Something I’ve always wanted to do, ticked off the bucket list – and some tips for anyone’s first time scuba diving!
It’s kinda rare that I take to anything particularly naturally. A couple of years ago, I went surfing in Morocco, and I was pretty awful. Managing to get up onto my knees for a couple of seconds was my achievement of the weekend, and I ended up spending the rest of my time sitting on a blanket sipping mint tea, devouring a good book (Peter May’s Coffin Road, in case you’re interested).
Scuba diving went a bit differently though.
My first scuba diving experience took place in Budva, Montenegro, when Conor’s dad (who’s an experienced diver) decided to take us all on an underwater adventure. It’s been something I’ve wanted to do in a long time, but just never got round to – in Mexico it NEARLY happened, but the pesos just didn’t stack up.
So we loaded up onto a boat, with some local instructors from Budva Diving Centre. If you’re going on your first scuba dive, make sure you go with a reputable company – check out traveller reviews first. In other countries, they might not speak the best English, but underwater, that doesn’t really matter! We learnt the basics pretty easily, like how to clear our masks, equalize pressure and the essential hand signals.
After watching Conor have his go, it was my turn. And I was READY. Loaded up with some weights and my scuba gear, I jumped straight in, and spent a little floating on the surface while just practising breathing. It’s kind of a weird sensation, breathing underwater where you really shouldn’t be breathing. But I trusted in my scuba gear, and quickly managed to get into a rhythm – you basically just breathe as you would normally, but through the mouthpiece.
Going down, I was a little worried about the pressure – holding my nose and dry swallowing managed to keep the headaches and ear pain that some people experience at bay. For some people’s first time scuba diving, this might be more of an issue than others – but taking it slow and steady, swallowing while holding your nose and just trying to keep as relaxed as possible helps keep you equalised. We didn’t go that deep either – only 6 metres or so, which is standard for a first dive.
Underwater, you don’t need to use your arms much. That’s what the flippers are for! Like when you’re snorkelling, you only need to do some minimal leg kicks to actually move around, using your upper body to steer yourself a bit if you’re changing direction.
Another worry I had was that my mask would fog up and I wouldn’t be able to see, or that water would get in. Lots of spit (yummm) helped with the former and learning the mask clearing technique solved the latter, and I got to take in all the colourful fish with my own eyes. One thing that’s a bit weird underwater through the mask is that everything seems closer than it actually is. At times, I was convinced that the fish were literally writhing against my scuba mask…
It’s hard to describe the feeling I got when I was underwater. Instead of the panic and anxiety some people have described on their first dive, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and relaxation. The sound of my own breathing in my ears was all I could hear, and it’s as if all the worries I’d felt above the surface were a whole world away. It felt like I’d found my space, somewhere that it didn’t matter what I looked like in the water, that I didn’t have a scrap of makeup left on, that my hair was a mess. I wasn’t worried how the GoPro pictures would look – all I concentrated on was exploring the watery world I’d submerged myself into.
My first time scuba diving was a truly incredible experience, and I can’t wait to get back under the water. I emerged from the water and nearly cried at how strong, serene and calm I’d felt underwater. The rest of the day, I spent on cloud nine. The instructor was impressed too – insisting that I do a course to get my PADI license. Which I’m 100% planning on making a special trip for – now all I need to decide is where…any suggestions?! I’d love to hear more people’s diving stories and experiences in the comments too!
GoPro pictures courtesy of Budva Diving Centre