Learning to dive in Malaysia

My scuba adventure started on a sunny Thursday. The Dive DownBelow dive center had sent a van to pick me up from my hostel in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. In the Sutera harbor I transferred to a speed boat and was taken to Gaya Island, where the dive center was located. I started out with a day of discover scuba diving.

DSCN3096The closer we came to the island, the faster my heart was pounding in my chest. At the island I met my dive instructor Sam. There were two other guys, of which one was doing the full open water course. After some explanations about the equipment and what we were about to do we went into the water. The moment came way too fast for me, but we were in water that was only 1,60m high.

The first breath under water felt strange and scary. Sam immediately distracted me with all sorts of exercises. Fill your mask with water and then clear your mask. Take out your regulator and put it back into your mouth. Equalize your ears. The first session flew by and I could recover from it on a short break. The second session was at the house reef, in open water, but on an easy dive site. Dive number three was the real deal. Another instructor, the ever relaxed and always joking Mel, showed me how to backroll off a boat. I couldn’t believe I was doing that! And then we submerged to 10 meters. I felt like I was in a documentary.

That same day I decided to do my whole open water course, so I joined the other guy for the next two days. So that night I was studying until my eyes went fuzzy. My dive buddy didn’t always understand English, so it was good that we had our dive signals. In the morning I almost wanted to signal ‘ok?’ instead of asking him. There was still a lot of ground to cover for the two of us and we had to go through a whole bunch of exercises on this second day.

With every dive I became more confident and I learned that diving was actually a way to relax. The key is to keep breathing. Deep breaths in and out in a slow and constant rhythm. I swear it’s like meditation. The skills we had to practice under water were easy, apart from a few, but it was a whole lot of information to take in.

On the last day the nerd in me passed  the theory exam without any mistakes. But the moment of truth came when we went for our final dive in open water. The weather was miserable and the visibility was pretty poor. Still we couldn’t wait to get back into the water. We were boat diving and the sea was a bit rough. As soon as we were in the water we went under. The corals opened a whole new world. From every corner of it fish appear. I found Nemo several times. We saw stingrays and ugly and colorful fish. I had no clue what exactly I saw but I just took it in.

I still don’t really believe that I’ve done this. This is me, a claustrophobic girl who has always shouted she would never ever go scuba diving. The help of a great team of inspiring people and an instructor with the patience of a saint have made me discover this underwater world. I’m excited to go again, see different places and meet more divers. It feels like a supportive community with people with a passion and I love to share my experiences here.

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