This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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Breathing, above and under water

beachtoes.jpgSwitching gears: from diving to yoga and one last week back in Nungwi. For this very week I have hauled my yoga mat around Africa for nearly two months. I could (and should!) have practised during those months, but either the room was too small or the schedule was too packed or the company was too good, or [insert other well-curated excuses here].

The leap from diving back to yoga is really not that great: in essence they are both breathing exercises, with focus on being 100% present in the moment. Mindful oxygen consumption underwater is really yogic breathing: deep, slow, calm breaths, with focus on the flow of breath so one never holds one’s breath underwater.

There is a contrast, though: yoga asana is done with no or minimal equipment, whereas diving is mostly all about equipment that facilitates staying and breathing underwater.

Both yoga and diving are about awareness: that of our own bodies’ capabilities and limits, as well as awareness of our own space in this world. With these similarities in mind, there is an increasing number of companies combining diving and yoga, which to a start sounds random but really isn’t.

And so, this last week I am going back to my basics and focusing on breathing above water, enjoying the open-air yoga shala and the sunset. Every night, for seven days.zanziyoga(Nungwi, Zanzibar, Tanzania; August 2017)


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Back to school

OWDBack to school. Obtaining the Open Water Diver certificate was a lot of work. Fortunately I had plenty of time here in Paje. Learning how to equalize my demanding, small ears means I crossed a significant hurdle, too. And Buccaneer Diving gave me a friend price and a fantastic instructor.

I am well bruised on my arms now: a dozen bruises at least, from working the scuba unit on and off in the water, weight belt off and on both in the pool and in the sea, and preparing the air cylinders which are heavy. Additionally, I have a sore bump on the back of my head from jumping in with a loose air cylinder on my back (due to all the de-kitting and re-kitting in the water).

Recreational diving relies so much on technology that the Open Water course assumes that a dive computer will be used. The planning tables and calculations are taught as a back-up. Modern dive computers can connect to the air source, in addition to instructing on surface interval time between dives, ascent rate, and dive time. I do not even own a waterproof watch and so learning the basics behind the dive computer functions was interesting to me and probably boring to most.

The exam in itself was surprisingly time-consuming: lots of questions and calculations. The book has a number of self-quizzes but also quizzes to be corrected and discussed with the instructor. Because I never accept any claim without questioning it, I ended up spending a few days debating with my instructor and my divemaster friend on various unnecessary details, before taking the exam. Because of their patience that never seemed to run out, I actually passed the exam, too. Hello fish, here I come.
DCIM100GOPROGOPR0383.JPG(Paje, Zanzibar, Tanzania; August 2017)


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Do not panic

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0369.JPGThe first time I dove I felt a tinge of panic: “what if I would just lose my head right now, remove the regulator, breathe in a gulp of water, and die? It would be so easy to die.” Indeed it would. And I am still trying to get used to the idea of the PADI buddy system: you travel anywhere on the planet, seek out a reputable dive center, get paired up with a stranger you’ve never met in your life and will probably never meet again, and then place your trust in this person; that he or she is going to stick nearby you during the entire dive and is willing to give you his/her alternate regulator should your air supply fail. And that he or she will stick with you and leave the beautiful scenery behind, should you need to return to the surface, far away from the boat.

Sometimes smaller things go wrong. Travel blogs describing the beauty of diving do not describe what it is like to feel sick and vomit into your regulator, but it happens. So far not to me, thank goodness. But it looks awful: fighting the urge of shooting up to the surface if you are too deep, and to just vomit into your air supply, trying to save air in your lungs so you can then try to purge your regulator. Or, like a kid did the other day, on his first dive ever: forget about safety, shoot up to the surface, remove your regulator, and throw up.

Diving is total surrender to both our ocean planet and to the people who inhabit it. This may sound beautiful but it also means confidence is a key factor when assessing a dive guest’s capability and readiness to dive. The worst that can happen is not equipment failure but panic.

The oceans are the last unexplored frontier of our planet. Even the high mountains and the polar regions have been explored, whereas there is so much unknown under the sea. And our planet is mostly underwater. Ten years ago, very few dove with an alternate regulator for back-up, which today sounds insane. And the first divers wore glass dome helmets and dry suits. They would have thought divers today were crazy. With modern equipment diving has become so safe and easy that even a 10-year-old can get certified. I can’t wait to see what new advances technology will keep bringing, to help us explore the ┬áhome of the fish, the dolphins, and the seahorses.DCIM100GOPROGOPR0463.JPG(Paje, Zanzibar, Tanzania; August 2017)


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Mastering the pressure

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0384.JPGI have a love-hate relationship with diving underwater. On the one hand I love the sea and looking at the underwater world. On the other hand, my ear canals are small and I have problems flying with the smallest symptoms of cold, or freediving deeper than 3 meager meters. But together with an instructor from Buccaneer Diving, a divemaster friend, and a lot of technique rehearsing, in Paje I found a way to equalize my ears. My goodness. I also found a way to work with my sinuses pre-emptively so that my ears would also not crackle and pop the next day after the dive.DCIM100GOPROGOPR0440.JPGHello fish, here I come. Even if I now go through the following routine every single minute: equalize by blowing against my nose, get water in mask so I can’t see, stop to clear water from mask by blowing bubbles. Hence, I need to become masterful in buoyancy control and level-diving to minimize pressure changes and the need to equalize. But hello fish, here I come!
DCIM100GOPROGOPR0245.JPG(Paje, Zanzibar, Tanzania; August 2017)


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Under the sea, part II

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0274.JPGIt turned out that the beach hut in Paje was next door to a 5-star PADI dive center. And on Paje beach, every 200 meters there is either a kitesurfing school or dive center. Not going out and underneath the waves was obviously out of the question. And what an amazing reef, outside of the lagoon.
DCIM100GOPROGOPR0252.JPGPaje is a windsurfing hotspot because of the wind, of course. This means that getting into the dive boat (and changing air cylinders) was – well, choppy, to say the least. On some days, positively “swell”.
DCIM100GOPROGOPR0285.JPG(Paje, Zanzibar, Tanzania; August 2017)


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Under the sea

snorkelingThe reef around Pemba island is in bad shape. I thought it was because of us tourists, but apparently the water has been unseasonably warm for too long. The fish were plentiful though – and so were the jellyfish! I felt many baby jellyfish sting me, and kept looking around for the grown ones but never saw any. Later I met a girl who had been stung so badly her entire skin was prickled red like a fit of hives. Holiday experiences can be rough.

Fortunately, on my outing I could focus on tailing a beautiful dark purple pufferfish with pearly white dots. As it was so beautiful we forgot to photograph it. But here is another pufferfish, almost equally pretty.DCIM100GOPROGOPR0395.JPG(Pemba Island, Zanzibar, Tanzania; August 2017)