I was lucky enough to experience my first scuba dive in the awesome house reef of Mantaray Island Resort!
Fellow ambassador, Atu, was my dive instructor and I have to say, I couldn’t have asked for anyone better to take me through my first scuba dive journey. He really is the best person to look after you in the water.
Mantarayisland resort management was very insistent that no one on their intro dive is allowed to have a go pro or any filming equipment so they can focus on being safe underwater, so well done Mantaray for having safety precautions for novice divers!
So first up, I hop… Well, no I squeeze into the wetsuit, it’s my first time in a wetsuit so it’s a bit strange to me, and I definitely won’t be doing any aerobics in this outfit!
Next is the mask, now this is the tricky part because I have a tiny head, most of the time I shop in the kids section for caps and sunglasses and it always takes me forever to find the right fit, Atu got it right on the 2nd mask he gave me!
Ok now to run through some safety rules, MOST IMPORTANT THING WHEN UNDER WATER IS TO BREATHE!
We get shown all the hand signals and taught how to clear the mask and regulator(the mouth piece where air comes from- very important!)
Now comes the hardware:
So we have the wetsuit on and we have a fitting mask.
Now for the tank, so Atu puts the vest on me with the tank attached and he’s hold the weight of the tank. When the vest is on and clipped in Atu tells me he’s going to let me take the full weight of it, my thoughts were… it’s air, how heavy can it be… Well, if you have ever seen the movie Runaway Bride, the part where Julia Roberts gets strapped into her hiking back pack and immediately falls back because if the weight of the pack, well I had to use all the strength I had not to flop in the same ungraceful way!
Feels like it weighs 100kgs, I’m wondering if he wants me to crawl along the bottom.
Then for good measure Atu straps some weighs on me! Fantastic, what every women wants… to weigh more!
So now comes the part where I’m trying to figure out the how we get from the dive shop which is off the sand, to the water… and the answer is… WE WALK!
So off we go, the guys walking easy and me looking like a turtle trying not to tip over!
On the boat they have special seats that the tanks clip into so that you dont flop around the boat so that helps me stay in my seat.
As many of you know, it’s my dream to see a turtle in Fiji waters.
All of a sudden, they other guys shout ‘Lauren a turtle! Come look!’
A turtle pops up to the surface but because I’m on the other side of the boat, I miss it! There was no ways I was going to manage to maneuver around the boat with my 100kg tank! So I miss that sighting but it’s still early days so I’ll have other chances.
So we arrive at the dive spot and Atu counts us down to get into the water, and this is the easy part because it’s falling backwards into the water, easy as pie with my 100kg tank!
Once we are in the water we run through more checks, practise using the regulator and clearing our mask.
Then Atu takes the two boys down and I practice breathing underwater, this isn’t easy because the tanks are set to deal with the pressure under water at lower depths and at the surface there isn’t pressure, so breathing up here feels strange through the regulator. Also I am very aware of the bubbles it releases on the sides of my face.
By the time Atu comes to fetch me he can see that I’m not as calm as I was, so he talks to me, reassures me and calms me down before we begin heading down to join the boys.
Atu made sure I focused on him on the way down to ensure I was equalising my ears correctly. He really was an asset to have because I knew he would look after me and make sure I was ok, so that really put my mind at ease!
When I snorkel, one thing I do is take the snorkel out and breathe some fresh air, but I can’t do under water, obviously! The bubbles from the regulator do trouble me a bit so taking a break would have been nice but I carry on breathing and I know that I am fine.
There were a couple of occasions that I felt really nauseous while under the water, this doesn’t surprise me as I get motion sick on most moving vessels like boats, planes and cars. Atu did tell us in the beginning we could throw up into the regulator and it would be fine…. I was not going to be doing that under water because then I would have definitely tried to pull the regulator out!
While we were looking at the clams Atu had nursed from young and transplanted in the Mantaray reef, he gave us the signal for shark….
Yes, a shark!! Now I know I said I wanted to see a turtle… But shark was not on the list of things to see!! So I wanted to swim away but Atu assured me it was all ok, and I must just look at the shark and enjoy. Yes, this conversation happened underwater, it’s amazing how much you can communicate with just your eyes and creative sign language! So I stayed and watched the shark, it was a White tip shark, I’m told they ok in the reefs and won’t harm you… I’m like they have teeth, right? So they can bite! But we had no trouble from this shark thank goodness!
We continued to look at the amazing under water world then Atu spots the tail of a ray, so we go in for a closer look and it’s a Blue Spotted sting ray, so cool! I’ve never seen one before!
We exploring some more and Atu shows us soft coral that looks like his and Hosea’s hair, we all have a giggle then pose for some pictures as we have fellow ambassador, Blair, down there with us as cameraman.
Then after exploring a bit more, Atu signals that time is up so he gathers us and we slowly come back up to the surface.
My first scuba diving experience was very cool but I think I need to do a couple more dives to get used to the equipment and the bubbles near my face to settle down more because the underwater world is so cool and I love exploring it!