For almost a year, I’ve been doing recreational free diving. I always try to do it as much as possible and I’ve been enjoying every bit of it.
I still remember the first time I tried to use bi-fins. It was during our island hopping trip to Guintarcan Island. It was nice and I had fun. I tried to duck dive and practice with it, but I just couldn’t do it. Until, I had my free diving intro class in Moalboal. It was one of the unexpected things I got myself into. I’m glad I tried it.
I’m pretty sure that a lot of girls have a memorable experience during their first snorkeling, diving or free diving. Here are some of them sharing their experiences.
Daina from Headed Anywhere
I can’t remember exactly when I got hooked on snorkeling, but I imagine it must have been my trip to Thailand in 2011. On the butterfly shaped island of Koh Phi Phi, I arranged a captain of a long-tail boat to take my partner and I out to Maya Bay and to some other spots for the morning. The waters were aquamarine and clear as, well, water. I wasn’t able to stay under water for very long or go deep, but experiencing the beautifully colored fish and fantastically large clams opened my mind and heart to the world below the surface.
Fast-forward to present day, after snorkeling around the world on our vacations, most recently in Tonga with Humpback Whales, I’m much more advanced and confident than before. During our time in Tonga, on days we weren’t snorkeling with the whales we were snorkeling right in front of our beach hut, listening to the whales singing underwater. While I’m not a free diver, I can now manage to get down to between 12-15 feet. I’m hoping to take a class to learn more about breathing techniques and techniques that will allow me to be down for longer than 30 seconds. Until then, you can find me snorkeling in La Jolla Cove or whatever snorkel friendly destination I am exploring.
READ: Freediving in Philippines: Freediving Schools, Online Community, Shops and Gears that you might want to know
Ridima from Little joys and more
One of the best experiences of my life was underwater diving in Canary Islands. Although scuba diving was always on my bucket list, but seldom did I know that it will change my life forever. The calmness of the ocean can only be measured when one dives in and within to explore it more.
After a brief introduction to the process and half an hour practise in a small pool, we were ready to make the plunge. A boat took us faraway in the North Atlantic Ocean to capture the best of aquatic life in best of their habitat.
The first dip and my ears could sense the pain. I was almost on the verge of giving it up when a little colourful fish invited me to discover deeper. Initially it was difficult to manage body weight and body balance under the immense water pressure (we were almost 10 m deep), but in no time we could adapt to this pressure and were manoeuvring on our own chasing the exquisite aquatic flora and fauna.
This was my first experience, but there are going to many more. Maybe someday I will also do a certification course in underwater diving.
Laura from The Travelling Stomach
I’d wanted to learn to scuba dive for years although I have to admit that when I did, my first breaths underwater did terrify me slightly, even though I was in a pool and could stand up and be above the water. A day later when I spotted my first turtle underwater I had completely forgotten that initial panic, I was happily gliding through the water having the time of my life. From the skills I learn that first day in a pool in sunny Phuket to spotting a shark on my final dive of the PADI Open Water course I thoroughly enjoy my first scuba diving experience and couldn’t wait to get back in the water, and less than a month I was back in my wetsuit, this time in Malta (the water was much colder!). Although some of the skills taught during the Open Water course were a little scary and uncomfortable, taking your mask off underwater being my very least favourite, they gave me the confidence to feel at ease underwater.
Learning to scuba dive is one of the best things I’ve ever done, since then I’ve been lucky enough to explore massive underwater shipwrecks in Malta, spot sleepy turtles in Barbados and float alongside majestic manta rays in Indonesia, and I cannot wait for more underwater adventures to come.
Amy from Out Chasing Stars
My first live-aboard dive experience was with Sail Ningaloo in Ningaloo Reef. This fringing reef is off the coast of Western Australia, and I’d heard it rivals the Great Barrier Reef. Our trip was full of underwater activities. Our crew led us on two dives every morning, and the afternoons were left open for snorkeling. One of my favorite sites was Syd’s Harbour because we spotted at least a dozen nudibranchs! These small creatures are just a few cms long, but bright and colorful, even when compared to the spectacular coral around them.
The nudibranchs weren’t the only attraction of course. We dove with sharks, eels, rays, sea turtles, even two octopuses! During our dives, we also encountered some sailfish catfish, a species that is endemic to Ningaloo Reef. It’s always fun to spot something you won’t see anywhere else in the world.
In addition to our amazing underwater time, we were well-fed and taken care of aboard the boat Shore Thing. My first live-aboard dive trip was a major success!
Lisa from The Hot Flash Packer
Since I attempted taking swimming lessons as a kindergartener to the time at age 29 when I almost drowned at a lake in northern Australia, I’ve always had a fear of water. But at the same time, I LOVED snorkeling and being in the water with beautiful fishes.
Finally, at age 34, I took swimming lessons and became way more confident in the water and finally learned floating on my back and treading water. So in 2011, when I went to Palau, my guide convinced me to swim without a life jacket. Snorkeling without a jacket has been so freeing and has built my confidence. Now snorkeling is my thing – I’ve snorkeled with Manta Rays in Komodo, Indonesia, Sharks in Maldives, Whale Sharks in Djibouti, Salmon in Canada, and even Mantees in Florida! Picture shown is me swimming in Palau with jellyfish – one of the last times I wore a life jacket while snorkeling.
Carly from Fearless Female Travels
I’ve always loved swimming, so getting my Open Water scuba diving certification seemed like a logical next step. Unfortunately, my Open Water certification course was a terrible (even traumatic) experience.
I had a first-time instructor who didn’t yet know any strategies for helping students who weren’t understanding. The part where you have to take off your mask and put it back on underwater was especially difficult for me (mostly because of my out-of-control hair, as you can see from my photo!), and it culminated in him yanking my mask off my face under the water and then yelling at me when we were back at the surface. The next day he was replaced by a more skilled instructor, but the damage was done. I did finish the course, but I didn’t dive again for seven years.
Seven years later I couldn’t resist the pull of the sea any longer. I decided to try scuba diving again, and signed up for a private refresher course, where you spend two or three hours getting reacquainted with the equipment and processes of scuba diving again. Despite the years that had passed since my last dive, everything felt like second nature to me and my instructor was amazed that I’d been out of the water for so long. I spent the next week diving two or three times a day, and by the end of the trip I was even helping other people who were struggling. The next year I completed an Advanced Open Water course and I’ve been taking a cheap scuba diving trip at least once a year ever since, everywhere from Roatan and Utila to Thailand to Cozumel. I’m so glad that I gave scuba diving another shot – it went from being a source of stress to a source of happiness, excitement and personal confidence.
Eloise from My Favourite Escapes
Although I have always found the ocean fascinating, I used to be scared of water. My mother somehow transmitted her phobia to me. My first experiences snorkelling and scuba diving weren’t easy at all. Step by step, in excellent conditions, with people I trusted, I managed to do it. And I finally forgot I was ever scared as I was fascinated by the beauty around me. I found coral lagoons like New Caledonia or small islands on the Great Barrier Reef are fantastic spots for beginners. Even my mother accepted to put on a mask there to see a wild fish underwater for the first time at 70 years old!
Nowadays, every time I travel to a new place, I look for opportunities to visit the underwater world. I even pick destinations just for this. I will soon hold the Rescue Scuba Diving certification and celebrate my 100th dive. So when people tell me they love my travel stories but will stick to watching my photos and videos and not dive themselves, I like to say to them “Never say never!”.
Michelle Joy from Harbors and Havens
I grew up near the ocean in Florida, so peeking my head under the waves to look for fish on beach days was a common occurrence. It wasn’t until a vacation to Oahu, Hawaii, as an adult, though, that I had a truly incredible snorkeling experience, swimming amongst multitudes of colorful sea critters in clear waters.
The place – Hanauma Bay, a conservation site for marine life and one of the most popular attractions on the island. Since tons of tourists gather on the beach here daily to snorkel along the reefs, the park requires newcomers to watch a video on preservation and safety and closes the bay on Tuesdays to give the fish a break and allow them to feed.
We chose to visit early in the morning in the off-season and found plenty of spots along the coastline to swim in peace with the butterflyfish, surgeonfish and parrotfish. Every few moments it seemed as though a new, bigger or more vibrant creature would appear to draw my attention.
The bay is particularly welcoming to inexperienced snorkelers, with equipment available to rent, lifeguards on duty and lots to see near the shore. Nevertheless, anyone new to snorkeling should practice safety and always stay near a buddy, be a strong swimmer and be comfortable breathing through a snorkel before heading out into the blue.
Nuraini from Teja on the Horizon
I regained my childhood water confidence in the sea many years after, in the Maldives. I had decided to volunteer for the Maldives Whale Shark Research Program (MWSRP), even though I did not know whether I could cope with swimming in the open sea. By this time I had obtained an PADI Open Water Dive License, but my snorkelling confidence was still limited. I was not sure if I could even duck dive usefully to note details about whale sharks we might encounter, for the survey data collection.
Our first day on the boat was supposed to be just a ‘tutorial’ day. The facilitators took us through how to do all the types of data collection that we would be doing while out at sea. At the end of the day, the lead facilitator decided that we could indulge in a drag snorkel. This is when they trail a rope behind the boat, and you hold on to it while in the water. Essentially you’re snorkelling while being towed by the boat – all the fun and none of the effort! She reckoned it would give us a feel for the water, and help with water confidence.
But we were the luckiest bunch of volunteers! Almost as soon as we got in the water, a whale shark swam right to us, its jaw open for filter feeding. It came really close, body at an angle with head tilted to the sea surface, holding fairly still as it fed.
We were transfixed. I completely forgot to be nervous being in the open sea. All I cared about was to hover and keep my place near the magnificent shark and watch it as it fed. Once I stopped thinking about it, my body called upon I-know-not-what ancestral memory, and I no longer questioned it. As the days went on, I even grew comfortable free diving to record photographic data for all the sharks we encountered – not to mention the manta rays and reef sharks.
But for that first encounter, I did not have my waterproof camera with me, because it was only supposed to be a little bit of snorkel. I had not expected to encounter a whale shark the very first time I dropped in! Needless to say, I never made that mistake again.
Helene from Flight to Somewhere
My first time snorkelling (in Mexico) wasn’t a great experience – I was terrified of the deep waters, couldn’t breathe through the snorkel without swallowing water, saw hardly any fish, and it all culminated in being violently seasick – not exactly what I was expecting! You will be pleased to hear that this experience didn’t put me off and only a few months later I made a second attempt, this time at Ilheu de Vila Franca, a tiny islet off the coast of Sao Miguel in the Azores and also the crater of a submerged volcano.
Apart from the opportunity to snorkel in a volcano crater, which made it pretty unique and irresistible, Ilheu de Vila Franca provided a relatively shallow and well-protected natural pool, which was perfect for a novice snorkeler like me. I also learned from my previous mistakes and this time arrived armed with a full-face snorkel mask that made me look like a character from Star Wars, but it did ensure that I could breathe properly. I felt like I could just relax and look for the fish. And there were fish! Different kinds of them too!
I had a fantastic time and would highly recommend Ilheu de Vila Franca in the Azores as a snorkelling spot!
Caitlyn from Postcards from Cait
Exploring the deep blue is something that has always intrigued me and scared me at the same time. But, as someone who’s not scuba certified, it can be difficult to find ways to enjoy the underwater world, which has so much to offer. My husband and I were lucky enough to book an excursion in Mauritius where we took a short scuba diving course, practiced in the resort pool, and then went out to the ocean to dive (no deeper than 15 feet), no certification necessary. Scuba diving was definitely stepping out of my comfort zone, but my husband talked me into jumping on this opportunity and it was such an amazing experience.
The short course came close to causing information overload. Even the little things that seem simple, like walking into the ocean to get on the boat with the 40+ pound tank on your back, breathing into the reservoir or staying horizontal in the water, were much more difficult than anticipated. We learned how to equalize, how to communicate underwater with hand signals, how to get the water out of our masks, and much more. And this was just barely scratching the surface of diving. Learning all this was eye-opening and gave me a newfound respect for the sport.
We are still not certified (although this experience has definitely opened this up as a new possibility for us), so when my husband and I went to Hawaii, we chose to snuba dive! Snuba diving is the perfect mix of snorkeling and scuba diving. You don’t need to be certified and you don’t have to worry about all the equipment. The tank floats on a raft at the surface of the water with a hose attached to it, and you. As you swim, the float and tank follow. You can’t go deeper than 12-15 feet (which is fine by me) but you also don’t have to stay at the surface or keep resurfacing for air. This was also a great way for us to practice equalizing and breathing under water. While snuba diving in Hawaii, we swam with a giant sea turtle, heard whales singing underwater, and held a sea urchin and an octopus! Now that I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and realized that diving isn’t as terrifying as I thought, it has opened many doors for us to be able to explore the deep blue in other parts of the world!
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