April 22, 2013

the "noobie" diver

located at station 1 boracay

at new wave divers, i was greeted by glennie, the shop attendant. i greeted her back saying, "can i dive now, as in now?" they should not be expecting me today since i scheduled for a dive on monday. i just told her we're on break but only out for the travel photography portion of the seminar. "ok," she said with a smile. "yannick's going to assist you. what's your certification again?" she asked. "openwater" i  lied. as i was digging my backpack for my pouch containing all my id's, my diving license was not there! i hurriedly went back to my hotel room to search for it in my other stuff, still no luck. went back again to the shop and asked if i can use a laptop to access my license. jon, one of the dive masters of new wave and a lannister bastard look-a-like (game of thrones geekery alert), lend me his laptop. i went to tdi/sdi website, to their diver services page, typed my name, then typed "openwater". to my shock there came a text box, "you name is not in our new database!" and my mouth slowly released a very faint, "fcuk!" i refreshed the page again. same thing happened but realized i wasn't really fully reading the entire message in the text box which said further, "would you like to import your data to the new database?" i sighed of relief, i clicked "ok", then the website betrayed me by revealing all my certifications, "you said you only had openwater" jon said and laughed. i didn't know that all the while he was just watching all the things i've been doing from behind. i hurriedly covered the rest of the certifications with my left hand and said, "there's my openwater license. don't mind the rest, ok? remember, i'm a newbie."

boracay from new wave diver's pov
if i'm not diving at my home-base dive resort, dive and trek, were the staff knows who i am, i lie about my certifications and always tell people i only had openwater. unlike mountaineering where people's basis of bragging are the photos of summit jump shots (feetish photography as for my case) and equipment, divers brag about their licenses. as far as equipment costs are concerned, both mountaineering and diving are equal. the reason why people think diving is more expensive because of the very few expensive items you need to invest on such buoyancy compensator devices, dive computers, and regulators. in mountaineering, there are many things you need to buy if you want to be self-contained that if you sum it all up, it would level the cost of a standard full diving gear. the tie-breaker for the two are the cost of diving licenses. in some shops, a discover scuba license costs 10,000 php inclusive of equipment and a certification that you can go until 40-ft deep. certifications become more expensive as you certify for deeper dives such as advanced openwater for a 100-ft deep certification, and for specialty training such as twin tank diving and mixed air, which allows you to go deeper than 100-ft. 

so why do i lie about my certification? in all areas, there's always competition. people who brag about their equipment, the places they've been to, the lowest depth they've dove. almost the same thing about mountaineering. other than that, as a customer, you would know how the dive operator treats you if you pretend you're a newbie. i dove with insensitive dive masters who don't care if you're catching up, i dove with herculean dive masters who would shock you with his leaking bcd but still signals an "ok" (seriously, he won't abort the dive), i dove with newbie dive masters who suck at navigation and got lost in the deep blue. i dove with people who never give you a prep on where he's taking you (too bad if you didn't research about the dive site). at new wave, i was treated as if i was really a newbie. i was given a prep to where i am diving: the starting depth and the maximum depth, what to expect, how we'll enter the water; my tank was checked for nitrox percentage, they helped me pick my preferred equipment, and helped me set-up my stuff. for this, i give them an a+! 

the only trouble i had was the bcd. it's been long since i used a jacket-type bcd. what i am used to are backplates and wings, which i own. and since i am using a different kind of bcd, i need to wear a weight belt again which i haven't done for the longest time. my back plate is 8 lbs which i balance by adding or dumping air using my wings. at that time i needed to calculate again the weights i would be using with the jacket bcd. to be safe, i got myself 8 lbs of weight similar to my backplate. after a few minutes of setting up our equipment, yannick, myself, and another new wave staff (i forget his name... sorry), who brought our stuff together with boat fuel (no, he isn't an arson) using a metal cart, walked to station 2 where we we boarded the boat with bong, the boat operator.

boracay dive sites. i only visited angol point and friday's rock due to a very tight schedule

first dive: angol point
start depth: 5m
maximum depth: 15m

since i would be taking pictures, yannick brought me to angol point. initially he thought of taking me to coral garden where the helmet divers are but i told him to take me to more corals and fishes with less humans underwater. so there, angol point. yannick told me that this is the place where they take most first-timers to discover diving so they would be more encouraged to get serious in diving. at a very shallow depth of 5 meters, i already saw a lot of stuff most newbies in diving would would enjoy: a bunch of corals, anemones, clown fishes, lion fishes,  sea stars, sea cucumbers (lots of them actually), and an octopus. our dive was 45 minutes but normally it takes 20 because the site is just small. since i needed to take photos for the photography workshop, and myself struggling with buoyancy in a jacket-type bcd, i needed more time.

lionfish and a sea urchin at the top-most left of the photo
giant clam but not as big as those i've seen in bauan
this is the photo i sent and i won! nyahahaha

boracay blue... no sea slimes
the only full body photo of me you'll ever see here
after some time, yannick already signified to ascend. he knew i should be back by 16:00 for the workshop and was quite conscious about the time. 

the photos are quite hazy because of the moist from our underwater dive. 

the huge outrigger where we tied our boat
heading back to station 2. it's 16:30 and i'm late for our next layout

yannick, my divemaster

bong, who farts sea water!

yannick, towing his gear
back at the new wave divers' shop, i hurriedly changed clothes, got my backpack and camera, told glennie and jon that i need the photos by 08:00 tomorrow for the workshop, and dashed to friday's where we had our last layout for our photoshoot (fire dance!). 

since the photoshoot covered the entire day the next day, i went back to new wave divers to tell them that i'll have 2 more dives on monday. however, i was told by bong about the pump boat trip schedules that won't fit my logistics. i had to leave for caticlan in the afternoon and stay at kalibo instead to catch my very early tuesday flight. good thing i did not pay yet for my monday accommodation. glennie told me not to worry as she'll arrange my transportation and my accommodation at kalibo hostel on monday.

at lunch time, i checked out of my hotel and went to new wave divers for my *sob* last dive *sob sob* my dive master was guanyi (who is now pregnant! yey! no dive for 2 years! joke) and she was my first female dive master! guanyi came from china just to learn how to dive. she said, she loves the weather here so she stayed. at 13:00 after all our gear were set-up, we both headed to friday's rock. it was a bumpy ride because of the impending bad weather. the waves were rocking the boat really hard i thought it would throw us out. bong, our trusty boatman, anchored himself to another huge outrigger so we could put on our equipment properly despite the huge waves.

second dive: friday's rock
start depth: 7m
maximum depth: 18m 

i did not rent a camera for this dive (which i regret) since i need to be quick. my transportation will arrive at 15:00 so i should not be late.

going back, if there are huge waves, obviously, there's current. yey! on our descent, we were battling a so-so current. guanyi wanted us to hold the rope for safety on the first few meters. when the current died out at 15m, we let go of the rope and continued to descend. the sea bed was quite barren with a few trash and some dead corrals :( after we passed by the huge brown mounds (perhaps these were implanted as alternative house reefs), a wall of coral reef surprised me. the barren sandy bottom was still there but i focused my vison at the wall. at friday's rock, i saw 2 nudi branches (damn i don't have a cam!), 3 lobsters, 2 triggerfishes (damn again!), and a stonefish (oh fcukit!) divers may smite me but there was too much to see there. 

conscious about the time, i tapped guanyi and she signified to ascend. our safety stop was quite tricky since the current was becoming stronger. it was a bad choice to hold the rope as it waved us frequently as if we're the national flag on a school morning assembly. i thought getting into the boat would give me relief but it was worse as the waves were rocking us. as soon as the boat reached the shore, i added more bacteria into the slime pool by donating my lunch of sizzling bulalo and avocado-banana shake (there goes my 250-peso lunch). diving got me all excited that i have forgotten about my sea sickness (i fed the fishes at batangas during habagat season some time 2009 :) the fishes loved me for it).

upon arrival, glennie told me that we have been diving too long that my transpo just left! that was 60 minutes bottom time for me and guanyi! so there goes me again, i took a bath, packed quickly, settled my bills, and waited for the next van to pick me up. still sick, jon came and said to guanyi, "she lied to us. she's not an openwater diver! she had advance, she had nitrox, and she had rescue!" nice one, jon. all we did was laugh. "shut up, jon!" i said seemingly jokingly mad at him. "you lied, kat! let;s dive the technical ones next time." i replied, "ok, i'll come back on november... with my stuff."

bleh boracay?

as for boracay diving, i wouldn't say it's bad. i am a frequenter of anilao, and i have also dove in subic and in panglao, seeing the best of both diving worlds in the country as far as wreck and underwater biodiversity is concerned. having dove in these places previously would give boracay injustice if i say the dive sites are bad. it's already a beautiful entry-level dive if you're going to ask me as i've seen a lot of things underwater any noobie would love to find (like some food the restaurants serve in our plates). i would still recommend diving in boracay to starters instead of helmet diving wherein one's motion is limited :P if you're going to take helmet diving, get a discover scuba package instead.  

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