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After so many years of reviewing fun things to do in our region, there was still one place I had yet to explore. And it just so happens to cover 71% of the planet!

If you haven’t guessed it already, this month I did a lot more then stick my toes in the water. I signed up for a three day Open Water Diver Course with Dive Newcastle.

Now I should probably tell you I agreed to do the course after a couple of drinks when it sounded like a fantastic idea. Then, when I sobered up a little, I remembered one teeny tiny thing that might be a problem. While I’m not a bad swimmer I really don’t like going underwater and I really, really can’t hold my breath for more than 10 seconds without feeling like I’m going to die. If I’m swimming and my goggles happen to fall off and sink to the bottom of the pool? Well, it’s time for new goggles.

The Open Water Diver Course is not a leisurely scuba dive where your instructor takes care of all your equipment and leads you around in the ocean so you can ooh and ahh at marine life. It’s a globally recognised certification with Scuba Schools International (SSI) that is run through Dive Newcastle’s training centre. Once completed you are certified to scuba dive anywhere in the world to the depth of 18m.  

Before the three days of training even begins, there’s a theory component to complete online. If I was scared before it, then I was sh*tting myself once I had completed it as it goes through all the things that can go wrong. And there’s a lot!

So, with much trepidation, I headed to Dive Newcastle at Beresfield where our very patient instructor Harriet ran us through our diving equipment and how to operate it, as well as some more theory and safety briefings. Not long later I’m at Beresfied Pool and after some more instruction I found myself in the pool decked out in scuba gear about to begin skills training.

The most important thing in Scuba is maintaining slow and rhythmic breathing. Never hold your breath. So, almost hyperventilating, I slowly sink to the bottom of the pool while wondering if I’ll ever make it back to the surface.

ATCF 37 Play 2

The next 30 minutes were touch and go. All I wanted to do was to quit but there were two main reasons I stuck it out. One, my husband has done the course and said it was easy. Two, my friend Lana and her 13 year old daughter Jaylah were also doing the course with me. To make matters worse they were both clearly naturals and I think they were even having fun!

So, thanks solely to pride, I persevered and I am so glad I did. By the end of the day, I’d somehow managed to master the skills (not sure if master is the word Harriet would use) and I had stopped thinking I couldn’t breathe every second. Sometimes a whole 5 seconds would go by.

The next day we headed up to Nelson Bay to begin the real training in the big scary ocean. Again, we went through skills such as clearing water from your mask (the worst), clearing the water from your rebreather and swapping over to your backup or to your buddy’s rebreather, communicating underwater, no mask swim, controlling buoyancy and emergency ascents. Basically, everything you need to know in case something goes wrong on a dive. Which I am relieved to learn almost never happens, but if it does the course ensures you will know what to do.

Day 3 we head back up to the bay and spend our first dive repeating skills and amazingly I aced them all (again Harriet might not use the word aced). Then after a short break we are back in the water for our final dive of the course and Harriet lets us know that this one is purely for fun. Fun? There are a few other words I think better describe it.

Unbelievable, enthralling, thrilling, life changing.

By that final dive, I am so comfortable that the only thing I’m aware of is the magical world that surrounds me. Seeing and experiencing the incredible beauty of our oceans up close. All around me are octopi, stingrays, corals, colourful fish and so many other sea creatures that I don’t know the names of (lucky that wasn’t in the test).

Hands down it was the best activity I’ve ever reviewed for @The Coalface. But the best thing of all? I am now a certified scuba diver and can go back and visit this underwater paradise anytime I want.

If you want to unlock the door to a new world, head to www.divenewcastle.com.au

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