Padi Scuba Certification and Swimming with Manta Rays

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Max and I Cute above waterOn our trip to Labujan Bajo, a city on the island of Flores Max and I went through the four day process of getting our Padi Scuba certification.  The photo above is of the descent during our first open-water dive.

The first day of the course is spent in the classroom going through all of the need-to-know information about scuba from what causes “the bends” to appropriate hand signals and emergency situations.  After passing the exam with at least an 80% we spent one day doing a closed-water dive, ours was in a pool.  Essentially, you don the gear and practice all the techniques you learned in the classroom the day before.  Day three was our first open-water dive.  I’d share with you the name of the spot in the photo above, but it’s considered a local secret spot to see manta rays.  Our scuba instructor Ellie at Dive Komodo was the coolest.

Us and Manta

We were incredibly lucky. Not only we were in absolute paradise amidst lush green islands with crystal clear water, we also saw manta rays on our very first open water dives. Ellie said it took 100 dives for her to get to see mantas.  This was a big deal coming from the woman who wrote the Padi course on manta conservation diving and helps with Manta Watch, a non-profit supporting efforts to ensure the preservation of the species worldwide.  The species is currently being fished for their gills, which in the last 15 years has become popular as a traditional Chinese medicine.

Mobula Better

Over the course of two days we did our first four open-water dives and officially became scuba certified by mastering all the required techniques from under water navigation to dive planning. After the course, I feel comfortable with my level of knowledge to go and dive again just about anywhere.  As with anything, I think it would take a few more dives before I felt comfortable going out on my own, and in fact will probably always bring with a local guide who knows the area.

I’ve always loved the water. Growing up in sunny San Diego and surfing, the ocean has always been a place of beauty, pleasure, an tranquility.  Begrudgingly invoking such a trite cliche, it feels like a new world.  Essentially, it is.  Under water is such undiscovered territory that even a good bout of snorkling doesn’t quite allow for – you can’t get down and deep to get a good look at all the stuff.  Planer Earth does a good job of expressing the multitude of life down there, but seeing so much in person was overwhelming.  I could have spent half my air staring at all the life on a single rock, all jammed together, competing, hiding, flaunting.


Was it scary? The second breath under-water was a little bit uncomfortable. The first breathe I was mentally prepared for, and subconsciously it represented the amount of breathe I needed to safely return to the top. The second took some getting used to, but the practice of breathing under water came pretty quickly. Practicing all of the emergency procedures like running out of air or losing your mask were actually pretty fun.

I am certainly looking forward to my next dive, and would highly recommend the course. If you want to plan a dive trip sometime, let me know.

Hands under chin