Scuba diving has always been on my ‘bucket list’, it’s one of those things everyone wants to experience at least once in their life time. So when I booked a holiday to the Cape Verde islands, I knew it was the perfect destination to give it a go.
In fact Sal, one of the nine Cape Verde islands, is famous for being one of the top locations in the world for scuba diving. It offers unique tropical underwater scenery and the coral reefs have been hailed as the most beautiful underwater fauna of the Caribbean. During the warmer months it is not uncommon to see very long trumpet fish, massive loggerhead or green turtles, huge manta rays, balloon fish and even schools of dolphins.
After this practice-run it was time to head out into the ocean, but after the panic attack I doubted myself- what if I panic and drown?!
There are two scuba dive clubs that are highly regarded in Sal, Manta Diving Center and Orca Dive Club. After reading the reviews of both I decided to try Orca, so I booked me and my partner on their ‘Discover Scuba Diving Introduction Dive’ which features one pool session and one open water dive.
The day before our dive we visited the club to have our equipment fitted, and was greeted by its friendly owner Neil. He introduced us to our diving instructor Ben, who kitted us with wet suits, a mask and flippers that were ideal for our height and size. Whilst we tried it all on, he got the rest of the gear ready, including buoyancy control devices and regulators.
The next morning our instructor talked us through the basic theory and equipment handling of scuba diving. He first taught us how to equalise our ears under the water, as you go deeper into the sea the pressure increases which causes your ears to be painful- it’s the same sensation you have when you fly in a plane. So to prevent this, you pinch your nose closed and gently breathe out against your closed nostrils.
Ben showed us the buoyancy control device we would be wearing, and taught us how to inflate/deflate it, and how to read its pressure gauge, which displays how much oxygen is in the tank. He also explained the important hand signals to communicate under water.
Once we had finished we were straight to the swimming pool to practice, I was buzzing with anticipation but also extremely nervous- what if I use the equipment wrong? Under Ben’s supervision, I released the air from my BCD so I would start to sink, but as soon as I was underwater I began to panic- a lot. Once I reached the surface I couldn’t explain myself, but Ben instantly reassured me and told me to not panic- nothing bad will happen as long as I stayed calm.
Before I knew it, I was at the bottom of the swimming pool concentrating on taking slow deep breaths to unnerve myself. We practiced the hand signals, and Ben showed us how to reach for our pressure gauge properly by sweeping your right arm backwards to bring it in front of you. We then had to show him we knew how to equalise our ears, clear the mask of water and switch onto someone else’s emergency regulator, in case your oxygen tank runs out.
After this practice-run it was time to head out into the ocean, but after the panic attack I doubted myself- what if I panic and drown?! We boarded a boat at Santa Maria’s dock and I felt sick with nerves. As I fell backwards off the boat I repeatedly told myself to stay calm and take deep breaths, like a little chant that my life depended on.
Once I swam round to other side of the boat I was greeted by my sea sick boyfriend throwing up into the sea (it’s quite funny now thinking back!) At the time I was obviously extremely worried and told Ben that we should get back in the boat. However, he informed my partner that it was the strong current making his stomach feel sick, and said he would feel better once we were under the water.
Whilst descending deep down into the clear turquoise ocean my ears were in agony and I had to equalise them the entire way. The pain was secretly a blessing in disguise
; I was so distracted I was no longer nervous or contemplating how deep into the sea we were going (I later learnt that we went 12 metres deep). Once we reached the ocean floor the pressure equalised in my ears and the views were truly spectacular. We were surrounded by colourful coral and swarms of beautiful tropical fish. Once I was there, I felt truly privileged to be swimming alongside the ocean life.
We saw so many different varieties of fish, coral and sea creatures throughout the dive. We had no concept of time whilst down there, and we only had to finish the dive when my boyfriend’s oxygen tank ran out. He had to put what we had learnt in the swimming pool into practice, and had to switch onto Ben’s emergency regulator. As we ascended I was honestly really sad to be leaving, it was fascinating discovering the unknown depths of the ocean.