Up early-ish for diving commencing at 7:45am. Time for quick breakfast and then off to dive centre to kit up and take boat out to dive site. I had a quick refresher lesson yesterday with the dive team and confident that they knew their stuff and that the equipment was in good condition. The only glitch was trying to squeeze into my wetsuit. They are meant to be snug and I mean snug. I think the sizing is based on leprechauns because my size was XXXL or similar. I finally got it on with a lot of tugging and grunting, popped the air bottles and weights on and waddled about 50 meters from the dive school to the water’s edge. We waded out to about chest high and went through the safety procedures until the instructor was confident that we knew our stuff
The boat was an old wooden one, maybe 10 metres in length and with a roof for shade from the fierce sun. There were 2 large outboard motors attached but it still sailed at a leisurely pace and rode the swell effortlessly.
The journey took maybe 90mins but it could have been less; or more. The motion of the boat, the sound of the water lapping against the sides, the reflection of the bright sun against the water, the changing colours of the water from green to an intense blue I have never seen before, all this lulled me into a calm meditative space where awareness of time passing seemed to blur. But, eventually, we arrived near a small island and at the boundary of a coral reef, called Mnemba Atoll
Just roll over backwards out of the boat, the instructor said. Are you feckin’ mad, I thought to myself. Leave this safe boat to fall backwards with a ton of weight on my back and plummet deep into dark unfathomable depths so my likes will never be seen again. So, naturally, I rolled over backwards; a splash, lots of bubbles, the world turning topsy turvy and I popped to the surface and bobbed around. Grand.
The first dive lasted 40mins according to my logbook. It felt much shorter. The second one was 50mins and felt even shorter. Both were a combination of either being awestruck at the variety and colours of the fish or trying to master buoyancy, a skill I struggled with. A few hours later, now the only memory is the fish.
I used to keep two saltwater reef ranks once, one with fishes and invertibrates, the other seahorses and pipe fish. Both had live rock and were meant to replicate a real reef. I spent many hours staring at the fish and corals imagining myself swimming over a real reef. A few years later, I was offered a job in Thailand and took it. That’s where I first, and last, dived. It was enjoyable but not as good as here in Zanzibar. This was specular
My highlight was seeing an octopus hiding in a little cave. I don’t know how large it was but the arm I saw was pretty thick. I hovered in front of his home with my face mask about 20cm away and waggled my fingers. Maybe I’m slightly anthropomorphising but it seemed like the octopus responded with curiosity and was moving forward to explore me. Then my buoyancy acted up and I drifted away.
The journey back was almost a mirror image of the journey there, except that we were even more relaxed. Several of the other divers nodded off, as indeed I nearly did myself.
Then home, a hot shower and a snooze on the bed for 30mins or so; a power nap.
Almost a perfect day.