Saturday, May 21, 2016

Two birds with one stone...

Life on the boat is different than anything I have experienced before. Cheryl and I are sharing the boat with 7 guests, 3 guides and 4 crew. It is a lesson in international diversity and camaraderie.  On just this boat alone there are people from Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, USA, Finland, England and of course Indonesia. Everyone is here to briefly forget about their any troubles back home and spend a few days experiencing some of the best diving and beautiful scenery in the world. No heavy discussions about politics, (an occasional humorous reference to the current state of US politics of course) or religion.  Our alarm clock is the boats generator. It starts up at 6:00 am (no snooze alarm on that baby) and that is when everyone is expected to get up so we can catch the fish awakening for our morning dive at 6:45 am. Here is the first thing I saw when I sat up and looked over the railing of the boat.  Not bad. This entire area is one massive Instagram post!I
Our first day dive was at the Crystal Rock dive site. What a way to start. I was initially completely overwhelmed by the activity in the water. Literally thousands of fish swimming all around us in every direction. Big ones and little ones in every color of the spectrum. As we began to relax and assimilate to our surroundings we released some air in our BCDs and lowered ourselves to about 20 meters and began to go exploring. It wasn't long and we saw a large group of white tailed sharks swimming back and forth in front of us. Though most were only about 2 meters (I'm getting used to the metric system!) in length, it was pretty creepy. Since I didn't hear any theater music in the background I was confident we'd be OK. As if that wasn't good enough for our first dive, a short time later we actually saw 4 dolphin (porpoises) surface and swim all around us. I didn't see them at first and our guide (Doug) grabbed my shoulders and spun me around (almost lost my mask and regulator) to make sure I didn't miss them.  I'm thankful he did. They came within 10 meters of us. It blew my mind. We were literally swimming with Flipper in the wild!  I was completely blown away. Doug was also pumped and said that was only the second time that he had seen them underwater while diving. OK, I can go home satisfied now.  I'd love to show you pictures, oh that's right, no GoPro. Nice planning Chris.

Our next dive was at the Cauldron site.  Don't worry, I won't bore you with a boring description of every dive we did like a Dad and the home movies of the family vacation but this one is worth mentioning specifically.  

We have a briefing of each dive prior to putting on our gear and heading out. Alexi is the lead diver and typically leads these discussions.  Though I'm all ears at each briefing, we needed to pay particular attention before this dive. 
The Cauldron site is a high current site which requires a "negative entry." A negative entry entails releasing all of the air out of your BCD and fully exhaling to minimize all bouyancy. OK, I understand the air out of the BCD but hello? Don't I need air in my lungs to breath?  On the count of three everyone falls backward out of the boat and begins kicking to the bottom as fast as they can. (Apparently this is when I'm allowed to start breathing.) The reason for this is to minimize the effects of the current pushing you off course and away from the dive site.  During all of this activity don't forget to equalize your ears as you go down or you will rupture your ear drums. Just one more minor detail to keep track of. The bottom of this site is 30 meters below the surface which means we will get two certifications skills checked off in one dive. The negative entry and the max depth. Normally these are done one at a time but keeping with the theme of the trip, LET'S DO THIS BABY!!!!

As we prepared for the entry, we made one last equipment safety check and Doug asked if we were "OK."  Hey Doug can you remind me again on the definition of "OK?"  Cheryl and I looked at each other took a cleansing breath and gave the sign for OK and listened for the magic number THREE!! and back we went.  I honestly don't remember much about the trip down except that I felt like I was back in my competitive swimming days and visualized myself winning the trophy. Faster Chris faster!  Before we knew it, all three of us were at the bottom 30 meters down. No trophy was waiting but we got two more skills checked off!!!

The rest of the day was a piece of cake and we had a beautiful afternoon dive. We even had time for a pre entry photo with Doug our instructor.  
As I mentioned, the food is fantastic.  The cook has one oven, a stove, a two foot counter and a few pots and pans. I don't know how he does it. In addition to the "three squares" a day we get an afternoon snack following the third dive of the day. Here is what we came back to this afternoon. 
The advanced open water certification obviously requires some book work and since we only have two more days we figured we'd better get started (ugh!). So we grabbed a priece of cake and headed upstairs. It's funny how we open the book and started learning about deep diving and negative entries after we already did the application of those skills. Nothing like doing a surgery before going to medical school. 
We expected to make a significant dent in our studies since we thought we were done diving for the day. Then Doug says "you ready for your night dive?"  Uhh, I thought we did that yesterday, but apparently it was a "sunset" dive and it was partially light out when we started. You telling me we didn't get credit for the night dive due to the sunset technicality?  Wow!  No worries, Cheryl and I were both eager to do it since we had such a good experience the night before. We were not disappointed again. What was particularly enjoyable about this dive is when we came up there was absolutely no one or anything around and looking up at the stars from the water in isolation was very cool. 

A warm shower, dinner and a beer and I'm ready for bed by 9:30 pm!  I tried to review some homework and that was like taking a sleeping pill. 

Komodo National Park and the Dragons are on deck for tomorrow. Should be fun!!!  

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