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Learning to Dive

(Susan’s travelogue about getting our diving certifications)

This was our first ‘working vacation’; we wanted to get PADI Open Water diving certified. We went to Gili Trawangan, a small island off the coast of Lombok (east of Bali in the province of Nusa Tengara).  We stayed at Dream Divers, one of more than 15 dive centers on the island.  Our dive instructor, Yudi, put us to work within an hour of walking through the door (or, rather, walking across the pool deck).  We watched 2 ½ hours of instructional video – the first three chapters in our book.  The next morning, we hit the pool and were under water for about 3 hours.  That afternoon, about 24 hours after arriving, we went on our first ocean water dive! We went to the Trawangan Slope.  I couldn’t believe how fast PADI got us in the ocean!  It was amazing for me and Alea (buddies).  Unfortunately, Breck had a problem equalizing his ears and couldn’t complete the dive.  He was heart-broken, but he and Dave (buddies) had to sit out that first dive. Alea and I were down for about 40 minutes.  We saw the endangered Hawksbill turtle, HUGE pufferfish, colorful soft and hard coral, and all sorts of little damsels.

Yudi, Breck, and Dave prepare for a dive  New divers learn in "our" swimming pool  Alea arranges her gear

When we got back to Dream Divers, we had to watch another 1 ½ hours of instructional videos and read another 2 chapters in our book.  Yudi told us Breck’s ear/equalizing issues may be because he had residual gunk in his sinuses from a cold he had last week.  I did the worst thing a mom can do (self-prescribe) and put Breck on a full hit of antibiotics.  We had to have the hard conversation about how maybe PADI couldn’t happen for him this vacation.  It was a pretty quiet dinner, despite the excitement and hard work of the day.

The next morning, we hit the pool again and did what I thought was the worst part of this whole process – breathing through a partial regulator and breathing under water without your mask.  Yuck – but we all passed!  Yudi was a super star and paid special attention to Breck as he practiced equalizing in the deep end of the pool.  That afternoon, we went out to the Ocean again.  This time we all four had success.  Breck went down easily and effortlessly and had no issues whatsoever.  Relief!!  We dove the Meno Slope.  We saw green turtles, butterfly fish, banner fish, groupers, anthias, and eels, to name a small number of the glory we observed.

Alea rinses the BCD  Dad and Breck  Breck gets set for the water

Paper tests aren’t confined to schoolsJ  We had our first round – 50 questions- when we got back to the dive center.  We all passed and were ready to celebrate with cold beer and ice cream. BUT NO!!  We still had 1 ½ hours of video and the last two chapters to read in our book!!

Our last day, we went for a morning dive at and did some more under-water testing (mask off, no regulator, emergency ascent, etc…)  We were at a lovely spot, Coral Fan Garden, so the three who weren’t testing had lots to see: sea cucumbers, anemone, clown fish, eels, angelfish, parrotfish and unicorn fish.  There was also no current, which had been a huge factor in our dive the day before.  After lunch, we went out again to the Home Reef.  We did our final round of in-water testing and enjoyed the fantastic sea life, though the current was much stronger; a fellow diver said it was ‘like watching a movie reel go by’.  We saw a banded sea snake, porcupine fish, lion fish, and a blue-spotted stingray!!

Arsty view of tanks and equipment  Artsy view of masks and fins

After this last course dive, we still had to go to the dive center, swim 200 meters, and tread water for 10 minutes! We definitely felt deserving of ice cream and beer after that!  BUT NO!!  We had the final written exam to take – another 50 questions.  Sigh.  Once again, we all passed well within the margin and were really ready to celebrate being official PADI Open Water divers.

To celebrate, we went on our first ‘fun dive’ the next day.  Vidim, a Dream Divers instructor/photographer who offered his services, offered to go out with us and take photos, so Yudi and Vidim changed groups of divers.  We went to the Bounty site and had yet another fabulous dive: more hawksbill turtles, puffer fish, angelfish, batfish, triggers, Moorish idols, and clownfish. And this was Breck’s big day – he was the only one (besides Yudi) who spotted a huge eagle ray!

We have tons of pictures from our time in the water on our “Swimming with the Fishes” blog post!

Thank you, Yudi and Dream Divers, for a fabulous experience.

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2 Comments so far (Add 1 more)

  1. The Stutz family rocks! Congratulations

    1. Brian Gambill on January 12th, 2012 at 6:04 am
  2. What a great travelogue – this and the others from the holiday. So much more to explore in SE Asia, huh? Hope we cross paths soon somewhere in the region… maybe at a dive spot! 🙂

    2. Lori Rung on January 15th, 2012 at 3:55 pm

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