My sister got it spot on when she saw the photo of me decked out in a wet suit with a bright yellow tank strapped to my back.

“I bet you had the theme tune to Thunderball going around you head,” she insightfully remarked.

Ever since I watched Connery despatch villain after villain under the crystal Bahamian waters I’ve yearned to slip into a bit of tight rubber and enter a world that seemed alien, breathtakingly beautiful and dangerously exciting.
But despite numerous trips to Bond-esque locations, it’s been one of the things on my bucket list that has remained unchecked…until a couple of weeks ago.

We were at the Sands Beach Resort in Costa Teguise, Lanzarote when the charming staff there mentioned that they worked with an excellent diving school, the tropically named Calipso Diving, and that I should give it a go.

It’s not that I’m scared of the water; I prefer the sense of freedom and elation that comes with tackling challenging seas to the mundane security of pools any day. But a few years ago I watched two male friends chicken out as they took their first plunge into the shallow waters lapping Phi Phi Island (incidentally their wives didn’t) and it planted a seed. So I guess I’ve subconsciously avoided it since.

The funny thing is that when you do things for the first time you realise nobody has ever told you about the little things like the preparation.

First up was what to wear. Those wet suits look too tight for baggy swimming shorts; surely bulge hugging Speedos were de rigueur, but I didn’t possess any. Might sound daft but I took along a pair of tighter fitting underpants just in case I couldn’t tuck the boxer swimwear into the suit (I’m not sure going commando would have been appreciated).
Gareth, my confidently cool, diving instructor allayed my fears on that one with a reassuring ‘yeah, perfect’ when I posed the question about the swim shorts – bless him he didn’t even smirk at my naivety.

Then there was the serious preparation; a 20 minute training video followed by further classroom tuition from Gareth. My head was buzzing with information by the time we went to get ‘suited up’ but I felt well and truly prepped.

Suiting up also came as a surprise. Curtis, another of the Calipso team, had prepared my gear and those babies are tight. As Curtis helped zip me up I couldn’t help notice my stomach race ahead of the zip like a breaking wave. I vowed to exercise when we returned home and hoped the suit would act like a corset.

Then it was down to the beach at Playa del Jablillo for a shore entry and another discovery. The oxygen tank and a lead belt to keep me on the seabed added up to quite a weight and although I wanted to look like Bond as I made my way to the sea I suspected I looked more like Pingu.

Once in the sea the buzz reached red alert levels as we ran through a final couple of tests to check I’d absorbed the preparation and then it was off into the deep blue.

Being underwater doesn’t bother me, but breathing underwater was a whole new experience that took quite a bit of concentration initially. Breathing deeply using only my mouth didn’t feel natural and I wondered whether I’d be able to keep it up for forty minutes (no jokes please) as the instinct was to want to include my nose in the process. The other thing was that every time Gareth showed me something particularly interesting I wanted to acknowledge with a grunt or a smile and that was a ‘no no’ as it only interfered with the breathing process.

After about five minutes underwater I eased into it and the breathing started to feel rather good, especially the noise – it was pure Thunderball – and I began to absorb the incredible world I’d entered. Shoals of silver, bright yellow and deep purple fish swam alongside accepting me without question into their world; a small cuttlefish whose markings rippled along its back eyed me as curiously as I eyed it and a starfish clung to my fingers. I was well and truly in Finding Nemo land.

Then Gareth indicated a section of sand that looked no different from any other; he gently wafted his hand and the sand parted revealing a large fish. He made a fin sign on his head…shark. This one was an angel shark, not dangerous unless provoked but, as it flicked its tail and eyeballed me before deciding to head off in another direction, it was one of those über wow moments and boy did I feel like 007 then.

The forty minutes was up in no time and as we emerged from the beach, the Pingu waddle was well and truly replaced with a self satisfied swagger.

I can’t describe the sheer sense of wonder at being under the sea. I felt humbled and privileged at viewing a tiny section of a wondrous world I’ve watched in awe hundreds of times on TV and in the cinema.

To paraphrase the line at the end of a certain series of movies – I will return.

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Comments
  1. islandmomma Life on a Small Island and Beyond says:

    It’s the best thing I ever did – as a hobby I mean! It’s like another world, another planet, and I never really did find enough words to describe it. My son used to be an assistant instructor at one time, and probably from him I learned some caution, though. In the course I did I wasn’t allowed near the ocean until I knew what to do if I lost my reg, if I got cramp, if my mask filled with water or if my gas was cut off for some reason, and had practised what to do in all those emergencies, and also until I was thoroughly familiar with the equipment. Diving in a quiet bay in a calm sea is idyllic, and wonderful, but when you start to do it regualarly, go off in dingies to dive sites etc you need to understand it all first. That said, I’d done a try dive, as you did, which had me hooked before I did an Open Water Course, and hadn’t worried at all, it was only afterwards that I realized the dangers. Just stay safe!

    • dragojac says:

      It is exactly like beaming down to another planet. No amount of seeing it on TV prepared me for the reality. Everything seemed so vivid, almost magnified (maybe that was the goggles).

      I didn’t go into all the details about the prep (blog was already too long) but Calipso were very thorough, so I had to demonstrate in shallow water that I could clear the mask and also clear water from the mouthpiece if I accidentally let it fall out of my mouth etc.

      Of course they made sure that all the equipment was hunky dory so I realise that they’d made it so I didn’t have to worry about the technicalities for an intro dive.
      As it happened I lost a flipper when we were down below, but the prep was such that it was sorted with the minimum of fuss – apart from me rolling on to my back like a turtle…unfortunately no pics of that one.

      I grew up on an island which had a small fishing community, so I’ve always had a very healthy respect for the sea – there’ll be no underestimating it’s fickleness from me 🙂

  2. Pamela says:

    You really should be trying to sell this story to one of the Sunday travel supplements.

    Awesome. Well done you. I’m too chicken to have ever tried diving.

    So, when will you be joining this event of the fiestas in Los Silos? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqECF-r7Mt8 🙂

    • dragojac says:

      Sorry Pamela – I just checked my spam comments (something I’ve never done before) and found you imprisoned in there. Naughty akismet. Anyway thanks but is a Sunday supplement really read for my rippling belly : )

  3. Richard says:

    “I’m not sure going commando would have been appreciated” LOL … nothing wrong with that, it’s when you decide to flush through with some bodily heated fluid (very useful in colder climes) that you may not be appreciated. Mind you those diving suits have a strategically placed zipper no ?

    Anyway, nice report – perhaps the start of a new life underwater ? Be careful when you mention sharks though (nb Sharm el Sheik) … the next town along that coast – Arecife is notorious for having a fish processing plant which attracts loads of sharks 😦

  4. Richard says:

    What did you think of Costa Teguise ? we used to go there for windsurfing in the 90’s and watched it gradually turn into the typical plastic Brits-Abroad style place (bit like Golf del Sur / Costa Silencio ?). Shame. The other side of Lanzarote (La Santa, Famara etc) is hopefully still un-spoilt ?

    • dragojac says:

      Zip?Zip? Nobody told me about that…but getting anything out when there was a shark about wouldn’t have appealed anyway.
      Actually we were quite pleasently surprised by Costa Teguise – it might have gone through another transformation over the last 10 years. I felt it was a town of two halves. It did have the cheap ‘n’ cheerful Brit bars in one part in the centre, but the poblado marinero area was quite attractive and had good modern bars and restaurants. I thought it stood up well compared to some of the resorts here that could do with a…ahem…facelift.

  5. Richard says:

    ah that’s good, I’m glad that it didn’t turn into another Las Americas style hell hole. I doubt that we’ll see it again – living as we do in el Medano, which was always top of the list of similar windy towns to emigrate to (the others being say Tarifa, Costa Teguise, Coralejo / Cotillo on Fuerte, Pozo on Gran Canaria etc).

    Re the diving – we have a friend (Anna’s bloke Arturo) who’s well into it, if you need some local knowledge etc

    ps oh, forgot to say – love the underwater pics !

  6. […] The Day I Earned my James Bond Flippers Diving in the Canary Islands […]

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