9th July 2022
‘Schooooools out; for summer.
Schooooools out; forever.’
Being in Bonaire in perpetual summer we thought that school was a long way behind us. But even with summer in full flow we’ve returned to school, learnt a lot and are safer for it.
Instead of studying in a dull classroom our learning environment was Blue Mist and the blue waters of Bonaire. Instead of a bespectacled teacher who wore a corduroy jacket we had Ross who carried qualifications to his eyeballs and exuded a confidence that is only gained by vast experience. We were studying for our PADI Advanced Open Water diver qualification where we’d acquire new skills helping our confidence grow and ensuring that each time we go down the same number of people would come up.
After learning about the dangers of going deep where narcosis can befuddle the brain and decompression sickness can prove fatal, we went deep! Under Ross’s watchful eye we descended deeper than we had ever before the world turned a deep shade of blue. As we settled on the bottom with a wreck resting on the sand beside us we went through our school yard exercises of signalling tying knots and generally acquainting ourselves with a realm where man really isn’t meant to be.
It was now up to us to execute the rest of the dive safely. Like pro’s we settled for safety stops, swum along the reef with prefect buoyancy control, monitored our air and executed our ascent along the top of the reef. Keeping an eye on everything around us we magically arrived, right on cue, with the right amount of air exactly where we started. Some might have called it good planning, but we just thought that we’d given lady luck a hand with the knowledge that Ross had imparted to us.
Next up on the learning front was navigation. As we’ve successfully navigated a boat across oceans, we thought that navigating underwater would be child’s play. It turns out, its child’s play if the child is a member of MENSA with a speciality in directional awareness and photographic memory.
Swimming underwater, focused intently on a compass and counting leg strokes as well as looking where we were going proved to be too much. Instead of swimming in a square we successful swum a P and instead of swimming in straight lines Iain discovered that the compass was as attracted to his metal shaker as it is to the north pole making his straight lines more like Bezier curves. Regrouping on the surface Ross quickly got to the crux of our problems pointed us on our way a suddenly we were that child with a membership of MENSA.
If we thought that working out where we were was tough during the day then things were about to be taken to a whole new level as we were about to do everything in the dark. As the sun started to sink below the horizon, we donned wetsuits and slipped into the water turning on our torches that cut through the murk like Luke Skywalkers light sabre.
The underwater other worldly world was now a really other worldly world and it was a world of the big and the small. Huge tarpon, attracted by our lights swooped past us snapping up tiny fish while all the tiny critters that are too scared to come out in daylight decorated every surface. Spiders with unfathomably long legs scuttled around the coral while some corals dull during the day erupted in colour.
Armed with all this new knowledge and higher levels of confidence we were lucky enough to be invited to go diving with the legendary Bart Beecroft*. Bart knows every nook and cranny of every reef, he knows every secret spot and how to master every tricky entry. In Barts safe hands we bumped our way to the most inaccessible parts of the island, in his not so safe dive truck, which was loaded with tanks, loaded with people and loaded with expectation.
Weaving our way through a coral strewn beach and then over an impossibly shallow reef the water dropped away from us where we were greeted by colossal coral structures and fish that were abundant in the extreme. Where we just saw wildlife, Bart saw old friends and where we just saw coral, he saw signposts guiding us to wonders.
Under Barts eye specs of dirt were turned into juvenile fish and dark crevices into habitats where life could thrive. From Ross we’d had an education in diving from Bart we were being given lessons in marine biology.
With one tricky dive behind us we lumbered up for a second. This time we had no shallow reef to negotiate but instead had to battle our way through surf. Leaving the chaotic surface behind all was serine underwater and we were once again enveloped in the natural world.
Without a single man made object on the reef we were very much in Barts hands and we swum past inquisitive Moray Eels and lobsters who were waiting for darkness. It was this experience of nature at its most pristine and most raw that we were hoping to immerse ourselves in and after attending the school of Ross** and the school of Bart we’re pleased that they hadn’t closed for summer.***
* He’s legendary as year after year he completes over 700 dives all just for fun.
** PADI school is not yet finished and there is more to learn about search and rescue and wreck diving.
*** As well as having fun diving there has been heaps of boat maintenance including Iain painting the decks with the smallest paintbrush in the world, fixing electrical gremlins, cleaning bilges and generally giving Ruffian all the love that she requires every week.
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