Tag Archives: scuba diving

A Gang of Bull Sharks Came To Play

Bull Sharks in Beqa Island, Fiji while Scuba Diving

The only major, adrenaline-fueled activity I wanted to do during my two months in Fiji was to scuba dive with bull sharks.

The moment I arrived at the Fiji Beachouse, my very first day in Fiji, a backpacker came up to me and asked if I’d be interested in diving with sharks near Beqa Island the next morning. My answer was an immediate YES! What tipped this random guy off to ask me just as I was confirming my dorm room at the front desk?

“Alright good,” he replied. “We’ve got a group!”

His name is Dwayne (Australia), a traveler who’s been in Fiji for quite some time now, also staying here at the Beachouse. He mentioned he’s gathered a group of six backpackers who were all in and we’d need to be up and ready by 6am.

Scuba diving in the vicinity of sharks is something I’ve always been interested in. I’ve done something similar twice before but in the protection of a steel cage. Now within hours of landing in Fiji, I was magically presented with the opportunity to dive freely with them. Unlike the Great Whites and the Galapagos sharks I caged dived with prior, this time we would scuba in the complete open-ocean-wild with a number of possible sharks: bull sharks, nursing sharks, white-tipped, black-tipped, and the biggest of them all, the elusive tiger shark.

The following morning, I went to the front desk at six sharp and met the other divers Dwayne gathered who all also stayed at the Beachouse. Among the motley crew of divers were fellow Beachouse backpackers Ross (UK), Nathalie (Sweden), and another Daniel (Australia). We took a private car hire about 40 minutes east along Queen’s Road to Pacific Harbor. There, a small boat was there to charter us to Beqa Island, a small island just a few kilometers south of the main island.

Once we docked on Beqa, my team of divers were equipped and prepped about what we were about to do. It turns out that Beqa Island is one of the best places in the world to dive with sharks, specifically bull and tiger sharks, however the tiger sharks are usually a rare occurrence. This also wouldn’t be a typical scuba dive and not just because there are wild sharks lurking. We were instructed that we’d swim down about 20 meters to an arena where we will watch the dive masters tempt to attract and feed any incoming sharks with their tuna heads.

So far so good. I didn’t feel any motion sickness as of yet. The small boat out into the middle of the ocean above the arena was a little choppy, but I was alright. We anchored with a couple other boats filled with divers. This was a shared opportunity. My group of six turned into a group of about 15. Whatever, I just had sharks on my mind!

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Bull Sharks in Beqa Island, Fiji while Scuba Diving

Once it was time, we put on our gear, strapped on our weights, and spit and rubbed our masks. I always try to be the last one in the water among a group of experienced divers, because I tend to use up more oxygen than most, so any air I can save is essential. I plopped into the water, released the air from my BCD and began the decent down a mossy rope that guided me towards the arena. As I went down, I noticed my regulator wasn’t in the best condition. Every time I inhaled, a little water would run through the mouthpiece and into my mouth. Instead of a natural flow like when I usually dive, this one felt as if I were gasping for air every time I took a breath. Like I had asthma or something. Anyways, I reached the seafloor and joined the others kneeling down at the arena. Holy shit there were so many fish! Thousands upon thousands of tropical fish, all colors, shapes, and sizes. We were surrounded!

Bull sharks in Beqa island while scuba diving.

Bull sharks in Beqa island while scuba diving.

Two dive masters were in the arena, with garbage bins toted to their waist. Inside these bins were fish bait. On the floor were two punctuated chests also filled with fish heads. The other divers and I were knelt in a single row behind a wall of ocean coral and rocks that came up to about our waist. No sharks in sight yet, just an insane amount of fish.

Bull sharks in Beqa island while scuba diving.

Bull sharks in Beqa island while scuba diving.

While I was contemplating on whether I should let a nearby dive instructor know that my regulator was malfunctioning, other divers had separate issues with their gear as well. Ross’ mask wouldn’t fit properly behind his head and constantly filled with water no mater how much he cleared it. The other Daniel had a nose bleed for some reason. And another diver’s tubes became detached which caused her to dangerously rise to the surface. Our equipment sucked. Gasping for air underwater ties into my mild claustrophobia, but I kept it cool. I debated if I should leave and swim back up. That’s how uncomfortable I was. BUT not before I see a frickin’ shark!

Bull sharks in Beqa island while scuba diving.

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It took about 15 minutes before it happened. One of the dive masters unleashed a buffet of tuna heads at once that caused a frenzy with the nearby fish. A barrage of fish and fish guts balled into what looked like an intense underwater dust cloud. Suddenly, a sound similar to thunder rolled in and out of nowhere appeared four massive bull sharks! They burst into the scene chomping at the giant tuna heads scattered in the arena. All the other little fish got out their way. One would think to be terrified at the sight of an oncoming shark, larger than a human, underwater but no. We were all completely mesmerized. Myself, almost hypnotized, so much that I wanted to swim out into the arena and touch them.

Bull sharks in Beqa island while scuba diving.

Minutes went by and more bull sharks joined the arena. A total of 16 different bull sharks showed up to claim any major bait lying around. Whenever a shark came into the vicinity, the dive masters swiftly swam out of the way…way away from the hungry beasts. The wall barricade felt like an invisible barrier came between us and the sharks. They never swam through the barrier, but came awfully close to side swiping us at times. Still none of us budged.

Bull Sharks in Beqa Island, Fiji while Scuba Diving

At this point, I’ve been down here long enough to cope with all the water I was breathing in and spitting out. I didn’t want to miss any of this action. I didn’t want to miss the chance to see the even bigger tiger shark.

Bull sharks in Beqa island while scuba diving.

Unfortunately after about 25 minutes, we were signaled to swim around the coral to our safety spot. No tiger sharks in sight today.

Back on the boat, we had to wait about an hour at the surface before we could go back down on the second dive to do the same thing. I coped with my crappy regulator and decided not to whine about it to the dive masters. I’ll just deal with it again.

The second dive was more of the same; an infinite amount of fish and more bull sharks. They swam in like a gang coming in to steal food from the smaller guys. But not once did they pay attention to us divers. I think the sharks here are used to humans coming down here every other day, feeding them giant tuna heads. One could say this is detrimental to their natural instincts, others may say this is great for creating awareness of the bull sharks. They aren’t that bad. Most reported shark attacks are from bull sharks but that’s only because they are one of the most expansive and abundant sharks in the world. Not only can they adapt to warm and cool temperatures, but they can also swim just fine in fresh water. I’m not sure if this is true or not but I’ve heard bull sharks swim freely in the Great Lakes of Michigan, my home state. I’m not one to find out personally.

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After the second dive, I immediately took off my gear and went to the roof of the boat to lay down. I was feeling woozy. Nathalie joined me soon after. I slept the whole way back to Beqa Island and thank God because I wouldn’t have lasted much longer!

Once we got rid of our gear and recorded our dives, we were happily escorted off the island and were serenaded with a farewell song by the staff of the dive center’s resort. Actually, I’m not sure if the farewell was actually for us or the nearby couple who happened to be leaving the island and boarding the same boat we just so happened to be on. Regardless, it was a nice touch!

Bull Sharks in Beqa Island, Fiji while Scuba Diving

ATLAS Updated!

What’s next?

Upon returning to the Beachouse, I spent the last few days there chillin’ and hanging out with the backpackers I met there over time before I had to part ways to begin the next phase of this Fiji trip.

Many of you know that I frequently cater to a volunteer organization called IVHQ. My last IVHQ was in Guatemala, which is where I decided Fiji would be my next placement once they opened it up as a new program there. This would be my ninth time volunteering and I had about six weeks coming up with them. I’ll be teaching in a local primary school in the island capital of Suva. Time to revert from backpacker mode to volunteer mode.

Let’s see how this new group of volunteers and this new school I’ll be placed in shapes up to my previous efforts.

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A Hawaiian Style Send-Off At The Paradise Cove Luau

paradise cove luau oahu

Two more events are left. The seventh event is one I looked forward to the most because it’s something that I’ve done in other countries before. Still I wasn’t sure if Veronica and Katelin would like the event because of the preparation it requires. I withheld that preparation from them because a big part of the League of Eight Extraordinary Events is the surprise aspect. To expect the unexpected. With that, I told everyone to wear their bathing suits and get ready for the seventh event. We woke up early Thursday morning and drove back up to Sharks Cove on the North Shore.

Event #7 of 8 – Scuba Diving Sharks Cove

First I have to say, don’t let the name Sharks Cove deceive you. There aren’t any big sharks here. Just lil’ baby ones the size of your arm. Secondly, I should have told Veronica and Katelin that we were scuba diving because the looks on their faces when they saw the scuba gear I pulled up next to was a look of uncertainty. Chris, as usual, was game. Scuba diving is a whole lot of fun but it’s also a serious endeavor. Freak out underwater and you’re in deep trouble (pun intended). Proper training and skills are required and today, my three amigos would get a quick introductory course. Sean sat out on the sidelines because this was an absolute ‘hell no’ for him.

We met up with Devin, our dive master, near the shoreline as he prepped us and explained to us what we would be doing today. Since this was an introductory/refresher course, we would only be diving a depth of about 12 meters, not too far from the shore. As Devin explained to us basic diving procedures, Katelin began to doubt whether she’d be able to do this or not. Breathing underwater is not a natural feeling so if there are any doubts, its understandably so. The instructors eased her and told her not to worry and give it a try.

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We put on our equipment and walked down into the coves. In addition to the four of us there were four other first time divers in our group as well. Once we entered the water, just a couple of feet deep, we practiced the basics like clearing our mask from water leaks and readjusting our regulators. It was a quick and dirty tutorial compared to the half day instruction I received back in Zanzibar, but hopefully it was just enough to get everyone by. Soon enough, we put on our flippers and swam out to the buoy in the deeper part of the cove.

Devin called for two of us to swim towards the buoy and practice the skills once more. Chris and I volunteered first and just a couple minutes later, we were 12 meters underwater, sitting on the ocean floor. Now we just had to wait for the others. We waited…and waited…and waited…

“What the heck are they doing up there?” I thought as I began to regret the decision of volunteering myself to go down first. The longer I was down there waiting, the more my oxygen tank depleted which meant less time to explore the coves.

I could see Veronica and Katelin up there practicing their skills, but dangling at the surface. Eventually three divers from the other group came down and then finally Veronica. But once Veronica touched the floor, she gave me a look of absolute terror from her mask and pointed up to the surface. If I could read her mind, she would have said said…

“GET ME THE F%€% OUT OF HERE!”

scuba dive oahu

One of the dive masters saw it in her face too and knew he wasn’t going to be able to convince her to stay down. So he escorted her safely to the surface where Katelin waded. Katelin was having ear issues and couldn’t manage the descent either so the two of them stayed at the surface but were free to snorkel while we dove. And so we went!

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This was one of the easier dives I’ve been on. The water was warmish, the currents were smooth, and there was an abundance of wildlife. The best part was the lone sea turtle that slowly glided by, entirely composed as can be and not afraid of us humans one bit. We could have touched it but that would have been illegal.

scuba dive oahu

scuba dive oahu

The dive itself lasted for about 40 minutes before our tanks entered the red zone. We swam back to the cove shore and rose to the surface to join the others. It was a successful dive! On to the eight and final event which also happens to fall on Chris’ birthday.

Event #8 of 8 – Paradise Cove Luau

We couldn’t go to Hawaii without having a proper Luau and with Chris’ birthday also on the same day, I thought it would be a fitting send off for my travel companions before they fly back to the mainland U.S. The night before the luau, we had dinner with one of Chris’ college buddies who was stationed here in Oahu. The local musicians in Waikiki at the restaurant we ate in serenaded Chris with a Hawaiian birthday medley.

The luau I reserved for our final event is well known on Oahu. It’s called the Paradise Cove Luau and it’s one of the more popular ones on the island, but also one of the most touristy. I came to this specific luau 12 years ago and loved it so much that I thought I’d give my friends a taste of it. Since this was the last event and a send-off, I told them prior that we’d be attending a luau and to wear something bright and on the colorful side.

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Once we entered the site, we were treat with a complimentary Mai Tai and cards loaded with $16 worth of credit to use towards beverages and souvenirs. Of course, we used them for the beverages as we walked around paradise cove beach. A stroll through the cove took us through festivities like arts and crafts and Hawaiian games. Periodically, different spectacles were put on for the guests such as the Shower of Flowers, the underground oven cooking at the Imu Ceremony and the Hukilau on the Beach. Merely casual entertainment as we waited for the main event: a buffet style feast served up by the locals of Paradise Cove.

paradise cove luau hawaii oahu

paradise cove luau oahu

paradise cove luau oahu

paradise cove luau oahu

The food was absolutely amazing! Roast, chicken, seafood, pastas, salads, and a few Hawaiian specialties thrown into the mix created the best dinner we’ve had on the League of Eight Extraordinary Events. And also the perfect meal to celebrate Chris’ birthday in Oahu.

paradise cove luau

paradise cove luau oahu

paradise cove luau

We spent the last couple of hours watching the incomparable Paradise Cove Extravaganza. Award-winning entertainers and performers put on an unforgettable display of songs and dances of Hawaii and Polynesian cultural as the sunset in the distance. That’s taken straight from their website and it is 100% true! This is the second time I was able to witness it with my own eyes.

paradise cove luau

paradise cove luau hawaii oahu

paradise cove luau hawaii oahu

paradise cove luau hawaii oahu
Courtesy of Chris O’Sullivan

The End of The League of Eight Extraordinary Events?

And with that, completes the league of events that took place over the course of two weeks. One week in Alaska and one week in Hawaii. Here’s the rundown of events:

  1. White Water Rafting Denali National Park (Alaska)
  2. Ace ATV Denali (Alaska)
  3. Glacier Bay Kayaking (Alaska)
  4. Shark Cage Diving (Hawaii)
  5. Lunar Legends SUP (Hawaii)
  6. Peddle Bar Honolulu (Hawaii)
  7. Scuba Diving Sharks Cove (Hawaii)
  8. Paradise Cove Luau (Hawaii)

Oddly, I loved planning the whole thing. It took months to execute but I found it to be truly exciting as I could have gone wherever I wanted and made any event I could have thought of. Alaska and Hawaii were the perfect hosts and the people we met there have but nothing but nice. We didn’t have a single issue with the locals we met in each community we visited.

Even though the League is over, that doesn’t mean it’s gone for good. I definitely plan on creating another one sometime in the near future, but I’ll be cranking the notch up a bit and taking this party international. I’ll keep everyone posted on that!

As for Veronica, Chris, and Katelin–my traveling companions for the last couple weeks–it’s that time where they head back home to the States. Veronica, Katelin, and Sean flew back to Michigan the morning after the Luau. Chris hung around for a couple extra days to kick back and relax before he headed back to Philadelphia to resume his teaching duties. Thanks for joining me guys. You’ve all been great!

scuba dive oahu

As for me? I’m continuing onto my Quest to the Seven Continents and flying to Auckland, New Zealand to spend a couple weeks there with a few friends from home as we road trip through the North Island.

The Quest to the Seven Continents continues in New Zealand!

License to Krill (Part Two)

Today is my final day of scuba training! This morning, we would take two more dives in different locations, practicing a different set of skills in each area. We set out to sea early in the morning to our first dive spot called The Pinnacle Rock. It was here that we would dive to our deepest depth yet – 18 meters underwater! Some of the skills we practiced mainly had to do with running out of oxygen underwater and how to ascend properly when you have no air left. Besides that, the dive here was pretty neat. We went along the anchored rope beneath the ocean, equalizing every few feet along the way. I could barely see the ocean floor below me, schools of fish were all around, bubbles were everywhere – I felt a sense of serenity. I was able to perform tasks fine during this dive, like the mask clearing, equalizing and other skills perfectly when no one was watching. I also noticed that I use up a ton of oxygen, more than anyone else in my dive group. I was aware of this last summer in Zanzibar, and it’s still the case now. Whenever Natalie would signal to me asking “How much air I have left in my tank”, my number would always be much lower than everyone else’s – especially the deeper I am underwater. Sometimes it’s so low that Natalie sends one of the dive assistants to resurface with me so I don’t run out of air. I asked her, is it normal that I use so much more oxygen than everyone else? She said that it’s completely fine and that everyone breathes differently. I just breathe heavier than the norm, even outside of the water. Overtime I will use less oxygen, the more I dive.

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After diving at Pinnacle, we sailed to our next and last dive spot, Shark Island. It’s called Shark Island because the huge rock island is shaped like a shark fin.

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This was perhaps the best time to dive; the water was super calm and clear, the sun was shining bright, and visibility was amazing. But it was also here that I was going to have to take off my mask underwater, put it back on, and then clear it. I was a bit nervous because I was going to have to do this on the ocean floor, and if I freaked out, it wouldn’t be good. We descended to the very bottom and Natalie had me watch Viola and the others do it. Piece of cake for them. And piece of cake for me…when no one is watching and testing me! Weird I know. But we went through other tasks, like how to navigate underwater with a compass, and floating at a neutral buoyancy right above the floor. Natalie decided she wanted me to wait until we were about to resurface to do the mask clearing, so first we went on our dive!

I brought my GoPro on this trip, mainly because I wanted to capture footage underwater. But I was told by previous divers that I would need to hire a videographer if I wanted underwater photos. The dive instructors wanted us to concentrate on diving and not fiddling around with a camera, especially while learning. I was disappointed…but there was no way I could leave this without getting some underwater footage! There was no videographer nearby our resort to hire and the one I found costed a pretty penny. Skip that man! I have my GoPro which is great underwater, it’s such a waste not to use. So my plan was to sneak it in with me and use it very subtly and when the instructors weren’t paying attention. I put the GoPro in my wetsuit, snug against my chest. During our final dive, I would casually pull out my camera and record everything while holding it close to my body so it wouldn’t look blatantly obvious. Sometimes, I would tap the others on the shoulder, pointing to my camera, signaling them to smile and wave. I grew a little lax and at one point, Natalie turned around and saw me with my camera. But instead of her signaling me to put it away, she made a full on rockstar pose and resumed guiding us. This let me know that it was okay to have my camera, then I started to record everything!

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It’s hard to describe the sensation you get from freely diving, meters and meters under the sea. As cliché as this sounds, it really is like exploring a completely different world – like a strange alien planet. Except this time, you’re flying through this new world, weightless, and you’re always with other explorers who share the exact same feeling as you do. You never knew exactly what kind of marine life would pop out unexpectedly, or what ship wrecks you would come across.

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It was nearing the end of the dive, which meant it was time for me to clear my mask! During the dive, along with recording everything, I was thinking to myself “What is it that I do differently on my own than when I’m being tested in front of Natalie?” I figured it out! For some very, very odd reason, every time I try and clear my mask with Natalie, I exhale out of my nose…and mouth which results in water flying into my nose. On my own, I naturally just exhale out of my nose when clearing my mask. I don’t know why I do that, but I figured thats the reason. I got to try it when Natalie tested me again and presto! Mask was cleared in one fell swoop. I could literally hear Natalie cheering with joy underwater as she pumped her arms in the water for me! Myself, I was relieved. 🙂

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And that was that! We resurfaced and celebrated like kids! We took the boat back to Sunshine Resorts where the instructors gave us our temporary license (our permanent license will be mailed to us!). Later on, Viola and I went and enjoyed dinner with the Aussies who dove with us at a Thai restaurant down the road. Then afterwards, Viola and I drank away the night with the two Aussie guys at the beach, where we all went for a night swim under the moonlit ocean. The water here in Koh Tao is extremely warm, no matter if it’s day or night.

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If I had more time here, I would continue my training for my advanced license which would include diving during the night and going through ship wrecks. Exciting! But, for now I have to put a hold on that because Viola and I were headed to another island called Koh Phangan.

There’s a full moon ahead…

License to Krill (Part One)

When I met Viola in Pai, we found that we were going on the same journey through Thailand to the islands in the south of the country, so we both decided to team up and travel the rest of Thailand together. We both also had interests in taking a course to receive our Open Water Scuba Diving certification in Koh Tao, Thailand. Koh Tao is one of the cheapest places in the world to receive your certification, just a little under $300. A steal compared to most places on this planet. With my certification, I would be able to dive without a guide and for a much cheaper cost at virtually any PADI site in the world! I knew after diving for my first time last year in Zanzibar, that I would want to do this. Viola shared the same ambition. So after our last night in Bangkok, we bid farewell to Clint, who was on his way to northern Vietnam (I’m also fairly certain I’ll see him again in future travels), and booked a bus and a boat to our first island destination, Koh Tao. Koh Tao is one of the more visually appealing islands in this part of Thailand.

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On the ferry to Koh Tao!

On the boat ride we rejoined Leonoor and Thom who were also going to stay on the island. Since they weren’t going to scuba dive, they were going to stay on the main beach of the island known as Sairee Beach. Once we arrived, Viola and I immediately took a shuttle truck to the southern bend of the island, known as Chalok Baan beach.

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As usual, we didn’t book anything ahead of time but found a bungalow resort called “Sunshine Resort” and booked a four night stay there along with a scuba diving certification course that would take four days to complete. The room we had was pretty simple: a bed, a fan, and a bathroom. We also had a third roommate, who Viola named “Tim”.

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This is Tim. A friendly little bugger.

It didn’t matter much to us because we would spend most of our time in the water or at the beach anyways. Even on our first day on the island, we were thrown straight into our first day of lessons, which consisted of a video with three lessons lasting about 20 or so minutes a piece. During the video we had to fill out a study packet and refer to a text book we were given. Definitely felt like school. Here we met four awesome Aussies from Tasmania who would be taking the course with us. A lot of the material we went over were the same things I learned last year, except this was more in depth, as expected.

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Our first classroom session.

The next day, it was time to practice some crucial techniques in the nearby pool. Our instructor, Natalie, told us she first has to make sure we know how to swim. So we had to swim six consecutive laps back and forth across the pool and then tread the deep end for ten minutes immediately after. Easy work. Next, we put on our wetsuits and learned how to properly set up a scuba tank and attach it to the BCD, which is typically known as the vest. She made us repeat the process five times on our own, attaching and reattaching, attaching and reattaching, to cement the procedures in our head. Then with our scuba gear equipped, we jumped into the water! Important techniques we learned how to do included filling our masks with water and then removing the water from it, staying at a neutral buoyancy underwater, hand signals, what to do if we ran out of oxygen, removing our weights and jacket underwater and then putting it back on, etc. Everything went smooth here, just as Natalie hoped because if everything went well, she wanted to take us to Sail Rock tomorrow – which is considered one of the best diving spots in Thailand! This isn’t offered to everyone and they usually go just a couple of times a year. Looks like we’ve come at the perfect time! That night, Viola and I rented a motorbike and rode to Sairee Beach where we met up with Leonoor and Thom. There we met some backpackers that they met in their hostel and we all hung out at the beach for a little bit. I think it was Leonoor who had the idea to do a jumping photo on the beach. By now, I am a master jumping photographer so I was happy to be behind the camera. Afterwards we had a great night out eating at a restaurant right on the beach, where a fire-starter was performing tricks for us, not to mention a jump rope of fire! And also, we went to a castle party. Unfortunately, Viola and I had to wake up early for the first of four dives so we left the castle a couple of hours earlier than everyone else.

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I should make a collection of all the jumping pictures I take in every country it seems like!

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Sairee Beach
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At the castle party with backpackers we met up with.

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We boarded a large boat and set out to sea around 7 am to Sail Rock. Sail Rock is essentially a giant rock out in the middle of the sea. The part of the rock we can’t see from above the ocean is lined with corals and teaming with marine life! We also had a chance to dive with whale sharks here! The chances were slim though because this wasn’t the right time of year to spot them but I was still extremely hopeful!

Sail Rock may not look like much but underneath is a world of mysterious marine life!
Sail Rock may not look like much but underneath is a world of mysterious marine life!

So for our first dive, it was just going to be mainly a free dive meaning we weren’t really going to practice any special techniques underwater. The process of equalizing myself and emptying water out of my mask was second nature while diving, but when we had to resurface to start practicing some of these skills is where I had a bit of a hard time. Everything was fine, it was just when I had to fill my mask completely with water is what was tricky for me. At the pool I was able to do it and even here in the ocean when my mask only had a little water in it, it was easy to get rid of. It’s just that I have mild claustrophobia, so when my mask is completely filled with water, it tricks my brain into thinking I’m “trapped”. How can you feel trapped when you’re in the ocean? It’s hard to explain unless you’re doing it. With the regulator hose in my mouth as my only source of air, it feels as though I’m being confined in a small space. It’s different in a pool because, it’s just a pool. However, I’m in a huge, deep ocean! Throw in the fact that I am being watched and tested makes it even worse. I managed to get through it after a couple of tries, but Natalie told me tomorrow I would have to dive into the deep and take off my mask there. Yikes!

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Viola’s ready for the dive!

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We did another dive here at Sail Rock and practiced Emergency skills with our buddies. Once we went back to the resort, we had to watch another video and then took our final multiple-choice exam immediately after. We all passed! Now all we had to do were two more dives the next morning, pass those, and we’d be certified open water scuba divers! That night, Viola and I went back to Sairee beach and met up with Thom and a couple of the backpackers we met yesterday, including a couple new ones. We relaxed and ate at another restaurant along the beach (chilling out and eating delicious food at cozy restaurants along the coast never gets old). Next we headed to a few beach parties down the coast for a couple of hours before we all were accidentally split up. No matter though because Viola and I couldn’t stay out long. We had two more early dives in the morning!

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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!