I have always had immense love for the ocean and hence I loved anything and everything to do with the ocean. When I was young, if I would ever get asked whether I want to go for a beach holiday or to the mountains – my answer would always be BEACH!! The sound of the waves even from a distance always excited me, the smell of the sea always made me fall in love with it even more. I could sit by the sea for hours and watch a gorgeous sunset, read a book or just about do nothing.
I had always been very curious to know about the underwater world ,so much so I wanted to study oceanography once upon a time. I would watch a lot of Nat geo and Discovery documentaries and be amazed at all the videos of people diving deep deep below the ocean’s surface. I would always dream of being one of them.
After dreaming of it for 20 years, 6th Dec 2020 I finally went for a Maldives Scuba Diving course and became a certified PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) open water diver. It was a big dream come true.
Despite loving all water bodies, I learnt swimming when I was 32 years old . I have been a very good swimmer in the swimming pool but I was very scared of swimming in the open ocean.I was hell bent on overcoming my fear and pushing myself out of my comfort zone – like they say “Do the thing you fear the most and the death of fear is certain!”
So, at the age of 39 – I packed my bags for a trip to Maldives to conquer the ocean.
Here is what you should know about Open water SCUBA diving:
- There is no age limit for this, you just need to clear the medical questionnaire regardless of age.
- You need to have basic swimming skills and be able to tread water for 10 minutes.
- You need to be able to swim in the sea with a snorkel and fins for 300m or unaided for 200m.
- It takes around 4-5 days to complete the course.
- The entire course consists of a theory ( digital learning which is super interesting), final exam, 5 confined water dives where you are taught all the skills and then 4 open water dives.
- Once you get your certification, you are allowed to dive along with a buddy anywhere in the world upto a maximum depth of 60 feet below the ocean’s surface.
I had signed up with Fulidhoo Dive in a remote and tiny island called Fulidhoo in Maldives and it was one of the best decisions I have made.This island is a 1 hour boat ride from the airport island In Maldives and it costs 45USD to get there.
SCUBA diving price in Maldives:
I stayed at Thundi guest house while in Fulidhoo island and the entire course along with a stay and half board meals for 5 days cost me 925 USD with Fulhidoo Dive. Just the open water diving course costs 575 USD without stay and food. I, of course, loved the island so much that I extended my stay by a few more days. Diving in Maldives cost maybe a little higher but it’s worth every penny. In general, SCUBA diving price in Maldives may vary depending on the island but I would highly recommend Fulidhoo.
Also read:- Finding Nemo in the Andamans
What to expect in the first few days of Maldives SCUBA diving:
- The agenda for the 5 days was to just dive and I must confess that the first few dives were extremely stressful since they teach you to handle emergency situations in water which is necessary. At the start, it was a little scary but nothing is really difficult unless you tell yourself it is. My dive instructor was Ali and he was by far the best I could have. He didn’t just teach me to be a diver but a safe and a responsible one.
- We had our first few confined water sessions which were in shallow water and he made me practice all the skills till I mastered them. He had all the patience in the world to handle my fear and to make me believe that I can do anything that he can and even beyond.
- On the first day, I was given a briefing on the entire course and then I was taught how to attach my BCD and my regulator to the cylinder and gear up for the dive.
Few skills that I was really scared of during my confined water dive in my Maldives SCUBA diving course were:
- Taking my regulator off under water and finding it back
- Using the alternate air source
- Flooding my eye mask with water and clearing it under water
- Removing the eye mask completely and putting it back on
- Removing the SCUBA gear and putting it back on.
- Now despite being scared initially, I can proudly claim I have by now mastered all of the above skills and that feeling of being able to achieve something that I initially thought was impossible is absolutely inexplicable.
My instructor Ali ensured he wouldn’t give up till I demonstrated all these skills seamlessly no matter how many repetitions it took.
My first Open water dive – I was petrified!
- I stood at the edge of the boat and just did not have the courage to jump into the deep sea. The waves, the current and the boat swaying while my instructor was in the water and asking me to jump was all a nightmare for me. It took me a few minutes to muster up the courage but then I did finally jump and trust me, it was a life changing jump. Once you jump and your BCD is inflated and your cylinder has air, nothing can go wrong.
What happens when you go under the ocean’s surface into a surreal world:
- You start descending the way you have been taught (deflate and keep equalizing as you go down) and you slowly get lost in the awesomeness of the underwater world. Nothing I write can do justice to how beautiful the world down there is. Each metre you descend, it takes big steps into a stunning world. You feel like you are swimming in an aquarium – there are millions of fishes around you – all of them going about their daily life and totally oblivious to your presence. That’s when you realise that doing this Maldives SCUBA diving course was so worth it.
- I was awestruck! SCUBA diving in Maldives was surreal indeed. I was spellbound and I kept telling myself “ why didn’t I do this earlier, however its better late than never”. The myriad of colours that I saw, the fishes looking for food , pecking the corals in search of food, the tiny ones swimming in and out of coral reefs, the big ones parading like they own the ocean. It was spectacular.
- You are supposed to be really lucky if you spot Eagle rays, we spotted many of them and in one of our dives we saw 12 eagle rays parading together. It was mind blowing! We saw Moray eels, sting rays, nurse sharks,reef sharks, Starfish, Octopus and many many more. Maldives diving takes you into a spectacular world.
Each dive would last 45 minutes depending on how fast you consume your air and every dive seemed too short. I couldn’t be thankful enough to my instructor to have made me overcome my fears.
During the final few dives of the Maldives SCUBA diving course:
- On my 3rd and 4th open water dives , that giant stride jump which I was so scared of , I would be the most excited about. I couldn’t wait to jump in even if it was into a bottomless pit. I had banished all my fears.
- There is also a swim test that I needed to pass , a 300 m snorkel test without any life jacket. I was quite scared about that too but once I started I really didn’t want to stop. It seemed like the 300 m got over too soon, I could go on for a kilometer more. Such is the impact of the underwater world.
- There is also a part in this course where you need to tread water for 10 minutes. This again was something I was super scared of. I was almost in tears when my instructor asked me to do it. Given most swimming pools in India are now shallow ( 4 feet) , I never really got a chance to tread water ever in my life. And here I was , being asked to tread water in the sea , at 15 feet depth. I was almost shitting in my pants LOL.
I never really knew I could do it till I was pushed to do it. It really didn’t take much but just believing in yourself that you can and you really can. I went to the deep water, with my instructor watching me from the jetty and assuring me that I can do it, if something were to go wrong he would obviously jump in. I was still very scared, once I could not feel the sand pit below and I didn’t sink – I knew I was treading water and I did it!! Ali had set a 10 minutes timer and I did tread water for 10 minutes. I was so so proud of myself.
We usually create these mine blocks in our head about a lot of things we cant do but trust me, there is absolutely nothing and let me reiterate absolutely nothing that we cant do if we set our hearts and mind to it.
Open water diving was one such example for me. I finally passed all my tests and after 5 days of rigorous training I was an Open water diver. I was totally tanned and it was so worth it.
Btw, did you know that each dive makes you burn almost 1000 calories!! Awesome, right.
After having passed all the tests , began the super fun dives. In 5 days, I went for 7 dives.
The most EPIC dive of my life:
I cannot end this story without mentioning my last dive of this Maldives SCUBA diving course – it was to Alimatha which was definitely the best dive of my life. We descended and we saw a 100 nurse sharks all around us. I was frozen and spellbound. I had never seen something like that ever before. It was like all the sharks were having a party down there, a few sharks were lazing on the sand bed, few of them were swimming away to glory and few were flipped over and taking an afternoon siesta. It was beyond incredible.
These nurse sharks are totally harmless and while swimming around , they also bang into you which is absolutely awesome.
AND HERE IT IS:
Then arrived one of the most epic and memorable moments ever – I was kneeling down on the sand bed and along with my dive buddies watching a shark flipped over , all of a sudden another shark swims and comes right in between my legs and just settles there. I was scared , overjoyed, taken aback – I really don’t know how to describe the feeling of a shark in between my legs but it surely goes down as one of my most memorable moments. I still get goose bumps as I write about it and this is the highlight of my Maldives SCUBA diving.
And with that dive, ended my open water diving holiday and it was nothing short of BLISS. I really didn’t want to come back, I could stay on for a month more and just keep diving every single day. If you do love water, I highly recommend you try open water diving – it will change your life , like it did mine.
Also Read:– Cyprus should be your next beach destination
Where to go diving:
If you do want to try Maldives SCUBA diving course then You can get in touch with Fulidhoo dive on their Instagram page. Talk to Adele, she is a sweetheart . She will fix your stay, your food, she will take care of all your COVID precautions in Maldives , she will tell you about all the things you could do on the island, how to get there etc etc.She can also work out Maldives SCUBA diving packages for you. And, I am so thankful to her and Ali to help me conquer the ocean.
Please do let me know in the comments below what you think about my experience and I would love to know your experience in water bodies as well.