When I first met Tarek, I was so hopelessly uncomfortable in the water, that he actually thought I had never learned to swim. In fact, our first date was in a swimming pool, him trying to teach me to hold my breath underwater and me thrashing about like a reeled fish. Being a rescue diver, Tarek sensed my fear of water and over the years, slowly guided me into enjoying aquatic activities. Even then, it was not until my snorkeling experience in the fantastic Blue Hole in Dahab that I fell in love with underwater explorations and Marsa Alam marine life just took this passion a notch higher. In both cases, the waterbody in question was the amazing Red Sea and according to the most experienced divers, it is the best place in the world to learn diving. Now that I am an open water PADI diver, I cannot agree more and trust me when I say this, but I have come a long way from a hydrophobic to a scuba fan.
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Why Marsa Alam was perfect for first-time diving
During my Marsa Alam diving week, I have learned a lot of new things: new skills, techniques, experiences, and most importantly, adaptations. I learned that the best way to get over the fear of water is to feel physically comfortable in it. To be in tepid crystal clear water which is less than chest is a great first step. The warm water makes one feel relaxed and the clarity reduces the fear of unknown/unseen things lurking underneath murkiness. When we see better, we feel more secure and being physically relaxed prevents the tightness in the chest which most hydrophobics face when in contact with deep water. This tightness in chest triggers shallow breathing, induces panic, hyperventilation, and palpitations until a full-blown panic attack overpowers the person. I overcame this in Marsa Alam by wading and splashing in shallow, warm clear water in a family bay area. It was a popular picnic spot and all around me, there were families, babies, and children splashing in the water. This sight gave me a lot of confidence and the calm water allowed me to wade deep enough to be able to snorkel without the fear of drowning.
The beauty of the Red Sea in Marsa Alam
The confidence, however, did not guarantee the immediate result and I took my own sweet time in getting over my hydrophobia. I realized that diving was like being prepared for marriage. You need to mentally prepared for it to do a good job and nobody understands when the time is right apart from you. That is why my first two days of snorkeling happened in shallow water, where I could often stand on the sand bed, and dunk my head in to look at beautiful fishes through snorkeling goggles. The fact that the Red Sea in Egypt has the most incredible variety of marine life was a huge bonus and the temptation of seeing more such beauty eased me into diving. Moreover, there is a saying that the Red Sea coast people are born with fins and not legs and the joy of swimming of the locals is highly infectious. You cannot, but feel secure and even confident in the waters where children are snorkeling and the locals are letting their babies wade.
Marsa Alam diving boot camp schedule
My Marsa Alam diving schedule was another huge factor that made me complete my PADI certification successfully and I dedicated ten days solely to learn this sport. My daily routine revolved only around the Red Sea and I dived/snorkeled at least three times during the day. It was like a strict routine of getting up at 6 AM, having breakfast at 7 AM, heading over to the beach at 8 AM, and completing my first dive by 10 AM. Then I would take a break of an hour or so, before going back for a second dive around 2 PM, after which it would lunch and siesta. My third dive was around at 3 PM and I have always returned to the shore before dusk. The fear of the unknown is a serious one and there is nothing more scary for hydrophobics than not being able to see what’s in the water surrounding them. My strict routine and focus helped me get over my hydrophobia faster and the more I dived, the more the Red Sea revealed its beauty. To see the astonishing beauty of marine life is an unforgettable experience and it is an addictive one too. The discovery of such colours, formations, life, and beauty existing in another world, under the water takes one’s breath away and we cannot but help to want to see more of it. It is like sightseeing tons of pretty places, in a different, yet parallel world, without crowds and the sense of discovering an alternative sphere is highly addictive.
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The treasure called Mezzo, my divemaster
The most important lesson, however, that I learned during my Marsa Alam diving week is the importance of a right dive instructor. In India, we have a centuries-old tradition of putting your 100% faith in a guru (teacher) and in diving, you have to do exactly that. Understand that this instructor will be technically in charge of your safety and life underwater, a realm which you still have not mastered, and you need to trust him blindly. That is why it is of utmost importance to have the right instructor who will not only teach you how to dive but learn survival skills, diving techniques, and most importantly make you feel safe. If you feel safe, you will eventually start enjoying diving and the right instructors know how to identify and ease your fears. Luckily, I bonded with my divemaster Mezzo from the first moment and his way of easing me into the deepening levels while keeping my well-being as a priority made me trust him implicitly. The fact that Mezzo is one of the best dive masters of the Red Sea helped matters much and over the days, I blindly followed every single instruction of his. He knew how to prepare me for deep dives, show me beautiful fishes and corals as an enticement to work harder, and made me enjoy my diving experience thoroughly.
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Saying goodbye to my fear of water in Marsa Alam
Fear should not rule our lives and I have to admit, I have plenty of them. Fear of darkness, being in close relationships, in a crowd, using unclean cutlery, drinking water from unknown sources, touching anything in public toilets…the list is seemingly endless, but every year I try to overcome at least one of them. My diving week in Marsa Alam was a huge stride in this regard as the fear of water had been a major drawback in my life. I was so afraid of water after the drowning trauma that I even forgot I had once swum across huge lakes with friends. It was a shock when my mother upon seeing my diving posts on social media actually had to remind of my swimming expeditions and that was the point I knew I had done myself a good deed. As a traveler who has an insatiable thirst for knowledge and experiences, diving opened up a whole new world for me to explore and the best part is the feeling of flying when a smooth current carries you forward. You forget that you are a human being, born with a bulky body as the underwater weightlessness makes you just glide like a dream. If this is not tempting enough, then check out some photos of the underwater world at Marsa Alam. These will make you pack your bags and dive right into a whole new adventure.
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P.S – This blog post is part of the weekly series called the Cairo Chronicles. Every week, Maverickbird will try to focus on a new theme, emotion, and beauty of the expat life in the exciting, maddening city of Cairo.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE