We dive not to escape life, but for life not to escape us!
Sodwana Bay. A place that can be described in many ways. Home to the southernmost coral reefs in Africa. South Africa’s first World Heritage site. Ezulwini to all wild-at-heart divers.
To me, Sodwana is campfire memories with my family. Criminal Monkey masterminds dexterously stealing our food. Watching oom Dries, mom and dad dive from the shore. It is pineapple ice creams and the best off-the-grid crazy vkays with my urban tribe. Some of the tribe members swore allegiance at age 5 years old. It is the place that took my scuba virginity and forever holds my heart.
Coral Divers, situated inside the iSimagaliso Wetland Park, was my destination of choice. My brother and I kissed our wifi signal goodbye, switched off our phones and booked ourselves in.
Our accommodation was basic but comfortable. We had stretchers in the set-up tents and the communal bathrooms were clean and the showers hot. My brother, who picked me up from Ushaka airport with the parentals just shook his head when he saw me in my I-close-deals-in-these-heals attire and then knowingly gave me that smile saying; “We will get you back to your roots, or die trying.”
So, here I am. No heals, no lattes, no signal to summon an Uber, not even a lot of personality seeing as the digital agency I worked at burned me out to the bone.
“Resort” is a strong word to describe Coral Divers in Capetonian standards. It is primitive but vibey with a central restaurant overlooking the pool area. It is clean, safe, convenient and does not break the bank. The evenings are for bonfires, braais and making new friends.
My brother and I were both nervous and excited about the fact that we are finally taking the plunge and doing our open waters. I knew I was in safe hands with him as my buddy.
The key to passing your open waters is getting a good instructor and a good support person. – Lieneke (my baby sister).
Luckily, we had both. We had the best of breeds. Super instructor Ruan Stone and Abou Zeyd and Jared Henning as our support team. Patience was, in fact, a virtue they mastered.
My brother got straight A’s. Me? I passed. The exams and the pool exercises. FYI, one thing they don’t tell you in the pamphlet is that they will make you swim 12 lengths in the pool. It’s a small pool, but still. There were times to be serious and there was time for fun in between tests and learning how to be neutrally buoyant.
The morning of our first dive baby bro and I woke up before our alarm even had the chance to go off. It was dark outside, but we were rocking wetsuits midriff, drinking water and waiting for the rest of the team to arrive. And so our diving adventure/ addiction began!
The moment I put that mask on I opened myself up to a whole new world. It was like walking through a closest and ending up somewhere even more magical than Narnia. I was hooked.
Thanks to the best diving instructor (You never forget your first) and the two patient and fun dive masters we were able to finish all our test with enough time to swim around on the Two Mile Reef followed by a safe descent. The water was a little choppy on our arrival to the surface and I could feel my Protein bar making its way up. The family we were diving with felt a little sick and weren’t able to finish their second dive. Baby bro and I pushed through because we are taught like that.
We were able to pass with flying colours and work in some additional dives before heading back home a week later. It was a life-altering experience. Sodwana gave me back my humanity, it gave me back life.
“I am booking my PADI Advanced course soon.” I proclaimed matter of factly to Ruan. Surely enough 2 months later I quit my job and was back there doing my Advanced with Coral Divers.
Scuba diving is living, everything in between is just surface intervals!
If you plan on doing your open waters at PADI or another dive center, learn from my mistakes.
- Do your homework and make sure that all costs are communicated up front. From gear hire to gate fees to permits needed to dive on these sites.
- Hydrate. Sound obvious, but if you spend 8+ hours in a pool you kind of forget that you need to drink plenty of water.
- Go to the bathroom before putting on your wetsuit.
- Don’t wait until you are out of air to tell your instructor or supports that you are out of air. Rookie mistake on my part.
- Make sure that you take the right gear. You don’t want to get to the beach 15 minutes before your dive and realize that you took a 10-year old’s diving kit. Trust me, its worse than taking a ten-year old’s ice cream.
- If you are planning to do your Open waters with PADI at Coral Divers ask for Ruan if you are planning to do it at Twin Palms Dive Club ask for Jaryd to be your instructor. If you are planning to get certified at Big Blu Mafia Island Diving Centre ask for Abou. You’re welcome!