The Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI) administers several certification programs for divers and dive companies. Divers begin with the basic open diver certification, classroom study, supervised instruction in a pool, and four open water dives with an instructor.
Once certified for open water diving, divers can enroll in advanced courses including adventure diving, advanced open water, wreck and rescue diving, several instructor levels all the way to become a certified master diver teaching courses and training divers.
After two dives our first afternoon and two morning dives the second day, we were certified for open water diving. Several in our group of 30 recently certified open divers enrolled in the adventure diving program which included a little classwork, reading through the AD book, and taking three additional dives: a deep water dive, night dive, and either nature or photography dive.
After lunch, we all went up top for a briefing on features of Flinn reef where we had sailed the previous night. We had already been down twice that morning; two more dives were schedule, an afternoon photography dive followed by a night dive after dinner when. It’s very dark at night on the reef, with only the moon casting a light over the water. Anticipating diving into pitch black water made my skin tingle. I was more than a little anxious.
After the briefing, we put on our gear, teamed up with our dive buddy, and stepped off the duck board for our first adventure dive.
As soon as I descended, a hump-headed parrot fish cruised under our boat, staring at me with one glassy eye. I reached out to see if I could touch him (not supposed to do this!). He leisurely swam away and circled me.
He watched other divers descend and point at him, so close. We were all mesmerized, watching this strange-looking tropical fish who seemed as intrigued about us as we were about him. Or her.
Our little group snapped photos and swam around the parrot fish to get it to face us head on. But it was too clever; it swam under the boat to follow other divers descending, leaving a trail of bubbles.
For the next 35 minutes, we swam around Flinn reef, looking for interesting coral and tropical fish to photograph, communicating with hand signals. Flinn reef was spectacular with many areas to explore, swimming between small ravines, along coral walls, with many crevices to peak into to spot tropical fish hiding. It was a real adventure, off on our own to explore this amazing place.
After about 35 minutes, we made our way back to our boat, giving thumbs up about getting photos and videos of the reef. I had snapped freely and was anxious to look at the photos and videos back on the boat (will post in next few blogs).
It’s difficult to see photos underwater; the monitor is cloudy, you’re maintaining buoyancy and swimming in currents holding a camera in both hands. Need to be on the deck, dry, and in natural light.
Life on a dive boat
It’s not all study and hard work when you’re on a diving expedition. There’s time for hanging out, eating good food, talking to people from other countries, and looking out at the amazing reef a few miles from the Continental Shelf. Out on the edge, the shallow reef ends and the continent plunges 2000 feet to the Coral Sea bottom.
Pro Dive’s very capable team of instructors pitched in during 18 hour days, cleaning cabins, helping the cook, cleaning dishes, getting gear ready, tieing up and releasing anchor lines, filling tanks, and doing everything necessary to stay on schedule.
Meals were healthy, abundant, served well, and deeply appreciated by all of us. You burn a lot of calories carrying 100 lb of gear, swimming in strong currents, and getting on and off the boat. You need a high carb diet; pasta, breads, salads, fruit, and lots of water.
During our busy day, Lucy had gone snorkeling with instructors and others. She made friends with several Europeans, including Anya from Zürich who hadn’t dived in more than five years. We shared stories with Anya about spending time in Zürich on our last couple trips to visit our daughter-in-law’s family who live on Lake Constance in southern Germany.
After dinner, we went into the cabin for a briefing about our night dive. Before the sun set, we walked out on the deck to watch a full moon in the eastern sky. The scene was like a painting, the colors so vivid and soothing. A memory to last a lifetime.
* * * * *
Next: Underwater photography, Coral and tropical fish
As many of you know, I also write mysteries and romantic suspense novels.
I recently published my first international thriller, Thirteen Days in Milan, which is available on Kindle as well as other ereaders, tablets, and smartphones.
I’m back in Europe for the summer to hire a translator and to research my next book which will also be a thriller based in Milan. I’ll be posting soon from Milan, Stresa, Zurich and other locations.
I have a few posts on another blog, Anatomy of a Thriller, where I write about the process of researching and writing an international thriller. I’ll add more posts there as well.
Please share these links with writers or readers who might be interested.