On the morning of the dive, we had to be in the dive centre by 7 a.m., after breakfast. We duly presented ourselves and waited for the boat to be ready. Luckily, we did not have to carry our equipment this time and Katie was going to set it up for us. We just took our weights and walked to the boat.
Once the boat began to head to the diving spot, we got busy getting ready. The idea was to jump into the water as soon as we got to the dive spot. We wore all the stuff and then waited with our cylinders resting on a bench behind us. When the time came to get off the boat, Katie inflated my jacket with air from my cylinder. The two valves to control how much air was in the jacket would be operated by Katie. It would be key to maintaining my depth in the water. A quick ascent or descent can be dangerous, with nitrogen quickly filling up the body and leading to pain and a trip into the decompression chamber.
I had to stand at the edge of the boat, hold onto my mask and regulator with one hand and my weights with the other and just step off into the sea. I was surprised that I did so with little fuss. Atleast I knew that an inflated jacket would keep me buoyant and so was not too stressed.
Unlike the previous day, the weather was cloudy. This made the water dull but not cold. P and Katie jumped in right behind me. We had to kick our way a short distance to a reef. The area around it was shallow. We would do our three tricks there again and then begin diving around the area.
There is something about putting your face into the water and looking at the sea bed below and imagining that you had to be close to it that can throw you off kilter. I panicked. Immediately, I also forgot my breathing.
For the next half an hour, I struggled to stay below the surface getting my breathing right while P did a snorkeling session, patiently waiting for me to be ready. I finally calmed down enough to remember my breathing. And Hey presto, once you do remember to calmly BOTH breathe in and out through the mouth, it becomes easy-peasy to go underwater.
Katie began to slowly lead us down where our heads were just below the water. She had already taught us a few hand signs she would be using under water since we obviously could not chat under water. She showed us the OK sign to ask if we were and we both signaled back in the affirmative.
We went down deeper and I was not feeling panicky any more. Just a bit scared, but manageable enough. Katie had been swimming between us till this point. Now she hovered above us, holding our jackets and operating our buoyancy devices. I settled into the groove of things.
Suddenly, we began to ascend. Huh! I was doing ok I thought. When we burst through the water, I realised that P had signalled to be taken up. Her ear was paining.
One of the main risks of diving is that as we go down, there is an imbalance is the pressure between and the outer and inner ears. This can cause acute pain and eventually lead to the ear drum being damaged. It is important to do equalization exercises to balance the pressure every time you descend and even then there is a possibility of ear pain. In which case, you went back to the earlier depth and began to descend all over again.
P’s ear was not just paining but was also ringing.
Katie decided to end our session. It had been almost an hour and with the up and down from my ‘getting over my panic’ sessions, combined with P’s ear pain she did not think it was a good idea to go on.
We waved our hands and the boat came close to us and threw us a rope which we clung to while they pulled us in. Most people were already back in the boat. It was a relief to get out of the equipment and dry our hair and sit in the upper deck.
We docked near Maya Beach (made famous by the movie ‘the Beach’) and had our lunch. After a while, the non-stop gentle swaying of the boat made me feel a bit sea sick and I closed my eyes and lay quietly.
Dive session #2 was still to come and I did not want to be sick for it.