In this next post of our African Adventures in Zanzibar island, I’m sharing the story of my very first scuba-diving experience…. Scuba Diving in Zanzibar!!
It’s a story I’ve shared a few times with my friends as it was probably the most memorable experience of our trip to Zanzibar island – due to the extreme emotions experienced!
After spending a day exploring and enjoying the beautiful resort and beaches of Melia Zanzibar we headed back to our room via the pool area and walked past the One Ocean Dive Center. Now, “go scuba diving” had been on my bucket list for YEARS. (In fact I looked up an old list I created about 12 years ago in 2003 and there it was…)
So as we wandered past the thought went through my mind “Oh I would love to do that” but I immediately dismissed it as I knew how my husband felt about the sea… he’s not a big fan! Imagine my surprise when not 5 seconds later he says “I’m keen to try scuba diving, what do you think?”
After a moment I figured it was now or never and, not one to miss out on a opportunity, I jumped at the chance to go scuba diving in Zanzibar!! We headed over the Dive Center to find out what was involved and with only 1 snorkel under our belt we had to sign up for the Intro to Scuba lesson in the pool later that afternoon….
At 2pm we showed up at the pool for our lesson not quite knowing what to expect. Our instructor was waiting with all the equipment we would need for our lesson at the edge of the pool and got kitted out. And this is where things got interesting!
For these initial photos I was all smiles, not quite prepared for the experience that lay before me…. At first I was quietly confident that I would ace this. There was nothing to be scared of, was there? This was a pool. My feet were still on the ground! But nothing can prepare you for what your own body does in certain situations, and as it turns out my body was having none of it!
I bravely continued with the lesson, following my Italian instructor through each of the steps but then it came time for practicing how to respond to various emergency situations including taking out your regulator and putting it back into your mouth while under the water and then I FREAKED OUT. I did it and didn’t want to quit but I continued the lesson while having a panic attack (although I think I only realized this after the lesson was over and I was out of the pool!)
My breathing was so heavy and my eyes were panicking (according to my husband) I swam up and down the pool and then got the hell out of there as soon as the lesson was over. I then proceeded to ruin the rest of the day with my sheer fear. Never before had I experience this level of panic and fear. I was reminded of how little kids feel being thrown into the deep end of a pool or having their first swimming lesson – their terrified screams were exactly how I felt. Just that a screaming adult female would have been concerning in this paradise environment!
Let’s just say that I definitely learnt the hard way to not “bite off more than you can chew” in life-threatening situations and to be completely honest with how you are coping with a situation!
That evening was the much anticipated Zanzibar themed evening at the Gabi Beach restaurant and I ended up in tears at our table when I started thinking about the scuba diving trip we were due to head out on the next day. The guests at our table must have been wondering what the hell my husband had done to me on our “honeymoon” (Shame, sorry love!!) I was in a complete panic and nothing he could say was helping. I headed to bed and hardly slept all night, instead I made frequent trips to the loo and was up for the day before the sun rose!!
At this point there was nothing else I could but embrace what lay ahead and wake up for the day… And what better opportunity than to head out and enjoy watching the sun rise over the Indian Ocean?
There had been a light rain overnight (solidarity tears from the skies??) and everything was damp and dewy. Huge rain clouds billowed over the sea and slowly the sun rose, revealing it’s beautiful light, and hope!
All I could do at this point was pray and allow the beauty surrounding me to lift my spirits. And of course I informed my husband that even through we had already paid for the experience I may just be enjoying a boat ride to Mnemba Atoll, without the scuba diving experience!! After our early pick up from reception, we joined a group of fellow divers in the back of a traditional Zanzibar taxi and headed to another resort where the bigger One Ocean Dive Centre was. And when we got there my stomach was a wreck. The thought of putting on a wet suit for an indefinite about of time was a worry!! All I could do was sit on the ground and pray a one word prayer. Jesus!
And my prayers were totally answered by being paired up with the most amazing, patient and understanding Italian dive instructress, Patricia. At this point there was NO WAY I would actually be going into the sea. My mind was made up and I was certain I would only be enjoying the boat ride out to the atoll… all the while feeling rather nauseous… probably not the best way to spend my day!
Scuba Diving in Zanzibar
We headed out onto the ocean for the 45 minute ride to the dive site, passing through a rain storm as we went. When we got to the site we were told we would be the last people in the water as the novice scuba divers in the group of about 20 divers and snorkelers from around the world. I was still pretty adamant I wouldn’t be getting in the water, but after a few minutes spent on the rocking boat with the diesel fumes filling my nose I knew I needed to get in the water to stem the sea-sickness! And my dive instructor was so aware of my nerves (my whole body was shaking, it was pretty hard to miss them!) that she decided I should jump in the water for a quick swim to calm my nerves…. and it was the best decision. Within a few minutes of floating in the turquoise warm water I could feel my body relaxing.
After a few minutes she summoned me back onto the boat and kitted me out with my equipment. Then in her most encouraging way she coaxed me into jumping off the edge of the boat and into the blue abyss…. promising to hold my hand for as long as I needed and sticking to my side as we lowered ourselves down the anchor rope.
And she kept her word. Patiently waiting for me each time I needed to stop and equalize my ears – every 10cm!! And then finally my feet touched the sand of the sea bed and it was time to let go of the rope and grab hold of her hand to explore the hidden depths of the reef.
And I was SO GLAD I pushed through my fear. It really was the most amazing experience. Such an unreal world that I would never have been exposed to otherwise. And so very worth it. I wasn’t exactly the most confident diver down there and stuck like glue to my instructor feeling a little bit anxious but the bonus of doing a really simple dive means that there is almost no chance of having to do the emergency drills we did the day before in the pool and as long as I kept the regulator in my mouth I felt fine!!
Exploring the reef while diving in Zanzibar, we saw beautiful, unusual creatures we would otherwise never have experienced except from behind glass. Gliding through the warm water we swam through shoals of fish and before we knew it we were heading back up to the boat. 30 minutes had passed by in a flash!
Relief swept through me as I broke the surface of the water but also complete elation. I had done it! I had conquered possibly the biggest fear I had faced since natural birth and come out on the other side victorious!! And then it was time for our second dive. I won’t lie, I wasn’t exactly enthusiastic. Once again I was nervous and cautious to get in the water but I knew it was now or never and jumped in. This time I was able to use the BCD to lower myself and didn’t need to hold anyone’s hand. It felt like another small victory for me.
And again it was amazing. Here is a short little underwater video of our experience Scuba Diving in Zanzibar that we shot using our Maxed Elite X Cam from Mr Price Sport….
As you can see it was totally worth it… And I loved it. To celebrate we took a few pics with our most amazing dive instructresses, Silvia and Patty. They really made the experience what it was and without them I don’t think I would have managed! The jury’s still out on whether I’ll scuba again, but never say never I say!
If you enjoyed this post about my experience Scuba Diving in Zanzibar come back next Monday for more.
Read this most for another perspective about Scuba Diving the East Coast of Zanzibar
And if you would like to read more about my African Adventures exploring Zanzibar click one of the links below:
Images: Kathryn Rossiter