Whilst down in Bodrum, I had the chance to try scuba diving. I've noticed that diving seems to attract the same kind of passionate enthusiasm as golf, stamp collecting, cars or smack. As an outsider, it's hard to really appreciate what all the fuss is about.
So, anyway, a friend of a friend of a friend knew the owner of a diving boat and so off we went to join the throngs of English tourists crammed onto this small vessel.
We were each assigned a diving number and told we would each have an instructor to help us pop our scuba cherry. My main fear wasn't the claustrophobia or the normal dangers of being submerged under 6 metres of Aegean Ocean, but rather without my glasses I'm almost completely blind. Apparently you can get prescription goggles but it seemed a little OTT to splash out (excuse the pun) on something I might hate. My contact lenses are about 4 months out of date and so I had to rely on the promise that everything underwater is magnified by 25 (insert your own 'looking down the front of the trunks' gag here).
Soon we had arrived at our diving spot and were ushered down for a beginners briefing and readied ourselves for taking the plunge. We were past conveyor belt style from one man to another slowly adding to our kit piece by piece. You can see me getting lashed to my air tank in the picture below.
And so it was time to shuffle up to the edge of the boat to take the 'big step' into the sea. "Now why do we take a 'big step'?" They asked in an innocently patronising fashion. "So you don't hit your arse/tank on the edge of the boat and roll unconscious into the drink" I managed to restrain myself from answering.
My last words before I pushed off were "don't forget to tell the bloke I can't see". Once safely in the arms of instructor Ali, my first words were "did they tell you, I can't see?". Without reply he dragged me by the snorkel to the shallows and confirmed that I knew the appropriate sign language before shoving my regulator into my gaping mouth and pushing my head down into the water. Before I knew what was happening, we were at least a metre down and my ears were starting to ask questions. A brief twist of the nose and all was good as we continued our descent.
I could see surprisingly well underwater. My instructor pointed out a hermit crab as it scuttled along rocks. Ali, understanding that a short sighted diver might need assistance, pushed my head closer and closer toward the crab. Not knowing the hand signals for "it's OK I can actually see just fine down here", I simply had to relax as my nose eventually sandwiched poor crustacean to the rock.
Soon we were off again as Ali eased my descent down to 6 metres. There we met another Ali who's job was to sit at the bottom of the Ocean with a camera and a bag of bread. The fish were swarming as they gave me the hand signal to hold on tightly to a rock. This I did. The current seems tsunamic for a beginner and I was clinging on to anything I could find as my instructor released me for the first time to give the photographer some space.
Now I should really explain the photos below. I may look scared witless but there are two factors beyond my control you need to know about. 1. I was told not to smile as smiling would release my mask and allow water to pour in. 2. The mask was so tight, I had a permanent look of surprise/terror as my eyebrows were pushed up into my hairline. I was actually fairly relaxed. Not completely relaxed and there is a give away if you examine the pictures closely. ...Look at my right hand.
After the photo op, we continued the short dive but too soon it was time to head back to the surface. I can really now see the attraction in diving. The feeling of freedom (albeit with an instructor holding onto the scruff of my neck for the duration) was quite amazing. The fact that once submerged, the fish are perfectly comfortable with you swimming around them. I can see myself doing this again in the near future. Highly recommended.
Yours with a mild case of the bends.