Tag Archives: padi

Deep Sea Shipwreck in the Bay of Islands of New Zealand!

I only have my Open Water Scuba Diving certification, so I already assumed a deep sea shipwreck dive would be out of the question. 

You have to be trained to do that sort of thing and that usually requires an Advance Certification. We asked the woman at the front desk of our hostel if she could book us a dive for tomorrow and if it were possible for us to dive at all. I mean, the weather wasn’t the warmest and it was practically a dead zone here in Paihia—a beautiful dead zone at the least. 

While on the phone, the woman cupped her hand over the speaker and asked me “When is the last time you dove?”

“Literally, just a few days ago in Hawaii,” I responded with hope.

It turns out that was enough for me to do a deep sea shipwreck dive, along with having an open water certification of course. Unfortunately, the others weren’t able to do the same dive since they’ve never done this sort of thing before, but still were able to have an introductory course that would coincide with my shipwreck dive. If this is the first thing I am going to do here in New Zealand then I can’t imagine what other amazing stuff we would get into! I knew one day I would do a shipwreck dive but not this soon.

We woke up early in the morning to shabby weather. It was cold, but not terribly cold. At least it wasn’t raining. I’m gonna freeze my ass off. Still, I was pumped and eager to get started. The center of instruction is a place called Paihia Dive. Upon entering, we were welcomed by our soon-to-be dive instructors and prepped for the occasion. One of the instructors, handed me a textbook to read.

“Read that chapter on deep sea diving and fill out this worksheet sometime after the dive is over,” he asked of me.

It was practically like having to do school work again. Read the chapter, answer the questions, and turn it in to the teacher once you’re finished. But in this case, the dive master, Mr. Hoffstetter. The work sheet seemed like a lot but was necessary for the dive, especially since I haven’t trained this far into the diving course yet. Thank God, I dove in Hawaii recently otherwise it would have been a solid two years since my last dive which was in Thailand. It was a good refresher that I didn’t know I needed.

We went off to the back of the dive center and tried on our scuba gear. Since this was gonna be a cold dive, we had extra layers to try on to help insulate our internal body heat. The air temperature was still brisk but the instructors informed us that once we’re in the water, we wouldn’t think about the cold anymore. That was comforting to hear because it was freakin cold outside! Remember that ‘cold’ is one of my weaknesses while traveling that I’m working on conquering.

The boat ride into the Bay of Islands was quite ecstatic. Just hundreds of small, densely shaped islands in the distance stood as our backdrop. We were joined by four other divers: three Germans and a woman from Greenland. On an interesting note, I’ve never met anyone from Greenland before, so sure enough on the boat ride to our dive spot, I questioned her like crazy about her home country since I knew nothing about it. Greenland is near the top of my list of countries I need to visit.

While one of the instructors schooled the others about the basics of diving, Greenland and I geared up for our deepwater adventure. 

It was only the two of us and our instructor which worked out perfect. Less divers meant less time waiting around in the water which meant more oxygen in our tanks. The instructor warned us since we would be about 28 meters deep, we would consume oxygen faster than normal. He told us at most we would be down there 20-25 minutes tops.

Deep Sea Shipwreck Dive

I straddle leaped into the water and Greenland right after.

“Follow the rope all the way down to the ship,” said the dive master. While Greenland was busy adjusting, I grabbed onto the rope, released the air from my BCD (Buoyancy Control Device) and down I went into the refrigerating depths of the bay. 28 meters (nearly 100 feet) is pretty deep, so I thought it would take a while to get there, but it barely took a minute. The deeper I sank, the easier it was to see the amazing shipwreck at the bottom. What a sight it was! A huge ship that was blown up for the sole purpose of scuba diving. It’s called the Cathedral. The ship was decayed and teaming with wildlife, coral, and other sea oddities that you would imagine to grow on a sunken ship over years of time. I was down there on the ships deck alone, waiting…waiting…all while consuming precious oxygen.

Where the heck is Greenland??

I looked up to see the dive master trying to relax Greenland near the surface. 

She better get her shit together. 

I went over my SPG (Submersible Pressure Gauge). The dive master was right, oxygen depletes waaaaay faster at these depths and temperatures. Time is wasting!

Eventually she came down while I was in the midst of fidgeting with my GoPro that unexpectedly read “ERROR” in big bold, horrible caps across the small LCD screen. I let out a flurry of bubbles and a jarbled “NOOOOOOOOOO!” from my regulator. Out of all the times I needed my GoPro, this was the time I needed it most. But not to worry, the dive master told us prior that he would be down there taking footage with his fancy underwater camera that he’d be happy to share with us. The master fiddled with his camera, then swam over to show me his screen that also read “ERROR” in those same nasty, frustrating  caps. There’s no sense in fussing anymore. At least I could enjoy the dive and this massive shipwreck. 

We swam around the corridor and the upper deck down to the bridge where a big red fish nicknamed “Captain Snappy” resides. It’s his territory now, so we were sure not to disturb the captain. It’s too bad I couldn’t get any footage to share with you all. I fiddled with my GoPro once more and changed the settings. Instead of recording in 4k, I switched it to 1080 mode to see if it made a difference. And it certainly did! I was now able to capture some of the shipwreck.

The dive didn’t last long at all. It felt like only a few minutes. We barely scraped the surface of the ship before our SPG’s entered the red zone. I blame Greenland. So up we went a few meters to do our safety stop before we approached the surface. That dive. That dive solidified the notion of scuba diving being my favorite activity to partake in while traveling. Seeing a ship on the water is one thing, but to explore it underwater is a complete game changer. Greenland apologized for her lack of finesse getting under the water. She costed us a solid ten minutes of exploration but whatever. She was nice at least.

<h2>The Intro Dive</h2>

When I returned to the boat I found Chelsey, Mike, and Ryan snorkeling nearby as they waited for their introductory dive. I was actually able to join them in what was a personally amusing dive. Remember, none of these guys have ever dove before. Save for Mike who’s tried once I think. Ryan wasn’t used to wearing flippers and Chelsey has never worn a snorkel. I couldn’t believe it! So I joined them and just like I imagined, it was a bit of a circus.

Underwater, I looked behind me at one point and saw Chelsey magically floating up to the surface, Ryan uncontrollably tumbling around to the left and Mike somewhere off distracted to the right, with Hofstetter in the middle trying to regroup them all. It was actually pretty funny to see. Over time, they found their groove…mostly. Ryan couldn’t control his buoyancy under water and was practically escorted through the whole dive by another instructor. I don’t think he paid any mind though.

We ended the 12-meter deep dive swimming back to the boat. Two new successful dives under my belt, but nothing compares to that shipwreck. I definitely wanna do more just as deep! As for my friends, they enjoyed themselves and would actually dive again in the future. 

*For anyone interested in a deep sea dive, normally an Advance PADI Certification is required but I was able to do so with an Open Water PADI Certification with the condition that I have done a dive fairly recently. Upon completion of the deep water dive, I earned a certificate stating I completed the Deep Water Adventure Course which was stapled to my Diver’s Logbook as proof. Even if I don’t get my Advance Certification soon, the Adventure Certificate should prove helpful if I ever wish to do another deep dive again.

We went back to Paihia and chilled out for the rest of the day. I don’t know what it is about the water but whenever I get out of it, I instantly wanna nap. But before I could rest, we had to decide where we shall go next. Should we continue north? Should we stay in Paihia? Should we head southbound? I suggested to the others that we go to a place called Rotorua. It’s an environmentally unique region just a few hours south where geothermal pools spout toxic fumes and volcanic hotspots fill the cracks in the land. They all concurred that we needed to go there.

Rotorua here we come!

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Under The Sea

I didn’t think I would be scuba diving in Africa at all. It never crossed my mind. It was on Nicks list of things he must do here in Zanzibar. I came to Africa with the mindset to do everything I possibly can, so Lana and I decided to dive too.

Nick, Lana, and I ready for training!

We had to watch a 20 minute training video and the next morning, we headed to the pool at our hotel to train underwater. Before we agreed to scuba dive, the instructor said that we should not dive if we had any cough illnesses or were claustrophobic. My coughs have been waning ever since I got off of Kili so I was fine there. I have slight claustrophobia but I didn’t understand how that relates to scuba diving. After practicing underwater with the oxygen tank, I understand now how it relates. You’re meters underwater with only a hose as your source of oxygen. I don’t know how that relates to tight areas but I got the same feeling I get when I’m trapped in small spaces. But no worries, it didn’t bother me.

Learning hand gestures.
Practicing in the pool

After about a half hour of training, we headed out to sea! We took a wooden boat across choppy waters to Tumbatu Island, the site of our dive spot. Did I get motion sick from the boat? Not this time. Beforehand, I warned the instructor that I would get sea-sick before diving so he gave me some motion tablets that worked like a charm. Last thing I would wanna do is vomit in the water to attract sharks. Yikes!

We put on our heavy scuba gear and fell backwards into the ocean. We deflated our vests and down we went into the water. The dive was about 20 meters deep and full of sea life. Corals, green turtles, schools of fish, and even eels would make an appearance. I wish I had my underwater camera with me to show you how amazing this was!

And down under we go

Every so often we would have to de-pressurize ourselves by squeezing our noses and blowing out to pop our ears. And no matter what, we could not hold our breaths! Doing that would cause our lungs to expand or something like that. We remembered these simple measures, including periodically checking our oxygen gauge to make sure we had a supple amount left. It all came naturally to us as we glided underwater exploring the sea life. We spent maybe 30-40 minutes in the deep and then inflated our vests so we could float to the top. It was one of the most enjoyable things I have ever done! We got back on the boat and were offered to do a second dive in a different location. Of course, this costs more money and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it or not. Nick wanted to. I started to feel sea-sick sitting around on the boat, so he convinced me that I would feel better under the sea. I didn’t need much arm pulling. The first dive was a blast! So in again I went for another mesmerizing dive.

After the dive, we got back on the boat and headed back to the main island. Did I get motion sick? This time yes, but I didn’t vomit. Just felt woozy and nauseous. When we got back to shore, the instructor gave the three of us diving certificates. We aren’t 100% certified but if we wanted to dive ever again, this certificate allowed us to do so without going through training again. Pretty sweet. I can see myself diving in the near future. I never thought I would like it so much.

The next day we booked a spice tour about an hour away from our beach. It’s one turned out to be better than I thought. We were taken to a plantation where many different spices and fruits are grown. I had no idea that cinnamon came from the bark of certain trees. One of the plants produces henna, a thick gooey substance that locals use for painting. Our tour guide grabbed my hand and painted the pinky nail on my right hand. On a man, one nail means you aren’t married, two nails mean you’re married. The henna won’t come off until the nail grows out, so I’m stuck with this for a while. I’ve seen this stuff on locals hands before but until now I never knew what it was.

There were fruits I tried that I have never even heard of. One of them, I don’t remember what it’s called, resembled a slimy slug. It tasted great though! I also had the best mango in my life! It just so happens that mangos are my favorite fruit. The tour lasted for a about two hours. We were treated to tons of different spices and fruits the whole time. Well worth it.

We only had a couple of nights left in Z. On our last night, we ate at Infusion and ordered huge lobsters and other seafood delicacies. Well, everyone but me. I hate seafood. Especially seafood that’s still in the shape of what it looked like when it was alive. I did try tiny, minuscule bits of everyone’s dish but that’s about all I could take. Blah!

It looks like someone hand painted each of these lobsters.

Take a look at my pinky nail

We did so much on this beautiful island and everyday here has been the absolute definition of paradise. We spent a week here and I felt like that was a perfect amount of time. I could have stayed on that island forever though! We all could have.

Lana and I ate so much ice cream in Zanzibar. It was great!
One of many different varieties of Zanzibar pizza. This is the sausage pizza.

On our last morning, we headed back to Stone Town and said our goodbyes to Nick. He was leaving to go back home to London, where he could enjoy the Summer Olympics which at the time, started just a couple of days ago. It was a bit weird when he wasn’t around. Lana, Nick, and myself pretty much spent the past two weeks together, 24/7. One week on Kili and immediately after on Zanzibar for another week. But it was time to get back to Arusha to see my kids that I haven’t seen in two weeks. They’re probably anxious to see me! My time in Tanzania was coming to an end as well. In just a few short days, I would be going back to South Africa for another month. As much fun as I had here in Tanzania, I’m pretty pumped to go back to where my story in Africa began.

I’m taking my wife here for our honeymoon. I’ll miss you Z!