Day 4 arrived, up early for breakfast and the day’s first briefing. We had one more dive that morning to get our open water PADI licence. In the afternoon the choice was another standard dive or to sign up to get our Adventure PADI licence. This meant we would need to learn to go down to 18 metre max depth, possibly suffer Nitrogen Narcosis, learn to deal with staged stops to come to the surface to prevent any effects of the bends and finally to do a night dive in the pitch black!!! No brainer really.
We carried out our morning dive with no dramas, just taking it all in and loving it. Having passed our open water PADI licence and celebrated with a great lunch on deck.
The afternoon came. We’d all signed up to get our Adventure PADI Licence and as the briefing said, we’d be going down to 18 metres depth and learning how to cope with the pressures at that depth and carry out some tasks. All geared up and buddy checked, in we jumped, Just at that moment I noticed our instructor picking up a tomato before jumping in, a little strange! We’d been told to look out for our buddy and make sure that they weren’t showing signs of nitrogen narcosis. If they did show signs we should take them up a couple of metres and this would fix the problem. Taking our time to dive down to around 18m, we then sat on the bottom in a circle around our instructor. Sitting there, we had to do some simple exercises to prove we still had all out faculties and that nitrogen narcosis hadn’t set in. Touching the fingers on our right hand with our left hand, one at a time and between touching each finger, we had to touch our nose. Very simple but very effective. At that depth the light loses a lot of the spectrum colours and to prove it out instructor brought out the tomato. In the depths of the ocean a bright red tomato looks green. It’s freaky! After demonstrating the colour trick we fed some fish who seemed to love tomato and then started to make our way up. It’s a little unnerving when someone tells you that if you come straight to the surface you might get the bends!! It definitely focusses your mind and you ensure that you take your time. The slight issue I had was that I was an air sucker, someone who got through their air supply faster than most of the others. Obviously the quicker you get through your air the less time you can stay under water and I was running out fast. However, you have to spend the right amount of time at the right level or potentially get very ill, so I tried to calm myself, difficult with a hot Parisian and Portuguese lady staring at you making sure you don’t bolt for the surface before your air runs out. Thankfully, I made it and enjoyed not spending the next few days in a hyperbaric chamber.
Celebrating with a great dinner and a bit of a rest before getting ready for our night dive. Now I didn’t actually know people did night dives for fun. Our instructor gave us a briefing, and part of that was to give us all our light stick which would attach to our tanks when we were down in the dark depths. A glow stick is exactly that. It’s a small test tube sized stick that glowed a very bright florescent colour. Our instructor told us all that to make our glow stick glow it need to be activated and warmed up. Made sense. So he got us all to roll our glow sticks in the palms of our hands vigorously. Nothing. He then suggested to roll it in our palms and blow on it. Still nothing. He finally said the most effective way to get it to glow was to put the glow stick in your mouth and suck on it whilst sliding it in and out vigorously. Now, here we were, a group of inexperienced divers sitting on a boat in the middle of the ocean above the Great Barrier Reef, 2 guys and 11 girls. Luckily I clicked on quick to this, but the 11 girls were frantically sucking on the glow sticks, in and out trying to generate enough friction to make this stick glow so bright. Nothing. At the height of this faux blow job scene with 11 girls just going for it, our instructor looked at them and said, wait a second I got it wrong, the sticks don’t glow like that, you just have to snap them!!! Well the place just erupted in hysterics, I wish I’d got a picture or even better a video of that scene, it was one that will live with me forever.
So after the hysterics we geared up and got ready to dive. Now I’ve done some cool stuff in my time on this planet, abseiling, stunt flying, potholing, skydiving (jumped out of a plane called the Black Beaver!! That is a story for another time.) but I must say if you ever want to total shit yourself, jump into a pitch black ocean full of mother nature’s strangest creatures with just a torch and a glow stick. I was shaking like a leaf, we all were but in we went. I’ve never known so much darkness, I can’t tell you how thick the dark was. You could just see some concentrated beams of light from the other divers and the glow sticks on the back of their tanks, everything else was pitch black. Swimming in pitch black is very confronting, you have your torch beam in front of you and creatures come out of nowhere and leave just as quick. There were sharks, turtles, sea snakes and fish of all types. Did you know Parrot fish live in mucus sleeping bags? For protection they make a sleeping bag out of their own saliva and float above the reef. The dive was probably the most amazing thing I’ve ever done and I loved every minute, even though my adrenalin levels were through the roof and I was sucking air like no tomorrow.
We surfaced back at the boat and the buzz of chatter afterwards was amazing. No one could sleep for hours and we just watched the Milky Way in the blackest of skies float by.
I’d just experience one of the most amazing trips in my life, met fantastic people and lived very much out of my comfort zone.
So what were life’s lessons from this amazing trip?
- Chase your dreams, even if you’re nervous about going alone.
- Learn to appreciate people from all backgrounds and cultures. They’re great fun.
- Never try and make a glow stick glow by giving it a blowing job!
- Be happy you have a material sleeping bag and don’t have to sleep in your own mucus one!
- Do what scares you, it can be an amazing experience.
The sad part is that I’ve never kept in contact with any of those great people. I met Amandine for a drink when she visited Melbourne a few months later but have never seen or spoke to her since. So my final life’s lesson is keep in touch with the people you’ve shared amazing experiences with. You’ll miss them if you don’t.