Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Why Scuba Dive

No time to pose, I was busy installing
a metal-mesh artificial reef module at 70ft
 Top reasons to Dive

A quick background - My first Dive certification training (called “Open Water Scuba Diving Course”) was sometime in 1998. I quickly went to Advanced, then Rescue then Dive Master level by early 2000. I initially didn’t take these courses ‘to be a diver’ (I just want to reduce my water phobia), and at least for my DM course I think ‘I was forced’ by my ex-classmates to finish it! Haha! For someone scared of water – I consider this as one of my greatest self-nurturing accomplishment in life, i.e. reaching a Professional level in scuba diving - while keeping myself ALIVE. Haha! Not that I’m super Pro, but pro enough to either save myself from underwater crisis, or help someone who is in crisis – a normal DM job; identify many weird creatures; lead a dive group; do an “Intro dive” for a newbie, or perform relatively complex underwater tasks, say installing an artificial reef module.

Now, fast forward to current day and after several hundred dives… I am GLAD that I did pursue scuba diving, not only did I learn a lot – it was and still a self-enriching and fulfilling outdoor sport.

Now let me give my take on some of the top reasons why non-divers should at least try scuba diving, once or more times in their lives.

1. See the beauty of this world, from a different perspective – literally. Don’t settle for a home aquarium, Ocean Park or Sea World visits, or watching Nemo or mermaid DVDs. There’s a whole LOT more to see and observe when you actually dive underwater. In the Philippines, we have so many dive sites that until now, I was only able to sample a few favourites. You want colorful corals and see a bounty of marine lives – visit “Anilao” (or rather – any reef section in Balayan Bay, or go to Puerto Galera. You want sharks? Go to Malapascua. Sea turtles? Apo reef is a good bet. Big fish / Pelagics like tuna, barracuda, and others – go to Tubbataha. Shipwrecks? Go to Coron. I can go on and on and fill up several pages. And I only mentioned Philippines – imagine the world’s potential. By seeing this underwater beauty, one may also be inspired to preserve it.

2. A good extra social life, hopefully different from work or business social group. Generally, divers are of crazy bunch. Talk, dine, share, learn, laugh… Night time in dive resort is a long time for mingling and growing the list of friends is not remote. One may even meet his or her future partner? :P

3. Appreciate the ‘life system’ of this planet. Don’t just look… Learn and understand! If you know the creatures’ dynamics or understand marine ecosystem – you’ll have better appreciation of life in this world. Why did the shark stop by a ‘cleaning station’? (To get ‘cleaned’ of dirt and parasites by smaller fishes, what else). Why did the small bottom dweller gobi fish befriended the little crustacean? (one is a digger of sand hole, the other a watch-eye of predators). Why is the lapu-lapu (grouper) hunting with moray eel? (one hunts in small holes and crevices, the other in the open). How come crinoids (ex. feather star) lived for ~300mn years and still thriving? What happens when we over-harvest trumpet shells? (It can cause infestation of coral-killing Crown of Thorns). There are a thousand fascinating facts that one can only learn through scuba diving. Earth, despite the name – is a water world, and there are a lot more creatures that lived and living today in this watery world compared to land animals.

4. Feel patriotic, perhaps? Philippines is gifted with so many underwater treasures. To-date, the recognized MOST DIVERSE marine eco-system in the WORLD is the Verde Passage (so-called the “center of the center of the coral triangle”) which includes Balayan Bay, Tingloy, Puerto Galera and nearby coastal areas and islands.. If you’re a Philippine resident – you should feel proud that this country has that special place and distinction in the underwater world. A side story – when I was doing documentary work for Born to be Wild (GMA7), we featured this group of US-based marine biologists studying Verde’s treasure and all they did was get samples of Nudi Branch (‘snail’ without shell, sort of). They have an inventory of some 700 or 800(?) independent species found in the Verde Passage reef alone. Imagine the diversity potential of other marine creatures. To compare, Homo Sapiens is the ONLY living specie w/in the genus Homo. Oh in case you didn’t know, Neanderthalis got extinct a few hundreds of thousands of years back.

5. Scuba Diving is a good “crisis training”. A mind training. One will learn quick crisis management and trouble shooting. If today you have the tendency to simply react to an ‘event’, you may do better by inserting ‘quick thinking’ prior to ‘action’. Which means you’ll have a good chance of better ‘reacting’ to sudden problem or pressing event. This skill is better harnessed in Rescue and higher diving levels, but an opportunity just the same for ‘Open Water’ course. Why ‘crisis training’? Underwater, being in a dangerous environment – one is taught proper quick problem solving behaviour. STOP- (BREATHE)- THINK – ACT. If you simply REACT – you could kill yourself. Many divers have panicked and reacted by fast-swimming to surface causing Air Embolism (ex. Lung rupture). Or panic grabbing someone else’s regulator (mouth-breathing part) causing chaos and risk to someone’s life. Or accidentally entrapping oneself either in a man-made structure or crevices and reacting quickly by wiggling hard and strong causing equipment malfunction or worsening the issue leading to more life-threatening problems. This is a simple technique that can be applied to everyday life, or dangerous sport (say rock climbing). Except that in scuba diving, you have less time to solve a problem (i.e. you don’t have the luxury of time given air tank limitation or ‘bottom time’ constraint. (Bottom time depending on depth is generally ‘constrained’ as over time at certain depth may cause Decompression Sickness).

What keeps someone from diving? If you have no strong reason not to – TRY IT. If you’re scared – just note that I too, was at first extremely worried about my own ‘survival’ but got through it, and beyond. If money is the issue, well - WORK harder and save some money and at least do an ‘Intro’ dive (hand holding session with a professional).
Sometimes, reasons and alibis are what keep us from exploring and enjoying the beauty of this lovely planet. Tsaka ka na mag-upgrade ng iPhone, or postpone your car loan plan… Dive today! ;)

Save our Reefs

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