and the highlight was when we found a very large and beautiful Lion fish hiding in a cave.
So that concluded the diving part of the course, it was now just a matter of wrestling with the new PADI on-line manual and on-line knowledge review submission process, (further complicated by the totally slow and dodgy internet connection in our apartment), prior to taking the final exam. Then it was back to the dive centre on Friday to have it marked – passed with flying colours so now Jan is a PADI Open Water diver!