What happens to our brains underwater? I have always thought that the smartest person you can find is at least half as smart as soon as their head is two inches underwater. I’m not sure what it is that makes a person lose their senses underwater, but I have seen it proven time and time again.
After so long in the diving industry it has now come to the point where I am actually surprised if someone seems to not loose half of their mental faculty on a dive. There have been many times where I have felt completely outclassed on the brains front in the classroom. Try teaching a doctor about how to handle a dive emergency, and see if you don’t feel a bit like a fraud. But take that same person into the pool and the level of their incompetence is truly astounding. Now to be clear I am not talking about physical skill level, rather the ability to keep a clear head and analyze and problem solve in some kind of rational way.
Problem solving is generally broken down into four categories.
First comes “Define the problem”, then “Generate alternatives”, “evaluate alternatives”, and finally “implement solution”
It’s pretty straightforward and most people are proficient to a greater or lesser degree daily. People with positions in medicine or business or even a kids football coach all use these steps. But when a brain is submerged underwater these steps are all thrown out the window. It seems that the perceived threat of imminent death by drowning, makes the crucial first step of identifying “what the hell is going on here?” nearly impossible for most people. Of course if you can’t sit back and figure out where the problem is you probably won’t come to a very useful solution.
For example the most common problem a scuba instructor faces has to do with clearing the mask of water. If your mask is full of water and you don’t like it, then what do you do? Luckily for the student diver they really don’t have to generate solutions or choose the best option. We have taken care of that for them, through our briefing of the skills and what to do when the mask is full of water. You would think that since the instructor informs the student not only what the problem is going to be in advance but also how to fix it and the best means to accomplish it, that there would be no problems. It couldn’t be further from what actually happens. Students will sometimes bypass all logic and go with what they “think” is the best solution. Sometimes that means instead of clearing the mask as taught they spit out the regulator. Where is the sense in that?
However many times a person surprises me by doing something totally unexpected I can always rest assured that someone else will top it later. It is a curious phenomenon that must have an explanation. Could it be some form of shallow water narcosis? Or perhaps it is something to do with the mammalian diving reflex? If you are not familiar with this phenomenon, let me sum it up for you -
When you put a mammals face into cold water a few interesting things happen. First the heart rate slows, then you have some vasoconstriction of the extremities (reduced blood flowing to your ten little piggies). Lastly (and here is where it gets technical) there is a bit of a blood shift which prevents your precious organs from being squeezed. Of course the last two things only happen on deeper dives, not the two inches that seem to induce the aberrant performances discussed here.
I’m not a scientist but I think it is time to look into this. There are countless dive professionals that are putting in the field work. Who knows maybe we can find a cure. Of course the first step in solving the problem is to “define the problem”.
So let’s coin a term for this one. How about “degenerative cognition submersion variable”, or perhaps “immersion induced brain necrosis”. I think one of those should do the trick. After all if you have a term for something it makes it a lot easier to talk about and deal with. Next time you encounter someone acting like a bit of a muppet underwater you can tell them that perhaps they were just under the effects of DCSV or IIBN. It sure beats trying to tell them they were just not thinking straight.
Now that we have a definition and have identified the problem, what options do we have to address it? Of course we could just not take people under water, but we all know that is not an option. There must be a way around it, surely not everyone suffers from these debilitating symptoms?
Dive professionals have to solve problems underwater all the time. Sometimes I think that I do some of my best thinking under the surface. Why is it that some people are more suited to maintaining their mental faculty while submerged? Are the people with this ability drawn to diving or have we developed it? I firmly believe that we need to develop the skills needed to keep our heads clear in such an alien environment.
In order to overcome the difficulties we face underwater we need to understand them better. Maybe Einstein said it best when he said:
“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”.
As a long time scuba instructor I firmly believe that a little knowledge goes a long way. The more you know about something the better prepared you are to handle any difficulties you encounter with that thing. The more you practice at something the better your proficiency and comfort improve for that particular activity. Dive professionals aren’t wired differently than anyone else, we just have more knowledge and practice. For that reason I think the best way to solve the problem of” underwater ineptitude” is education.
All that is left is to “implement the solution”, it’s an easy solution as well. Take a scuba course, maybe even two.
It really doesn’t matter what course you take. If you love photography, then take the Digital Underwater Photography Specialty. Or if you think you are a bit of an acrobatic ninja take the Peak Performance Buoyancy course.
Anything that you learn will benefit your skills and knowledge.
The whole point of the PADI system of courses is to teach you how to solve problems. Think about your Open Water course. The entire skill set is about what to do if something happens to you. From how to clear a mask to how to handle and out of air situation to controlling your buoyancy, there is not a single skill that is just for fun. The Rescue course is basically a multi-day exercise in advanced problem solving. For intensive problem solving practice you can’t get any better than the Divemaster or Instructor Development Courses.
Each time you take one of these courses you become a better diver. Your skills improve and your knowledge grows. Soon you will find you no longer suffer from “liquid incompetence”, which at the end of the day, is not a label you want to be stuck with.
It’s one of those conversations we have all had.
Friend: “OH” (said with some trepidation) “ so you’re going to teach your girlfriend/wife <INSERT AS APPROPRIATE> to drive? You’re brave. Rather you than me”
You: “Yeah! It’ll be fun. Something we can share. Anyway, I reckon I am good at teaching plus I am amazingly patient so it’ll be FINE”
A few days later…
You: “So, errr, me and <INSERT GIRLFRIEND/EX-WIFE’S NAME> have decide to take a break… The whole teaching her to drive was a bit trickier than planned”
You could transpose this conversation to a few different situations but for the sake of the next 700 words, I will talk about teaching family to dive. I’ll start by reminding you that I taught my brother a few months back for both his Open Water and Advanced Open Water courses AND he was also my first ever student.
My brother and I get on well. We are reasonably similar, unconditionally supportive to each other (which is a rarity these days) and fairly laid back. Hearing stories from Zoe and Tim here about teaching family to dive, it sounded like I had lined myself up for a trial run of the apocalypse. We had agreed a fair way in advance that I would teach him to dive and he seemed excited about it all so I felt good.
I am not sure what to say next. I expect that you hope that it all went cataclysmic-ally wrong and that somehow one or both of us ended up hideously deformed so I am hugely sorry to disappoint because it went very well on the whole to the extent that he was actually KEEN to do his Advanced Open Water. Were that not the case, we would not have been able to get this brilliant picture (now one of my all time favorites:)
What I will say about the experience was it helped remind me and re-enforce the importance of patience. He is my brother. I love him dearly. BUT, there was one moment where we did not see directly eye-to-eye and naturally it was my fault as the instructor. This got me thinking.
As with anything in life there is an inherent risk when SCUBA diving. I like to compare it to crossing the street. As long as you are careful and do not do anything stupid then you will be fine. On the flip side, I am happy to let myself take this risk but placing my brother in this position is a whole different bag of badgers especially when I am the one in the position of responsibility. How is this different from teaching a non-family student? How is this that far removed from when he takes much greater risks on his own accord? I think my Dad puts it best. When we are away from each other he cannot worry too much about what we are doing but when I am back home staying with him then he likes me to check in during the evening if I am not going to be home at a decent hour. This is reasonable. I was nervous because he was HERE. When he was off diving in Oz afterwards, how could I worry? I had taught him after all!! He was fine.
So. Brother is certified. Dad is on his way out. We have decided against the Open Water because he will probably never use it again so… This opens up a new question to the floor. Discover Scuba Diving anyone? I am keen. He is apprehensive. Thoughts?
Hooray! Laptop is alive and kickin’ again! Time for another blog!
At the moment I’m the only ‘official’ Divemaster Trainee at Liquid. Jasper left for a while to travel around, only to come back later for his Instructor Development Course. Julia is successfully freelancing around as a PADI Divemaster. In a few days however we’ve got a new Divemaster Trainee! Mike (England) has been here for a little more than a week now, getting his advanced, EFR and rescue diver done before starting his Divemaster Traineeship here.
Since I’ve gone through almost the same courses about two months ago I still remember how I did, how I felt about everything etc. It’s interesting to see it from a different perspective now. I’m seeing some similarities and of course some differences as well. And of course it’s great fun to assist in the rescue diver course! Losing masks, fins and even each other underwater to keep the stress levels going is great for practice. I’m learning from it as well, now that I’m the diver that is faking problems I see how it is if someone tries to help you, what works for me and what doesn’t.
Meanwhile there have been more and more people coming over to Liquid to do their PADI Open Water Course which makes for a bit of a change in the experience levels of most of our current divers. All the diving from the last couple of months paid off in terms of what to expect and some problem-solving skills, although there is much much more to learn of course.
Aside from diving, there has been a significant increase in the use of…beer Jenga! For those of you that have no idea what I’m talking about, beer Jenga is similar to the normal Jenga, but with certain rules on the bricks that you pull out. Most of it has to do with..well…drinking. Recipe for a lot of fun nights and experiences!
As I’ve said before my intended stay was about 6 months or more here. You may have noticed I used ‘was’. I’m enjoying myself tremendously here, but everything has to come to an end. At least, for now that is. In a few weeks I’ll be travelling again for a short while before going home. Although I’m going to miss it here, it feels comforting to have a certain date in mind and getting a bit of a shorter timeframe to do everything in. Laidback as I might be, I still love a little hurrying up in a while, keeps me sharp and focused on the future. What that future may be…we’ll sea! Pun definitely intended!
I’m not gone yet, so more diving, relaxing, doing skills and of course some more blogs to come!
Have you ever heard a diver complain about a crappy dive, where they claim they saw nothing, or say the visibility was shocking, or the current was too strong? To me as a diver who loves being under the water blowing bubbles but rarely gets the chance any more, I am personally upset by comments like these. For me every dive is a good dive! After all how many people actually get the chance to do it?
Ok PADI is the highest certifying diving agency on the planet and Scuba Diving is becoming one of the more popular holiday activities, but honestly if you take 30 random people from all walks of life and ask them if they have been scuba diving, chances are the majority will say no. This year PADI certified their 20 millionth diver, there are over 6000 PADI dive centers worldwide and over 135000 PADI professionals! It is estimated that PADI certified divers make up 70% of the total dive market, of these, roughly one-third, or 6 million, can be classified as “active” divers. World population at the moment is 6.7billion! Around 3% of the population dive! So really, as a diver, do you have the right to moan about a dive! Basically NO!
Let’s break it down. First off what do you classify as a good dive? Of course we all want to have a dive like we see on National Geographic, but for those of us who have been diving for a while know, these dives are really far and few between, if at all! So a good dive would be a dive where first off nothing goes wrong, no one goes missing, no one loses anything or floods anything, no one runs out of air, no one gets hurt, no one messes with the marine life and if you are lucky the vis is ok and you may even see a fish or two!
So what would a great dive be? Well take all of the above requirements for a good dive then add in a shark or ray or whale or turtle or schooling jacks or barracudas or stunning corals or loads of reef fish or a newly discovered dive site or that one thing that has been on your diving wish list for so long and that is a great dive!
I have been diving for over 10 years and have 1000’s of logged (and unlogged) dives and still I love every dive I do. It is amazing to be underwater breathing compressed air, being totally weightless, being in an alien environment that so few people get the chance to see. So why on earth would someone come out of the water saying ‘well that was a crap dive’! The majority of divers who ever utter these words tend to be novices! At least I have never heard a diver who has 1000’s of logged dives and has been diving for over 10 years utter anything similar, as these divers understand just how privileged and lucky they are to be able to dive!
For those of you out there who have never had the opportunity to go diving, I cannot recommend it enough! The sheer sense of awe when you are floating in the blue staring into an endless abyss and wondering what is actually out there is one of the most intense moments a person can experience. When you encounter a shark or whale that is double your size and more graceful than any ballerina, when you swim through a school of fish over a coral reef that has enough colors to make an artist envious or when you find a creature that is the size of your little finger nail and equally as impressive as that giant whale, then you realize just how amazing diving is and how lucky you are to be able to do it!
Selfish is the new selfless. What? Yeah, I said it. I’ll say it again and this time, we’ll break it down for you. When I say break it down, I mean in the old school jazz/soul music sense. We’re going to go from the full cacophony of the phrase and reduce each element to its constituent part. I touched upon my theory of happiness and what are the drivers towards the emotional pot of gold at the end of the human cognitive rainbow in my last note to you. So, I am going to try not to re-hash that. I was thinking about this in bed… naked… (this detail is not important but I just wanted to make you feel uncomfortable).
We spend a fair amount of time thinking, worrying and/or questioning whether what we are doing is for a greater good and how our actions will affect the lives of others. This is an extrinsic selflessness. Then there is selfishness. I am pretty sure we all know what this is. The problem is we often associate a selfish act as something bad. I understand this. BUT. No, wait. DOUBLE-BUT . There is a whole world of good that can come from intrinsic selfishness – those that lie within the crux of YOUR happiness. If you are happier, you are able to build and grow STRONGER which, in turn will IMPROVE the lives of those close to you. There is a fine line. I LOVE to indulge myself, be it listening to music, eating ice cream, wandering the jungles or moving to the Philippines and Liquid Dumaguete. I KNOW that those around me love how positive and how much happier I am now.
I sit here as Michael Franti and Spearhead – Is Love Enough playing in the background and it slowly makes my heart sing along. Is your love enough? IS YOUR LOVE ENOUGH? My opinion which mirrors my sentiment above screams YES. Share/make/ spread/give love to those around you. Temper the dosage OBVIOUSLY. Good moods are infectious. Neutral moods are contagious. Bad moods are vicarious on a pandemic scale. In those darker times when you are almost desperate for someone to reach out to you, you can start the process by doing the same for someone else. There is a healthy side effect to SOME self-indulgence. Build yourself a mantra or set of life rules. One or two sentences. Tell people about them. Think on them.
‘Life is good. Treat others like you would have them treat you. Try anything twice. It’s all good. Find Something. Get involved. Look after yourself. Cut yourself some slack. INDULGE YOURSELF’
I’ve been back in paradise for a while now and let’s be frank with each other (because that’s the way I roll), I don’t think I’ve been myself the last month. I am fairly sure that that was mainly due to the self imposed stasis I put myself in by going back to the UK for so long but over the last few days I have felt the joy and excitement I have come to love creep back into my every day thought processes. Maybe it’s the making of games with Solymar and her constant ‘ray of sunshine’ demeanour and watching her and Kai grow up so much over the last year. I love kids. I love the fact that we were all children once and have each developed in our own ways drawing upon experiences as we go. It blows my mind a little bit to think of myself as a little one. What would you say to yourself if you had the chance? What age would you go back to do this?
I have the good fortune to take Rocky, Nez and Allan who are three of the staff and three future DiveMaster Trainees diving. They all passed their Open Water last month but somehow manage to dive better than most experienced divers I have had the ‘fortune’ to dive with. I always have a great time and it re-affirmed one of the things I harp on about often. Not only is diving very good for the soul BUT, our boat crew and staff here at Liquid Dumaguete have an uncanny ability to create a wonderful atmosphere on our day trips. I LOVE IT. Plus, there is some away time from the resort. I jokingly always say that I never really leave the resort via the front gate, I only ever like going out along the beach and into the water. It’s true.
July is notorious for its meteorological inconsistency and in what was one of the worst weather weeks I have experienced here I had a pleasure of diving with a group of lovely Norwegians who were old acquaintances from Malapascua. The diving was good when the weather permitted and the downtime spent together was wonderful SO, when we decided to dive Mainit a drift dive and my favourite coastal dive, I was pretty excited. Conditions were perfect, the seas were somehow calm and the currents, as predicted were mild. We dropped in on the mooring (standard stuff) then POW frog fish – my visual nemesis. I find it SO hard to spot them, but then, if it was easy, they would not be so special.
We descended down the sandy slope to 18metres and then headed south with the current. Sand. Sand… sand….. BLUE SPOTED RAY… Then from empty ocean to a corridor of fish, mainly larger surgeon fish and somehow it does genuinely feel like they are all around you. What’s that in the distance? Oh so there is coral. Oh WOW, that’s a scorpion fish? It’s HUGE. Amazing. So, in the space of 5 minutes we had been spoilt but I knew that the best was still to come. We are wandering along (the current was a perfect walking pace) and finally, over my left shoulder they were there. The Barracuda with a Capital T and a Capital B. I am not sure how/why but they always seem to be over my left shoulder. For those of you who have not seen barracuda in person, they are both majestic and menacing and when swimming together their impact is exaggerated infinitely. Ok, so I feel like I am boasting and then I realised that I AM boasting. Why? Because that is not it. This is where the geek in me. After the coral peters out we head shoreward towards the hot springs. *in a sarcastic voice* “oh wow. Hot water while I am inside water”. Honestly, there are these almost fluorescent yellow sands in amongst the golden sand which is hot to touch. This occurs due to hot springs reaching the surface and leaving sulphurous deposits. Finally, the safety sausage is deployed and we surface to a-whooping and a-hollering with everyone waxing lyrical about how Mainit on the humble Dauin coast is easily comparable to the all-star hall of famer – Sipidan.
I can’t put my finger on it but there is a very redemptive magic here. I am not sure where EXACTLY I mean by HERE: Liquid Dumaguete, the beach, the ocean? The Philippines, Negros, Dauin? The peace, the simplicity, the happiness? Instead of trying to pinpoint where this magic emanates from, I always try to paint a picture that helps you get inside my head. I hope this works.
All in all, things are ticking over. Head and heart are communicating if not on a basic, civil level. I do not expect them to be best of friends because they have such hugely different opinions on most things. I think about the people who read these words and wonder what you get out of it. I’d love o know. Maybe drop me a line somehow.
In the meantime, as usual, look after yourself, take care of each other,
I’m not saying that it’s not an awesome thing to do. I’m just wondering why it seems so lame to the non-diver. Close your eyes and picture this: Actually keep them open to read, and then close them.
‘A group of people gathered together laughing and joking. One is a slim blonde with fluorescent pink shorts and a lime green loose fitting shirt held together by a blue and white belt tightly cinched just above her navel. She is brushing her truly massive bangs out of her face with her inch long painted nails. The man is giving her a high five while checking his pager that he just grabbed from the belt holster on his khaki shorts.’
Does that sound like the start of a great movie or what? If you have ever seen a PADI movie you can picture the scene immediately. The PADI videos are horrible! Not in an educational sense(they actually are very good on that front), but just in the sense that it is uncomfortably bad acting and scripting to have to sit through. Sure there is information to be learned but at what cost?
When students sign up for the PADI Open Water Diver Course they have no idea what is in store for them. Sure they know they will soon be practicing confined water skills and getting out on some open water dives. But nobody ever told them that the course included some truly horrible videos.
Most likely people have seen diving on television and the movies already. Films like Into the Blue with a scantily clad Jessica Alba or The Deep with Jacqueline Bisset for the older generation. Everyone has flipped to National Geographic and seen scenes from the sardine run in east Africa or whale sharks in Ningaloo Reef or documentaries on the amazing biodiversity to be found underwater in the Galapagos Islands. Our Ocean is amazing and there are countless books and magazines that people are exposed to where they can get a glimpse of what is truly out there.
But what could be cooler than actually seeing it in real life? It’s like an alien world just a stones throw from our own. How cool is that? The answer seems to be that it’s not cool at all. Or at least that only strange and old fashioned people care to take part in it. At least that’s what the video would have us believe. The outfits they wear are all staples of the eighties. Fashion does go in circles but PADI shouldn’t wait for the things on the open water videos to come back. Outside of the clothes there is the scuba gear. It is almost comical. I have been searching for years to find a pink tank to go with my pink mask and snorkel, pink fins, pink wetsuit and pink gloves. It seems they were all phased out in the late eighties or perhaps early nineties.
What about other sports? Do they suffer the same stagnation as scuba diving? Try to picture in your mind a group of surfers. I am guessing it is a totally different image than the one you have of divers. What about skiing? If you think of eighties ski attire it is comical. But it has evolved, just look at snowboarders. On the other hand divers are not only decked out with the same style as 1989 but sometimes rocking the actual BCD or wetsuit they used over twenty years ago.
Then there are the jokes, I have to use the term lightly though. Jokes are usually funny. Sure I laugh while watching the PADI Open Water video, but at it, not with it. More often than not I am cringing and shaking my head. Do you all remember the fat flower shirted American tourist that is supposed to be the comedic relief? It’s painful to watch at times.
Now I’m not expecting to have Hollywood summer blockbuster type affairs for training videos. But could we meet in the middle somewhere. Instead of something that looks like a school videography project where all the students get to take a turn acting and directing and calling the shots, could we bring in some professionals? It is the Professional Association of Diving Instructors after all. PADI knows diving, Hollywood knows movies. Maybe we can let the professionals do their respective jobs.
Since PADI has a head office in California you would think there would be a possibility for some connections. Exactly how many aspiring actors/directors/writers etc do you think there are in California alone? Surely enough! Most likely PADI wouldn’t even need to pay them. If you are struggling to break into film making who would pass up an opportunity that would allow you to put out a movie that will be seen in nearly every country of the world? And not just in an expensive theatre for a few weeks. It would be played throughout the year , season after season. I would recognize any of the “actors” from the PADI open water video, after all I have been watching it weekly for over ten years. PADI just recently certified it’s 20 millionth diver. That’s like having a youtube video with an insane amount of hits.
I think PADI is missing an opportunity here. Why not try to get some big name celebrities involved. Added exposure for them and PADI might actually get a training video that people want to watch and talk about after it is finished. To be fair they do talk about the video now, but in the way people talk about films like Catwoman or Gigli. Diving is cool, but the videos are definitely not. Can we sort this out? Please?
Perfecting buoyancy and streamlining…a never ending objective for all divers. Whether from the outset of your diving life on your PADI Open Water course, or entering the professional realm of PADI Divemaster or Open Water Scuba Instructor this is something we strive to get better at.
When we start out diving the arms won’t stop moving as we progress from dry land to the swimming pool, or open ocean (and yes, your instructor was once like this). All of a sudden you go from having a size 10 foot to a size 27. Getting used to all this new equipment and the mass of lead attached so we can actually descend is no easy task. As you progress with your diving you may start to purchase your own dive gear. Again, a period of adjustment is needed so you get used to how the important characteristics of a new BCD, fins or wetsuit throw everything you have learnt back to the starting point for a brief time.
With my students I try to start this understanding from a very early stage. Clasping the hands together, changing the way fins move in the water and adjusting weight and distribution for ideal trim are all a few tricks instructors may have in their toolbox.
My favorite part of teaching any PADI Advanced Open Water class is the Peak Performance Buoyancy session (one I recommend all students to undertake). I get a lot of value as an instructor by seeing the development of a diver relatively quickly once a few core skills and techniques are demonstrated and put into action. I couldn’t recommend highly enough taking the Peak Performance Buoyancy Specialty course to really hone those skills down. It is during this time I like to take that skills progression and also get divers thinking about equipment configurations, hose routings and places to stow those ‘goodies’ that we seem to collect.
Streamlining the equipment down not only makes diving easier, potentially safer but also more enjoyable. There is nothing that drives me more nuts when I am diving then feeling a hose flapping around in the mildest of currents, or seeing a gauge endlessly dragging in sand on less than optimum configurations. Moving a few clips, adding a few snaps and removing a few bits of clutter can quickly change the way you move in the water. You will find yourself getting closer to those anemones and towards that nudibranch than you ever thought was possible. Preventing that regulator hose getting snagged or not silting up for the next diver in behind you is always a positive right?!
If you are a photographer, videographer or getting into overhead environments these skills are even more important so you can really get in close for those macro shots, or hang motionlessly on a wall for the wide angles. You will start to realize what a difference a breath really makes, as you inhale deeply to pull yourself up and away, then scull backwards and helicopter turn off to the next corridor of that wreck site you have wanted to see for so long.
Maybe your equipment set up already seems pretty good, but moving that SMB to another location or stowing the light somewhere else is all it will take to make the difference. Perhaps your equipment is perfected but you are still struggling when swimming into currents or squeezing through between 2 rocks, the frog kick or modified flutter maybe all you need to hone those skills in. Even now I realize that there is much more for myself that can be perfected and even just talking to other divers can throw things I thought were great previously, completely out the window.
Just these few bits can make it a much easier progression to the next level, be it PADI Rescue Diver or PADI Divemaster, it is certainly one less thing to dedicate those narcosis induced brain cells to! And as I’m sure you have guessed by now, I’m quite happy to sit down and discuss that new pair of fins, long hose routing or back sculling over a beer or two – but I would prefer to be diving with you!
When you are training someone to become a dive professional there is a wealth of information that needs to be covered. The basics of how your body is functioning on a physiological level, especially the circulatory and respiratory systems. Physics is brought up in detail when learning about buoyancy and pressure/volume/density relationships. The dreaded terms halftime, M-value and tissue compartment are discussed at length. Hours are spent figuring out NDL’s, ABT’s and minimum surface intervals. Different types of currents are furiously scribbled on the board. Regulators get broken down to their smallest parts and examined intensely.
And that’s only the official classroom sessions. Possibly twice that time is spent diving and assisting PADI dive professionals, learning the ropes . Getting tanks loaded, sorting out gear and scrambling to locate an extra couple of chunks of lead are all a daily trial. Packed lunches have to be double checked, water can’t be forgotten, towels, sunscreen, seasickness tablets, buoyancy games, slates…the list is endless. Assisting with student divers is both rewarding and challenging. Let your attention wander for a moment and a potentially life threatening situation can arise. Sometimes it seems that you are actually training to be a psychologist. People need to be encouraged, pampered, scolded, rewarded, corrected, pandered to and respected and all with a smile.
What’s the trade off, why do people want to put themselves through this type of training. It’s because of what we know is waiting for us just under the surface of the water. Diving is amazing and being able to share that passion is one of the most rewarding experiences possible. But what are we teaching our students and fun diversunder our care? Are we utilizing the experience as best as we could? People come away from diving changed. Is there an opportunity to channel that change? Can we encourage and instill a sense of responsibility on the people we interact with as dive professionals?
If you have the right knowledge to draw on we think you can. But where in the divemaster course do you gather the information and frame of mind to enact that. It’s all a bit ambiguously hidden in the depths of the PADIsystem. If you have ever flipped to the
beginning of the PADI Instructor Manual you might have read the line “Open hearts and minds to the hidden beauty of nature’s creation and our obligation to protect it”. Then again like most people you probably skimmed that page. It’s all well and good to state what needs to be done on an idealistic level, but it needs to be backed up with a plan. How do we learn to “open hearts and minds?” Where is that program in the manual? Luckily Project AWARE has similar mission statements and actually has a game plan to get there. Education is the key. The more you know about the plight of the oceans the more you feel the desire to do something about it.
It’s in that vein of thought that at Liquid we now include for free (literally we are paying the costs) the Project AWARE Shark Conservation Specialty and Project AWARE Coral Reef Conservation Specialty with every Divemaster Trainee package. The more you know about our oceans the better equipped you are to transfer that knowledge to your divers. At Liquid we support Project AWARE 100% and we want all of the dive professionals being trained by us to leave with conservation at the forefront of their new dive careers.
So what are these courses?
Sharks are crucial to marine ecosystems. They maintain a balance in populations of prey species and keep the ocean healthy by removing ill or diseased animals. They are an important resource supporting local economies through fishing and as an attraction to dive tourists.
But sharks are in a global decline. Overfishing has reduced many shark populations around the world to levels that threaten their continued existence. Shark numbers have fallen by more than 80% in many cases, and the continued existence of some species is at immediate risk in some regions.
The goals of the AWARE Shark Conservation Diver course are to inform students of the value of sharks to marine ecosystems and economies, to educate them about the causes of declining shark populations, to build an understanding of what is missing in current shark fisheries management, to dispel misperceptions that may block them from taking action, and to inspire them to help sharks by taking action. The AWARE Shark Conservation Diver course aims to turn students into informed and passionate shark defenders who take action to protect sharks.
Most of our dives are done on reefs. It’s where the action is and where the fish and critters live. In the AWARE Coral Reef Conservation Specialty Course we can inform divers and non-divers about the plight of the world’s coral reefs. The course describes how coral reefs function and why they are so important. It also reviews why many reefs are in serious trouble and what individuals can do to prevent further decline. Most divers, snorkelers and environmental enthusiasts have already visited or plan to visit a coral reef. The AWARE Coral Reef Conservation Specialty course provides the knowledge base for proper interaction while touring a reef.
At Liquid we think it is part of our responsibility to help protect and preserve the things that give us so much. We feel the best way to give back is to ensure that dive professionals trained by us are environmentally aware and knowledgeable. After all they are the ones that will be travelling and diving the world we want to protect.
It’s one of those things isn’t it? I know that I am very fortunate (and maybe a LITTLE bit lucky) to be able to live the life I do. I feel the need to explain the difference. Fortune is something that an individual can directly influence e.g. being able to find traction to stay in the Philippines because I (hope) I have earned it whereas luck is this abstract, some might say karmic, invisible force that randomly affects people along the way.
Over the last 12/13 months I have adventured in the jungles, discovered the underwater worlds of the Philippines and spent time in my be-loved London. I think that you guys have enjoyed reading my writings as much as I have enjoyed producing them. I feel quite privileged that I have the stories to tell and the people to listen to them and for that, I thank you. Yes. YOU.
I appreciate I have been a tiny bit absent of late. I am not altogether sure as to why that has been the case either so I have decided that I will not be as arbitrary with my communications. I write as I sit here waiting to board a flight from Terminal 3 at NAIA Manila to Dumaguete – a place I call my home away from home… Duma-G NOT the airport. Why am I so excited? Well. If you were to ask me to say the first things that pop into my head it would go something along the lines of:
Seeing Tim and Zoe
Massive bro-hug with Jim
Soly and Kai’s big smiley faces
ALL of the staff. Can’t wait for a barrage of people calling my Byran (Adams), bum patting from the boy crew, trying to learn Visayan with the house keeping ladies, banter with the kitchen crew… oh gosh. EVERYONE
Getting into the water (and playing with my new gear)
Diving. Full stop.
The Sun. The Sea. The Sky. Capital S’s intentional
I don’t know why but my heart skips a beat at the thought. My theory or life philosophy if you want me to be pretentious is one of creating balances. Pride is only a virtue if tempered by humility. Strength of mind is a good characteristic made only more creditworthy if offset by empathy… If you want me to translate this to life in London (the real world) then it would go something along the lines of this. On one hand life costs money. You need to make enough money to make yourself happy by giving yourself the options money bring. This feeds the practical side of you. On the other hand though, life is there to be lived, you have to have that something that feeds and fuels the passions that are the fire in your belly. If you are LUCKY/FORTUNATE you will get a job that will appease both but most people are NOT that lucky so you often have to choose one over the other. I have tried the money route. Didn’t do it for me. Right now, I am trying the slightly more selfish path of just making myself plain old happy. Let’s see how we go eh? I am extremely aware of how little I have actually said here but I think you’ll have to bear with me on that. I feel like I am on a roll.
I’m no Doctor Who BUT, it has now magically shifted from three days ago to today. KAPOW. I have been back in Liquid Dumaguete for a full two days. BLISS. Being picked up at the airport by Gery and his wonderful semi-toothy smile was a great way to be welcomed back. A few bits and pieces have changed most notably Alf has decided to take a (Filippino) sabbatical which is basically an indefinite period of time off with a view to freelance and study more towards becoming a marine biologist.
Interestingly this concept of low season has passed us by. It was about 3 weeks ago that I called Zoe to ask if it was ok to stay in the UK for a few more weeks. At the time, it was QUIET. Turns out that lasted a night. So, we are very lucky to have Yannick working with us on a freelance basis. He passed his IDC with Tim last year. He’s a very good instructor and an all round general good guy. He has also readily stepped in as the resident attractive European man. Good to have you here buddy. Eric is also now a key member of staff working as our Fillipino dive guide. He is a mild mannered and extremely polite young man. He is a superb, if not short term member of the team.
What else has happened? Sundancer (our boat) has been dry-docked and refurbished. Now she not only looks tremendous but is also a lot more assured in the water. Have I mentioned I love this place? It is the little things that I am slowly remembering that are serving as a gently reminder of why I am here. If it’s not the constant, chirpy, happy, background noise of people’s chattering then it’s the noise of nature and if it’s not that then it’s the sound of the ocean or the view of Mount Talinis or the rice and fish that I had for breakfast. MAYBE, it’s the water. That could easily be the case. Maybe it is laced with something? I’ll do some experiments and get back to you. I know I am not the only one because we have had many guests who were due to be here for a few days who are still here a month later. AMAZING. There is a good cross section of cultures, nations and attitudes which all contribute to the wide-rangingly positive ambience that is floating in the air.
If am not happily talking to guests or busily readying gear for a dive on the Dauin coast, I am playing cards with Tim, Jim and Zoe. There are many moments where I think about home BUT there are innumerable numbers of moments where I feel blessed (in the least religious way possible). Personally, I think we all need a few instances where we are forced to take stock and re-evaluate. Sadly, it is the darker and harder times where we do this like when a family comes together in the wake of a sick loved one. In theory I should use this paragraph to sell Liquid Dumaguete HARD but I am not, this place seems to sell itself. Instead, I am going to gently encourage you to have a think about what makes you happiest and make sure that you increase the time you concentrate on doing that. If you’re at a loss, try diving. It’s awesome. Especially here. (There’s the subtle sell). Make sure you indulge yourself a bit. Make sure to take the best especially from the jaws of adversity.
I’ll leave you with a song recommendation. A friend played it to me at Christmas and then again when I was home this time. It has the lyric “Long live living… if living can be this.” Right now I feel lucky AND fortunate to be able to say these lyrics as a mantra and believe it. Make sure you can do the same too. Thank for listening.
The Philippines is a country of islands, 7107 to be precise. Most of them have stunning palm fringed beaches, lush green tropical forests, mountain ridges (dotted with the occasional volcano that we won’t dwell on), rivers, lakes, waterfalls, rice terraces and of course amazing coral reef systems housing a wide array of marine life. So with so many choices why should you come and visit us here? Of the top of my head I can think of 5 different reasons you should come here instead of one of the other 7106 islands. So here they are in no particular order –
Dumaguete. Known as the city of gentle people, this university town has a charm all of its own. When schools in, the population increases by a whopping 30, 000 students. The constant influx of young people is noticed in the sheer casualness of the place, there are a plethora of bars showcasing live music most nights from Reggae to pop. Restaurants offering you foods from around the world. Clothes stores, trendy boutiques, coffee shops and internet cafes line most streets. There is even a rather quaint mall with a 3 screen cinema playing the latest releases. Silliman University has 2 different ‘zoos’ (for lack of a better word) One of them is a marine zoo that breeds giant clams and crocodiles! The other is home to endangered indigenous species such as the bleeding heart dove and white tail spotted dear.
The more serious side of Dumaguete has 3 hospitals, a new hyperbaric chamber, plenty of dental clinics and a large port where you can take ferries, including car ferries, to Cebu or the neighboring island of Bohol. There is an airport that is soon to start accepting international and night time flights, which makes this region one of the easiest to reach in the country. Outside of town there are a number of lakes to visit and some stunning waterfalls if you don’t mind a trek. For those who like hiking, Mt. Talinis offer some fantastic trails that takes you to sulphur vents, crater lakes and hanging vines in a mini tropical rainforest. When you reach the summit some stunning views of Negros are all around. A few hours up the coast you have the town of Bais which is famous for dolphin and whale watching and in the other direction the port town of Zamboanguita the port to the southern Philippines.
Apo Island. Probably the main reason most divers come to this region is to dive at Apo. This famous island boasts some of the most pristine coral reefs in the Philippines. Even after the big winter storm last Christmas the coral is still thriving. This area was one of the first successful marine sanctuaries in the country and you can tell when you dive it. Visibility averages 20+mts throughout the year, schools of tropical reef fish dart around the soft and hard corals. Turtles can be seen on most dives, giant bump head wrasse, schools of trevally, tuna, barracuda and jacks can be seen playing in the currents. And if you are lucky there is the chance of a whale shark, manta or reef shark encounter.
Only a 45minute boat journey from Liquid, Apo has over 12 different dive sites ranging in level from some very gentle shallow dives for the beginner diver to the more arduous drift dives, for the more experienced. There really is something for everyone here, even snorkelers! The town has a sheltered white sand beach which is perfect for day trippers and those not diving. At Liquid we normally go to Apo Island at least two times a week where we like to do a 3 dive day trip. We drop the snorkelers off at the main beach for the mornings double dive, then come back and collect everyone for lunch, followed by the final dive of the day before heading back to Dauin Coast.
Dauin Coast.Not to be overlooked is the black sand coast line of Dauin. Ok so the beaches are not that picture postcard palm fringed white sand, in fact they can be quite rocky and the sand varies in color from a dark yellow to a sparkling black. But the marine life that is found lurking just below the surface is first rate. This region is getting a name for itself as one of the best muck diving destinations in Asia. With a wide variety of critters including shrimps, nudibranchs, frog fish, pipe fish, scorpion fish, sea horses and sea moths to search for this area will keep the most ardent muck diver happy for hours at a time.
For those that do not really relish scouring the sand for that infamous 0.5cm critter, well don’t worry as Dauin coastal sites also have some rather fantastic coral reefs that house a variety of tropical reef fish, schools of barracuda, yellow tail snapper, tuna and turtles. The great thing about Dauin is there are over 15 different dive sites all offering something a little bit different and all within 1-30mintues from Liquid. Most of the dive sites are suitable for beginners and snorkelers, though there are a few where the currents can pick up and only the more experienced divers can dive these sites.
Siquior. The witch craft island. Folk tales talk about the olden days during the Spanish Inquisition when marauding ships would leave their sick sailors on Siquijor island to be treated by the local ‘doctors’ while the ship continued on with its plundering, only to return weeks later to find all their sick sailors healthier than when they first embarked on their journey. Nowadays the art of ‘white magic’ is still practiced on Siquijor and each year during Holy week they hold the ‘Healing festival’ to help allay fears of rumored dark magic.
Aside from witch craft Siquijor which is only a 50minute boat ride from Liquid has some stunning coral reefs and fabulous wall diving. The area is also a marine sanctuary. Although relatively new the improvement in marine life over the years has been quite dramatic. It is quite common to encounter dolphins on the journey to the island and during dives always keep one eye in the blue just in case a large pelagic passes by. On land there are many interesting caves to visit, waterfalls to see and hills to climb. The island is surrounded by white sand beaches with a fringing coral reef which offers some great snorkeling along with the awesome diving.
Sumilon. This privately owned island was the first official marine park in the region. Situated just over an hour from Liquid not too far from Oslob, the whale shark capital of the Visayas. The cruise out takes you past Dumaguete city and across the Tanon Strait towards Cebu Island. Here if you are lucky you may encounter whale sharks, dolphins or whales. The diving around Sumilon is fantastic, clear visibility, plenty of fish life, healthy soft and hard corals and amazing wall dives with some great over-hangs and crevices for the more adventurous diver to poke around in.
The island has lovely white sand beaches surrounding by shallow clear waters leading to gentle sloping reefs before becoming steep walls. A great place for an open water diver or a more experienced deep diver, there are over 10 different dive sites around Sumilon and each is well worth the trip.
So in a nut shell, if you decide to pick our little island out of the 7107 there are to choose from, you will actually be giving yourself the opportunity to see more than just one area. With so many places to visit why not try and go somewhere that it’s possible within a week to see numerous different diving destinations each offering something that little bit different and for those non divers there are many land based activities to keep you entertained for quite some time.