The following report describes the first of two scuba diving training qualification exercises that a lucky group of Shrewsbury students are required to undertake before heading to Malawi this July to take part in the Operation Wallacea conservation project
For seven senior students, the mid-term break was an action-packed period where we learnt to dive with Mermaids Dive Center in Sattahip!
We first had to pass the theory, which was based in the classroom and the swimming pool. Even though we were really looking forward to getting into the water, for health and safety reasons, we needed to learn what situations we could find ourselves in and how to manage those situations.
All seven of us were diligent and focused in completing our theory preparing us for an early morning start the next day so we could get to Sattahip as fast as possible and have more time in the water. The task was to complete four open water marine dives demonstrating all of the skills we had learnt in the previous two days in the classroom.
We were all faced with monumental challenges, and the dives were at times, exhausting and required mental and physical fortitude. The deckchairs on the boat's dry deck proved to be a comfortable refuge whilst on the surface, but it was underwater where we wanted to be.
The exotic and stunning variety of the marine ecosystem was exciting, but to enter the unfamiliar, oceanic world under strict rules was no easy task. Some rules needed continual attention and compliance to ensure a safe dive, such as checking each other's equipment and the utmost necessity of never holding one's breath underwater. Having had no prior practical experience of diving in the saltwater domain before - issues with equalization and struggles with neutral buoyancy occurred and had to be overcome, along with occasional sea urchin stings.
Despite these trials, all seven of the divers in training pushed forward in a show of resilience and courage to emerge undaunted after their final dive - as evidenced by the hundred per cent pass rate! The whole trip was very positive if sometimes a bit nerve-wracking. Having put in the effort to overcome the many obstacles posed to them and secured their PADI Open Water qualifications, they will now take this to the next level with their Advanced Open Water training very soon.
All students have one eye on the trip to Malawi, later in July where their diving qualifications will allow them to dive in Lake Malawi and take part in an ecosystem project there. Fascinating times!