The turquoise water stunningly contrasts against the soft white sand and the shadows of pristine corals on the surface make for an inviting sight. The depths of Mnemba reef are an irresistible temptation even to the more seasoned snorkeler. If you don’t have a scuba license and have always wanted to see up-close ‘what lies beneath’ you can try scuba diving in one morning. Let me introduce to you PADI’s Discover Scuba Diving program in Zanzibar.
After meeting with your instructor you will be invited to complete some simple paper work and a registration form. If there are no medical reasons for you not to join the class (a few examplesinclude asthma, high blood pressure and recent surgeries) you will participate in a short presentation covering the basics of diving:
- How water pressure affects you
- How to equalise air spaces to the surrounding water pressure
- The equipment you will be using and its basic operation
- Skills to be performed in shallow water
- Hand signals
- Swimming technique
- How to respect aquatic life
- No-fly rules
A quick test concludes the theory portion of the class. Don’t worry! It’s no pass or fail.
You will then test out the scuba gear and take your very first breaths in the water. Some people find this the most challenging portion of the short course. Keep in mind your instructor has been trained to keep you very safe, to calm you down and help you figure out any problems as they occur. You are in good hands.
Only a few feet from the surface in swimming pool-like conditions you will focus on practising hand signals, swimming technique and equalising your ears to the surrounding pressure. You will practice how to use the mouth piece properly and how to clear any water from inside. You will learn how to blow water out of the mask should any enter through the silicone skirt. These skills are ‘just in case’ drills and your actual dive will be spent following your instructor, blowing bubbles and looking in amazement at the brand new world you have just entered. Your life is about to change.
There are a number of beautiful local reefs in Zanzibar. Mnemba is the perfect reef for beginners. You will descend under close supervision of you instructor on an easy sloping bottom. You may feel like you need to equalise more than you didin the practice skills section. You will be guided into the clear blue waters of the reef. There are chances to encounter turtles, spotted rays, groupers, clown fish hiding in their anemones, sea horses, octopus, trevally and basically all the tropical fish families that starred in ‘Finding Nemo’.
The average dive is 30 – 45 minutesand people inevitably want more! The next step is to get certified as PADI Open Water. The course is a further 3 dives and then you can dive anywhere else in the world. However, you might not want to after diving in Zanzibar.