After we left Beijing, we moved to Cebu (One of the several thousand islands that make up the Philippines) where Lotty had been given a job at Cebu International School. As by that point I was about 67 years old, we decided that perhaps it might be as good a moment as any other for me to stop working and to settle back into the joys of retirement.
So that is exactly what I did.
However, I was then confronted by the problem that most people who retire are confronted with – what to do with those hours when you are not asleep?
For me, this was no real problem, since when in the Philippines one dives.. Simple.
By diving, I of course mean scuba diving, not high diving or anything like that.
Apart from one dive I had had in France many years before, during which I spent the better part of my time under water on my own, except for a friendly octopus who was busy arranging his/her garden outside the old paint tin he/she had squatted in I had never scuba dived before.
Loads of time with snorkels, but not with airbottles.
So I was introduced to a fellow called Alfred Alesna, a local dive instructor – a superb natural teacher and simply splendid guy. He had worked for many years as a professional working diver cable laying and similar, and was more at home under the sea than on the shore.
Anyhow, he was one of the many local Paddi qualified dive instructors, and he became the guy who introduced Lotty and I to the wondrous world of scuba diving.
Alfred in full diving fig, at Kon Tiki Dive Centre
In due time we both qualified as “open water divers”, which roughly means we had dived a handful of times and knew the basics of diving, how to change our bottles underwater, not get killed and so on, but were far from experienced divers, and in no way safe to be allowed to head off on our own to dive off the reefs around Mactan Island where we did most of our diving.
Poor old Lotty at this point was busy earning our livings, but I, oh joy, I was as free as a lark, and thus went diving several days a week… Which as each time I went, I probably dived three or four times, I very quickly worked up to several hundred dives, and had reached the dizzy heights of being a fully qualified Rescue Diver – which meant I was one step down from being a Dive Master, which would have meant I could train other divers.
My First Thresher Shark – So Elegant!!
However, that didn’t really appeal to me, so I stopped climbing the qualification ladder and settled down to simply enjoy my dives.
By this time I was also diving regularly with a bunch of cheerful divers who dived with Eric Vincent, the happy owner of Aquadive, one of the many dive centres there.
And so it went on.. every couple of days I was down there on the edge of the reef, gazing in awe at the Thresher sharks, the huge shoals of Jack fish, swirling around like aquatic starlings, the amazingly elegant sting rays, the aggressive Nemo fish (clown fish) and all the other happy denizens of the reef.
A typical dive boat – This is one of Eric’s boats
The sea was normally about 35 degrees, so like a comfortable warm bath to swim in, the visibility could be anything up to 40 meters, so diving was almost always a true pleasure, and most of the people I dived with were extremely congenial as well… An altogether pleasant experience.
Cave Dive Off Mactan
The diving itself was such a spiritual and physical pleasure… being able to effectively fly was unbelievable, and the peace was so good for my soul. And to simply hang about a meter from the sea bed beside a chunk of coral and watch all the minute creatures who live in and around the coral.. As I could spend up to an hour and a half on one bottle of air under the sea, I often simply spent half an hour by one chunk of coral watching and enjoying the busy life there.
Often if I had been deep, say 40 meters down, once I had come up to about 4 meters and gone through all the decompression stages, I would simply stay under water until I ran completely out of air, and only then would I surface and get on board the dive boat or walk to the beach whichever.
All in all, my time underwater was perhaps some of the best times in my life, such an out of body experience, and in passing a rather odd aspect to it. I suffer dreadfully from vertigo, and the reef wall there goes straight down for about 1000 meters, so I was a bit concerned before I swam over the edge of it the first time, would my vertigo kick in I wondered? Well no is the answer, I simply flew like a bird over the edge, gazed down for the roughly 50 or 60 meters I could see… and no fear at all… Being a sort of underwater bird is really something!!
Share with us:
Do you dive? If so, where and what are your feelings about diving? Do share any thoughts you might have on it all with the rest of us here.