Do you know people who scuba dive? Do they talk about scuba diving a lot? Do they find ways to put diving in drunk or sober conversations? Do you have moments staring at them wondering why they are so incomprehensibly obsessed with it?
Read: 14 Signs You’re a Dedicated Diver
We started a few years ago in Panglao, gave it a go in Apo Reef and Anilao Batangas. We got our PADI Open Water Diver license last year then our PADI Advanced Open Water Diver license just this summer with the help of our Dive Master, Victor Mandin of Tropical Divers in Panglao Bohol. We celebrated our success in Balicasag Reef in Balicasag Island. But even after all that, I’m still not too hot about Scuba Diving.
Don’t get me wrong, I love love love scuba diving! Although, I keep the obvious obsession with a few scripted responses and when my trusted diver buddy tells others about it. As a self-proclaimed introvert, I always think that most people can’t be bothered about my passions. But I have a few more reasons to keep mum about it.
Diving is an expensive hobby
Let me break it down for you. The best dive sites require lengthy driving, a plane ride, a boat ride, living in a boat for days or all of the above. With or without budget fares, the travel still requires a considerable amount. Diving in itself will require you to pay certain fees. Having at least an Open Water Diver license grants you discounts but you inevitably shell out money. To maximize the experience (and the value of your spending) you want everything to go smoothly so you find ways to get the best equipment and gear. You start with a mask, boots, fins, rash guard at about PHP 3,000 each or more. Then you move up to wetsuit, regulator...then BCD (that backpack underwater) that’s at least PHP 30,000. Other pro divers have all these packed and ready to go, but I choose not to afford it for other reasons so I try to avoid talking about all the expenses.
Photos aren’t so flattering
Everyone documents everything with photos and videos now, and diving isn’t any different. We used GoPro, which wasn’t even ours, and it wasn’t even good enough to capture how beautiful the dive sites in Panglao were. What you need is an underwater camera with proper casing that can protect it up to the depth you plan to go. So yeah, it is another expense. Not being able to take nice pictures isn’t about social media likes, it’s more of not having compelling evidence on why diving is a worthwhile experience. There are a lot of online sources but your very own pictures make the experience and your story more personal and relevant.
Requires a lot of work
To make the expense work hard, we put the diving trip together with upgrading our license and having our vacation. This means that while most people go on multiple trips a year, I only go on two - yep, two - which is very low by today’s standards. In that one vacation last Summer, I also… studied. Diving isn’t all fun. You make a small mistake underwater and Bam! You’re dead. So you have to understand and remember why you have to do certain things which includes the science behind it. So every time you upgrade your license, you study. Every time you dive, you refresh yourself with the basics. People always question my motivation for claiming to have a hobby that requires studying and for studying while I’m on vacation. It isn’t easy to explain that when you are passionate about something, the hard work that goes with it isn’t really much of a chore so I don't chatter about this part too.
I get sea sick
Before we went to our first night dive, I purged my late afternoon waffle snack because the boat bounced up and down with the waves. What can I say, I'm a land mammal!!! The next day, I took 1 motion sickness pill on the way to the dive, and another one on our boat trip back to be safe. In between dives, I made sure I rested and kept my eyes locked in one direction. PADI’s manual mentioned that sea sickness happens to some people and I agree. But it sounds hypocritical to hear that from a diver, don’t you think? As soon as my head was underwater though, I felt calm and in control. I forgot all about that sea sickness until I have to ascend back to the surface. Try explaining that to anyone.
I love diving because it allows me to experience and see underwater wildlife – from colorful tropical schools of fish to complex coral formations to sea turtles. The kinds that marine and ocean parks try, and as I have discovered, fail to mimic. The reason why I keep quiet about this pleasant motivation is that the experience always leaves me with a question: When is it acceptable and when is it inhumane to intervene wildlife and animal life for human consumption and for teaching the lessons of conservation?
Take this example: When we took an Ilocos trip years ago, we happily made a pit stop at a roadside carinderia and enjoyed a grilled parrot fish. After seeing my first Parrot fish underwater (see photo below), I felt bad about making that delicious choice years ago! I still do!
I’m an advocate of protecting pets and animals in the wild. So eating and mistreating dogs and cats is a No No. Hunting wild lions, rhinos, dolphins and others for food or sport is also a No No. But what about that tuna that swam right in front of me or that squid that shot in different directions during our night dive? If we argue that animals grown for farming or fishing are okay, then what about lion cubs bred for hunting? Or lambs bred to be slaughtered for fine dining dishes? Are those okay too? Truth is, I enjoy meat-falling-off-the-ribs dinner as much as the next person so this, this personal dilemma, is depressing to think of. That's why I’d rather not get into why I dive. (When people ask I simply say "sharks" and "fishies." People forget to ask deeper questions because they're either taken aback by sharks or find it funny that I call fish, fishies.)
On a lighter note, diving's benefits always outweigh the dilemma it gives me. “Going to the beach” has a whole new meaning. It isn’t about sun tans in the morning and parties at night. When people say “beach,” I think dive shop, dive spot and reading a book by the beach while resting between dives. Diving lets you discover and appreciate how the world is waaaaay bigger than you will ever know. That these creatures and the world underneath go about their precious lives despite mankind’s political qualms, economic woes and personal conflicts. It is a humbling experience. It encourages you to ask, what can I do to make sure this part of the world stays innocent of our craziness? While diving, you are both alert and in-tune with all the feelings that your big introverted heart can muster – excitement, calm, awe, fear, gratitude… And you bring all these with you when you are back on land. You feel an overwhelming sense of your self and of a much bigger world than you are used to.
You see, diving isn’t easy and it isn't for everyone. On top of that, what it does to you is too complicated to explain. But if you want to experience something life changing and it doesn't matter if social media agrees with you or if your friends understand your motivations for it, then please give scuba diving a try. It will do you, and the World beneath us, some good.
Acknowledgements. Thank you to the following for making our Panglao Bohol trips memorable:
Victor Mandin of Tropical Divers, Henann Resort Alona Beach, Giuseppe Pizzeria & Sicilian Roast, Buzz Café at Alona beach by Bohol Bee Farm, Pyramid Restaurant, Regents Park Resort.
Photos and underwater safety courtesy of Aaron Ursolino, dive buddy.
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