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20 May 2010

Dive Master Extraordinaire

After over a week of discussing scuba diving, we finally put our plans into motion. Having all of the right equipment onboard - three full dive set ups, tanks, and a compressor - is clearly the most efficient means to see the underwater beauty of these island nations.

However, the one concern is not having much local knowledge of the best dive sites and their potential hazards. We were a bit nervous about the currents off the town of Fare on the island of Huahine, where we were, so Sofia, Sean, and I went on a mission to find some local knowledge. The three of us rolled up to the front of the Pacific Blue Adventures office and let our Dive Master/Captain Extraordinaire, Sean (he’s logged at least 5 dives since his Padi graduation), start seeking data while Sofia and I stepped back. We were sitting on a street bench close enough to hear the encounter. Sean was trying to get as much local knowledge as possible without giving away our trump card. After learning about a couple possible nearby dives, it hit the decisive moment where the actual dive master said, "So are you interested in doing one of our dives?" Sean responded with, "We actually have all of our own gear on the boat." I've never seen a conversation end so quickly. The moment that came out of Sean’s mouth the Pacific Blue Adventures dive master immediately turned and started walking away. He mumbled something and then said, "Enjoy."

As we were filling the tender with gas, we ran into a diver partially suited up. He was a pleasant Frenchman. Having not gathered too much data from the first encounter, we were keen on picking up some more info. This particular dive master told us exactly where to go, told us to pick up his blue buoy out by the reef, and do one of his planned dives. And just like that we were ready to conquer a dive.

Sofia opted out so it was just two of us. We found the buoy, geared up, and dropped in. The first portion of the dive was quite mellow and beautiful at about 60 feet as we checked out a lot of reef fish. We turned the corner and entered the second inlet – as the pleasant Frenchman explained – and hit a two-knot current directly on our nose. We struggled in it for a few minutes before we saw a long pipe on the ocean floor and both of us at the exact same time realized it was there to walk us up the ridge in the current. Once we got to the top, I looked at my pressure meter and realized I was halfway through my air. I gave the signal to Sean. He looked at me in amazement since we were only 13 minutes into the dive. You could tell he was thinking, "You greedy bastard. You used up all your air already!" Until he looked at his and saw he was at the same level. Hamming into the current definitely limited our time underwater.

From the top of the ridge we saw a white tip reef shark hammering by us about 30 feet away, which we could clearly see because the water was so clear. We hung out there waiting for more sharks for a few minutes then went down on the other side of the ridge where we spotted him. We were down to 80 feet by that point and decided to turn back running a bit low on air. On our way back we swam through a huge school of exotic fish and some more current, but as long as we stayed close to the reef the current wasn't that painful. Our entire dive took 25 minutes and when I surfaced I had about 15 pounds of pressure left in my tank. Thanks to my dive master extraordinaire, my first dive in the south pacific was an overwhelming success.

Thanks to the crew of Wild Tigris for a taste of the awesomeness that the round-the-world trip has to offer. It’s a fun ride and I hope to be back soon.

Cheers, Warner