9 Thoughts You Have While Learning/Failing To Scuba Dive
From experiencing zero G for the first time, to making besties with whale sharks, scuba diving is the literal best...
Like many invaluable life skills, the earlier you learn something, the easier it is to pick up.
Unfortunately for most of us, we're (a) not Aquaman, (b) didn't grow up on a tropical island getaway, and (c) can't breathe underwater.
In short, the prospect of scuba diving is alternately terrifying/confusing in equal measure - and while you can technically learn and qualify with an Open Water PADI from the age of 10, the majority of people will strap on their aquatic L plates when they backpack or holiday abroad.
Having conquered all manner of other ridiculous sports in my time (Skydiving, Horse Boarding, Land Yachting, and - for a brief period - the title of the UK's 29th fastest Backwards Runner), I headed off to Tofo Beach in Mozambique and the ever-patient Peri-Peri Divers to finally break my ocean-ginity.
Turns out the reality is a little more complicated than I originally imagined.
We hereby give you a staggered stream of consciousness of all the ridiculous/stupid things that go through your head whilst attempting to scuba dive...
"This is going to be the easiest thing I have ever done."
I can swim. I can breathe. Surely combining the two can't be that hard?
"PADI instructional videos are the cheesiest thing I've seen since Rebecca Black's 'Friday' video."
Before you're allowed to even touch foot/flipper to water, you have to - quite rightly - learn the theory behind it all. Thankfully/hilariously, the wealth of information is conveyed to you via a series of fist-bitingly cheesy instructional DVDs.
Sure, there's a host of information to digest, but when it's being delivered to you by the mute, melodramatic gesticulations of Zoolander-pretty models giving their best 'Smell The Fart Acting' (© Joey Tribbiani Jr), it's at least eternally entertaining to watch.
"How did I ever graduate Primary School?"
The majority of your learning comes under the heady guise of 'Common Bloody Sense'.
But due to the small trifling matter of water pressure, and the nervous-laughter-inducing array of ways your body can react (or implode) with said forces of gravity, it's imperative that you learn the basics of what submerging can do to your insides (or, if you do it wrong, what will quickly become your outsides).
This unfortunately involves a rudimentary understanding of physics and maths, and working out how to calculate how long you can stay underwater on your dives.
Turns out that forcing your brain to work whilst in 'holiday' mode is a lot harder than you may initially imagine. Still, as long as you have a patient instructor (*waves at Nina*), then you'll get there in the end.
"If we need to practice in the pool, can I least bring a Margarita?"
Once your theory's done, you strap on your gear and flounder your way into the pool. It's a safe space where you can safely screw things up without a humpback whale clobbering you round the head.
The first time you actually submerge in the pool and calm yourself enough to simply breathe in and out is a glorious sensation. Before long you'll be paddling around, zero-g backflipping, and attempting to blow water bubbles.
"TODAY IS THE DAY I COULD MEET A WHALE SHARK!"
And we'll be best friends, and he'll let me ride him like Falcor, and we'll meet Nemo and embark on a host of Pixar-esque adventures with Aquaman and Namor.
Ok, so I may have set my expectations a little too high.
But the excitement of heading out into the open waves of the ocean for the first time is pretty hard to beat. Especially when you're diving in a place like Tofo, which is stuffed to the metaphorical gills with literal ones - if you're lucky, it's not uncommon to see whale sharks, humpback whales, manta rays, dolphins and much, much more underwater.
"THIS IS EXCITING, HERE'S TO 'NOT DROWNING'."
Disembarking backwards into the cold, vast abyss of the ocean is a fun if momentarily mortality-reminding adventure.
And as you adjust your mask, stick in your regulator (read: the mouthpiece you breathe through), and slowly start to submerge yourself, you will inevitability have a brief moment of "what the hell am I actually doing?" bewilderment.
"This got zen pretty quick."
Up on the surface, things can be pretty disorientating, especially if the waves are choppy. Submerge but a metre, and the chaos subsides for a calming underwater pace that's as pleasurable as it is alarmingly new. Gone is the very viewable swimming pool floor, instead replaced with a far more distant ocean floor.
"Erm, what the chuff is that noise?"
Not to quote Disney singalongs ad finitum, but it really is a Whole New World Under The Sea (BRB, just gonna go create the greatest Aladdin/The Little Mermaid mashup song the world has never heard).
Visibility and hearing can be distorted in ways you weren't expecting, and with the constant bubbling of your breathing coming in/out the regulator, it's easy to assume an innocuous sound is the portent of doom.
Relax though, and you're in for a treat. The joy of sound travelling underwater is that sometimes you get to hear what the rest of the ocean is up to, even if you can't see it.
On my first dive, I heard humpback whales actually singing to each other.
Which is, as you'd imagine, pretty incredible.
"I'm basically a superhero now."
A couple of ocean dives in, and you're close to completing your Open Water PADI. You're also getting far more comfortable with the whole scuba thing, and starting to get confident with flinging yourself off the boat, and paddling into a world of zero G, and marine wildlife besties.
Congratulations, you're basically Aquaman.
MTV Travelled With... Peri-Peri Divers, who offer Open Water PADI diving courses - inc. 5 pool dives, all theory training, and 4 sea dives - from $420 USD, and Mozambeat Motel, who offer rooms from $30 per night, a 30% discount in January 2018, and work closely with Peri-Peri to offer a further discount on 'Stay & Dive' packages. MTV Flew With... South African Airlines, who offer double daily overnight flights from Heathrow to Johannesburg and easy onward connections to Maputo, South African Airways offers flights to the largest route network within Southern Africa. Book now on flysaa.com or call 0844 375 9680.