Before we begin, I have a confession to make: I am not a water baby. Like most complexes I can trace this back to two very specific moments growing up. Firstly, on a trip to the Norfolk coast when my dad nearly cap sized our pedal boat into a murky ocean of doom (my 5-year-old self wasn't to know that we were actually pedalling a giant swan around a 3ft deep paddling pool). And, about 5 years later, when I had to complete my primary school swimming test. A fellow classmate, who would have certainly been described in an Enid Blyton story as 'a sturdy kind of girl', jumped from the side of the pool straight on to my head. I failed my test and was subsequently made to wear a bright yellow swimming cap for the rest of the year. Water sports just weren't going to be my calling…
However, despite the slow start, learning to dive has always been on my bucket list. Diving into the unknown and exploring a world of alien-looking plants and colourful fish felt daring and surreal. I'm also not one to sit still for too long so the opportunity to turn future beach holidays into adventure holidays was my main reason for taking the plunge. This summer I had a taster diving session on the beautiful Maldivian island, Niyama. The verdict? Learning to dive is so much fun and completely addictive. You also don't need to be completely fearless!
Naturally, I had lots of preconceived ideas about what it would be like to dive. For anyone interested in learning to dive this year, I hope this will answer any of those burning questions and prove that you don't need to be a dare devil to enjoy diving.
I want to be out in the water and the sunshine. Will I be stuck inside a classroom all day?
No, this definitely wasn't the case. The theory session is an extremely important part of the day and took around 20 minutes. My instructor, Seb, was excellent at relaying the theory in a way that was easy to understand. I quickly realised that as long as I followed his advice diving is totally safe. I could feel my nerves calming already.
Will it be difficult to breathe through the regulator?
I was surprised at how easy this was. Yes, you have to get used to only breathing through your mouth to avoid a nasty rush of water up your nose, but it is really quite instinctive. My biggest worry was that it might be difficult to catch your breath and take a large gulp of air. This wasn't the case. You can breathe as deep, or shallow, as you need to. Seb's golden rule: relax.
What if I lose the regulator?
Before I was let loose in the ocean my instructor taught me how to quickly retrieve my regulator back if it was to come out of my mouth. It's not going to go far and will only be an arm's length away. At no point during my dive did this happen and it wasn't likely to, the regulator was firmly gripped between my teeth!
Are my ears going to hurt and how will I know if there’s too much pressure on them?
I always used to suffer from ear infections and my ears are often painful when I fly, so this was my biggest worry about learning to dive. My instructor gave me lots of advice on why it's important to equalize your ears so that I could understand the theory behind it. I still found it quite tricky to know what was a 'normal' feeling in my ears, or when I had equalized the pressure. This meant that I was quite cautious during my first dive and it took me a little while to relax into the routine and feel confident. As soon as I realised my ears weren't going to be painful I was hooked; everywhere was teeming with fish and marine life and the colours were spectacular.
How many people will I be diving with?
Niyama run their 'Scuba Experience' for a maximum of four people so you will be very well looked after. I was lucky enough to be the only one learning and the team was happy for my family contingent to come along on the boat trip too. My mum sunned herself on the top deck while I was busy getting acquainted with the marine life below. After my dive, the team on board greeted me with fresh towels for a shower on board the boat and some ice-cold water.
Diving was one of my highlights of 2015 and I will definitely be finding the time to do an open water course. The best news? There wasn't a yellow swimming hat in in sight!