In an octopus’s garden…

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In an octopus’s garden…

I’d like to be
Under the sea
In an octopus’ garden
In the shade

I’m no psychedelic drug user… but I have been to an octopus’s garden.

This weekend I ticked off Top 30 Countdown challenge number 3, ‘Finish your scuba diving course’. The challenge was set by my dad in a transparent attempt to recruit more members to the family SCUBA cult.

It worked.

"It's ok, we're only a little brainwashed"

“It’s OK, we’re only a little brainwashed”

Thanks to our brother the SCUBA instructor, my sister and I are now card-carrying divers (well, we will be as soon as he sends us our cards).

This will come in handy on the honeymoon, with Andy and I planning to dive Thailand’s Sail Rock: Where whalesharks abound! I really can’t wait (even though diving on one’s honeymoon has lost a little of its appeal in recent years…)

I’ll have to be honest and say that learning to dive is pretty difficult – even when you have a great teacher like my brother. They throw every possible life-threatening scenario at you to make sure you’re prepared if the time ever comes.

My time came this weekend.

It was on the first dive of our second day when I thought to myself “I can’t get enough air”. As Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown might say, “Tell me how I’m s’posed to breathe with no ayy-ah?” As I might say in reply, “Shut up Chris Brown”.

But I digress.

I don’t know what it was but I simply could not get enough air. My training has taught me that the first rule of diving is “Never hold your breath”, but I think it should be “Don’t panic”. Panicking is the absolute worst thing you can do and it usually leads to trouble. To my credit, I did not panic, however I can only assume that my difficulty in breathing sparked a vicious cycle of heavier and heavier breathing that made the task even more difficult. Forgetting the signal for “something’s wrong” or “low air”, I got the attention of my brother and signalled “no air” instead. That was probably quite a cruel thing to do to a SCUBA instructor, but we were only a few metres down and he quickly and calmly shared his regulator with me so I could get myself under control.

Adding to this the extremely poor visibility following recent storms, it all made for the perfect dive training really. I’ve learned that I need to practice my hand signals and I’ve also seen a fine example of how to respond under pressure (as opposed to responding to very controlled “problem” scenarios).

Snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef was… well… great, but you’re really limited to a few types of fish. Diving at Terrigal Haven was great too, and if the visibility had been better we may have seen more than we did. According to my dive log, I saw the following:

  • Lots and lots of stingrays (two of which were fighting over a patch of sand and several of which I’m sure I kicked by accident)
  • Black and yellow stripey fish
  • Little weird catfish things (yes, that’s the scientific name)
  • A big red fish
  • A groper with giant lips
  • Another black and yellow striped fish (but with horizontal stripes instead of vertical ones)
  • A pipe fish
  • Almost see-through white fish

and….

An octopus hiding in a rock! (A definite highlight!)

Most divers will tell you that being able to dive is like being able to explore a foreign planet. It’s a whole new world of experience and, as much as I love Sea World, it beats peering into a giant glass tank hands down.

It’s probably one of the more expensive hobbies you can take up, and I’m going to need to do more weights if I’m going to carry SCUBA gear around on a semi-regular basis. It’s hard work to get your licence, and I know if it wasn’t for this list it’s something I would have left for years before finally getting around to finishing it (if at all).

Now that the training is out of the way, I’m keen to dive somewhere exciting and see even more new things!

What has been your most memorable underwater experience?

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4 responses »

  1. I’ll never forget slowly moving up to a large car-sized rock outcrop on a sandy bottom. Over the top of it drifted back and forth a very big manya ray. It was just floating and letting the ebb and flow of the water allow it to drift back and forth over the top of the rock. It is known as a ‘cleaning station’ where large creatures come to have the scum of the ocean cleaned off their skin by smaller fish. The manta ray was being cleaned. It hovered there for about 5 minutes allowing the smaller fish to enjoy the manta buffet if you will. I was sitting under it. If I stood up I think I could have given its belly a scratch. It was one of the most magical experiences of my life. Ryan and Dane were there watching. The only reason I went up to the rock and they stayed back was that our dive leader warned us not to go near any manta rays because we might scare them off and ruin the opportunity for other divers on the boat the share the experience. Oh well. My bad! Eventually it glided away of its own accord – I did nothing to scare or alarm it. What the others don’t know didn’t harm them eh?

    • Cool! I’d wager the ray you saw was well and truly bigger than the bread-and-butter-plate-sized specimens we saw. I think a new bucket list item for me is seeing a turtle….

    • I think the best thing about diving is that you don’t just see the fish on the surface – you see the creatures that live at every level. The deeper you go, however, the less colourful they are – so both methods have their upsides!

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