I started my Divemaster Training (DMT) with Blue Marlin Dive on Gili T. the day after I arrived (on June 18th) so I've been at it for almost a week now. At first I floated around the dive shop feeling like I was always in the midst of a well-orchestrated chaos of divers, instructors, regulators, BCD's, tanks, fins, masks, and weight belts and I was in the way wherever I went. I was told to go on fun dives to get familiar with the dive sites and the routine but I still felt like I was being a pest because I didn't know where anything was, if there was room for me on the boat, and I didn't have a feel for the rhythm of the dive operation. Finally, after 5 days of drifting about aimlessly, and joining dives whenever I could, we had a briefing for the 5 new DMTs and the 2 existing ones. They outlined some of the expectations and the schedule and I'm starting to get into the routine. Blue Marlin does boat dives at 9am, 11:30am, and 2:30pm and I can go on any of these dives that I want to if I sign up in advance, there is enough room on the boat, and there is an instructor or guide willing to let me tag along. I also have reading to do, skills to practice and demonstrate for once I'm cleared to work with an instructor assisting in open water scuba diver courses, classes to observe, as well as classes which I participate in as a student.
I am nearly finished my Technical Diving International (TDI) Understanding Nitrox course and I did my first Nitrox dive today to 31.2m for 50 minutes. The air was enriched from 21% oxygen (like the air we all breath) to 35% oxygen which allows for longer bottom times with reduced risk of nitrogen loading... a good thing because Nitrogen bubbles are what cause the bends and decompression illness! Very cool, even though there is some math involved to calculate the best blend for different depths. I hate math, but in this case, it was worth it!
My typical routine is to sign up for a dive or two (or even 3) the night before, show up around 7:30-8am, have my coffee and breakfast while checking email and who's on Skype, head into the shop to help set up gear, see who needs help, get my own gear ready for the 9am dive, GO ON AN AWESOME DIVE!, get back and help rinse, sort and put away gear and get next set of gear set up for the 11:30 dive, DO ANOTHER AWESOME DIVE!, help rinse, sort and put away gear and get next set of gear set up for 2:30pm dive, grab lunch, DO 3RD AWESOME DIVE!, get back and help put everything away, have a rinse in the swimming pool, maybe a beer and check email, then dinner, then bed... perhaps with a few more beers or some reading before bed.
Here are some photos I took on a dive...
That's a moray (sing to tune of "that's amore")
Pretty little fern corals
Quit clowning around (clownfish AKA Nemo
Titan Triggerfish, known to be territorial and "bitey" during nesting
Somebody took a bite out of this poor turtle :(
Top 5 Highlights so far:
Honorable mention: . BBQ corn at the night market - they cook corn over hot coals then brush it with garlic butter, then with a spicy chili sauce... Super delicious. DO Try this at home.
#5. Nitrox course and dive - very cool. I also got an intro to what a closed circuit rebreather looks like and how it works from a very knowledgeable tech diver and instructor ( Aristides or "Ari"). He said I could try the rebreather out in the pool sometime to see how it feels.
#4. Finding a lovely quiet beach with sunbathing cushions to read the 6th chapter of my Divemaster manual one morning while I had my coffee.
#3. A conservation talk about the artificial reef in front of the dive shop. The dives site is called Biorocks and it is made up of a cathode made of a steel rebar frame and a sacrificial titanium anode. Electrical current is run to both the cathode and anode to increase calcium carbonate precipitation on the rebar structure resulting in the growth of an artificial reef. We did some maintenance by using plastic zip ties to attach coral fragments onto the structure where they will cement and grow at a high rate, we also used wire brushes to remove algae to encourage calcium carbonate precipitation. Very cool and awesome to be involved in some real marine conservation work!
#2. Seeing a Banana Nudibranch, the largest nudibranch (a type of sea slug with fancy exposed gills) that I have ever seen. It was bright yellow with black stripes and dots and was about 4" long
#1. Watching 3 cuttlefish in the process of laying eggs and mating... cuttlefish porn is fascinating.
Wait - I almost forgot the coolest thing I have experienced so far... AN EARTHQUAKE! I have never felt one before and a 5.2 magnitude one shook us on June 22nd at around 1:30pm. I was surprised that I heard it before I felt it and also that I instinctively knew within a couple seconds what was happening despite never having felt a quake before. It was just an awesome moment for a Geologist :)
Bottom 5 Lowlights so far:
#5. One of the other DMT's is a real know-it-all... Their "anything you can do, I can do better" attitude is very off-putting
#4. The first dive I did, the current was so strong that by the time we descended we had been swept past the reef. I was thinking "well, this is lame... not much to see here" but I didn't even know we had missed the reef.
#3. Watching a cat pee on the sand floor of the restaurant I was eating in, in a spot where I had just walked barefoot (ewwwwwww).
#2. Cleaning cat poop off our balcony where one of the nasty little buggers had left us a homecoming gift (noticing a trend here)
#1. Getting a really raw blister from my flip flop strap he very first day here and having to be barefoot since then while it heals.
Chrissy holding up one of the culprits. These kitties are everywhere, they are cute but do some really disgusting things.
I'm settling in and loving the island so far. I feel like I have tons to learn and will be kept quite busy here until I leave, and I may even need to do a Visa run, some off island touring, and then come back to finish learning and enjoying Gili T.
On an unrelated note, I have seen photos of the recent flooding in Calgary and can't believe what home looks like now! Be safe Calgarians and everyone affected. My thoughts are with you and I hope none of you were impacted too negatively by the floods.