The Kadmat Island is 18 kms long and at the widest it is 1 km. We will be staying at the southernmost tip of the island." Anees informed us.
As we approached the inhabited northern tip of the island chaos reigned for a while as a number of Pablo boats raced toward the ship and people embarked and disembarked. We later learned that the ship was one of the only means to bring supplies to the island.
We packed our bags and moved to the ground floor of the ship. We saw a number of people in black tracksuits with Lacadives Staff written on them. They helped us pile our luggage onto the boat and we were off!
Bye to Tipu Sultan. Lacadives, Here we come!
The water was clear and gorgeous. Gauri and Shraddha were bouncing with excitement.
Soon we were landing at the southern tip's jetty and were met by Parinita (Pari), another instructor.
We sat down under the shady coconut trees and enjoyed their welcome drink- freshly opened sweet coconut water in its shell. We were then introduced to Adarsh, another instructor. We had three instructors -Anees, Pari and Adarsh. All were between 25-30 years of age.
Adarsh introduced us to the rules of the island- How not to pollute the fragile environment of the island. How to preserve fresh water, etc.
We were than requested to freshen up and change into swimwear for an introductory session on snorkeling and finning. Our instructors gave us whatever equipment we required-fins, snorkels, booties etc. The lesson was easy and enjoyable.
Pari taught us some basic sign language and divided the group into pairs, referred to as "Buddy" in diving. We saw some fish and coral covered with sea anemones. Adarsh corrected my finning- I kept bending my knees, which is not good finning. Before we knew it, an hour had passed and we were called for tea and biscuits. After our baths we met again for registration...Forms to fill and sign, medical certificates to be submitted, course book was given, log books and a dive table.
We were informed more about the course and the French certificate that we would be receiving if we successfully passed all our tests. The one star CMAS course as it is called, is recognized the world over, and would allow me to dive to the depth of 21 meters along with a two star instructor. Cool!
Dinner was served sharp at 8.30 p.m. The dining room has illustrated posters of fish, shells and coral found in the area. Since there was a fish preparation, we asked our friendly cook to point out what he had made, which he promptly did. The atmosphere is quiet and relaxing. We had had an eventful day so we retired early to bed. Practical classes would begin soon after breakfast the next day.
5th Nov 1997
After a good rest we were ready by 8.00am and headed for the dining room for a breakfast of hot Pooris and potato bhaji. We did not want to eat much since we had to rush for our class on Snorkeling.
We were taught how to duck dive in the lagoon. In duck diving you take a deep breath while snorkeling- dive to the bottom- pick up some sand- come up and blow the air out to clear your snorkel - and continue snorkeling. This advanced to picking up your snorkel from the sand - putting it on while swimming- blow to clear your snorkel and continue swimming. We were than taught how to equalize the pressure in our ears while descending so as to reduce the pressure. I went at a slower pace while the kids picked it up promptly. Our practice went on for an hour or so. We went for a shower and met again at the boathouse.
11.30 am Boat House. Dive equipment familiarizing class- We were all given tanks, regulators and buoyancy jackets. We were shown how to kitup our gear- check valves, check air, breath, diving signs and procedures. An intensive class!
"After lunch we will be going for our first dive." our instructors informed us. We went for lunch and in our excitement could not do justice to it.
First Dive!! We were the first to reach, all of us excited to make our first dive. Parinita arrived looking great in her diving suit. Both Gauri and Shraddha wanted to wear a similar one. Pari promptly went and got one for each. Now they looked like great divers even before our first dive. The friendly boat boys- Koya, Ummni. Muttukoya and Shah Jahan helped us lift our heavy tanks on our backs - 14 kgs to 17.5 kgs depending whether it was long or short. We headed to the jetty, it was a bright and sunny day.
The instructors were taking us down one at a time. We waited on the jetty, not knowing what was going on beneath the water surface- all we could see were bubbles. Finally it was my turn- I entered the water with my snorkel and mask and then Pari helped me put on the tank and jacket. I had to put 2 kgs of weight to counter my buoyancy. A few deep breaths and we deflated the jacket to sink down. The depth was just 1.5 meters but the amazement of sitting under water was an experience. The mouthpiece is amazing. We later learnt that the regulator delivers air to the diver at the correct pressure and flow rate, which it does at two stages before the diver sucks in the air. It seemed so easy!
Sitting at the bottom we were told to do two exercises.
* Mask clearing and
* Removing the mouthpiece exhaling air slowly and replacing the mouthpiece.
The first step for mask clearing is to let a little water enter your mask by lifting the top a little and then by looking up and opening the mask slightly from the bottom you exhale out through your nose so the water is again replaced with air. You keep putting more water and displacing it till you feel comfortable enough to remove the mask completely and then put it back on under water, to clear it comfortably.
In removing the mouthpiece we learn that if we purged the air of the mouthpiece close to our mouth we could easily put the mouthpiece back into our mouth without any salt water entering. It was quite an amazing lesson.
The reason why we did these exercises, is that at the depth of 20 meters, if by chance my mask gets knocked out by a fin or anything I would be a lot calmer if I had done these exercises. If we are comfortable with clearing it one wouldn't panic, which is the worst thing to do under water. Diving disciplines you to take charge of your own mind under water. It's a lot like yoga : all about breathing control and calm nerves. We are exploring through technology, an environment where nature does not intend you to be, and thus the dependence on air and vision is life critical and not to be taken lightly.
After all this reasoning- I panicked 3 times!
I inhaled sea water- after exhaling from my nose I inhaled again through my nose and when I got no air I panicked. Pari was most patient and maintaining eye contact had this calming effect on me that I took a grip on myself and rationalised that I should inhale through my mouth. After a few long breaths I calmed down. Pari said we could take a break from the exercises and through dive signs said that we would go for a finning cruise. She showed me some beautiful coral, sea cucumbers, lion fish and a number of other fish. I calmed down and the excitement of being under water, so close to the floor of the sea, bubbled up again inside me.
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