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Playing with Turtles, Crashing Into Coral, & Pretending I’m An Astronaut – Learning To Scuba Dive

by Tony · 24 comments

Scuba diving Gili Air

Relationships are about compromise.

Relationships are about open communication.

Relationships are about respect.


But they’re also about who has the upper hand… and Meg has always held her SCUBA certification way above my head. That is why when presented with the opportunity of spending 3 weeks on the tiny island of Gili Air in Indonesia, I had to rebalance the scales.

The island is renowned for its world famous scuba diving scene.  It had numerous diving schools and luckily one of the best (THE best if you go by Tripadvisor), Manta Dive, provided me a discount to take their 3-day PADI open water diving course.

The Best Part

It had been a few years since Meg last went diving, so she decided to join me on my first day of training in order to get a refresher course (really nice, but not the best part that I am referring to).

Within 30 minutes of some basic prep, we were in the pool and breathing underwater. Easy!

Our friendly British instructor from Manta Dive, Rob, ran us through some drills for about an hour so we could get comfortable. We practiced how to clear the regulator, how to reconnect to your regulator if it falls out of your mouth, and how to clear any water in your mask when your 18 meters deep. Rob kept things light and made diving seem easy, so that by the end of the day it actually was.

Once the pool session was over, it was onto the boat and out into the sea for my first dive. THAT was the best part.

Meg learned how to Scuba when she was younger in upstate New York… Not many options to go open water diving there! She had to spend her whole time training in a pool, so she was extremely jealous that I was doing an ocean dive (in Indonesia nonetheless) on my first day of training.

Once the boat reached the dive spot, I checked my gear like I had been taught and did a James Bond roll off the side of the boat.

Rob took us down to the deepest waters that our open water certification would allow, 18 meters (40 feet), and we started to explore.

The coral, even when snorkeling just off of the beach, is incredible near the Gili islands. The reefs are teeming with sea life and the coral itself is vibrantly colored. On this first dive, I saw my first sea turtle (outside of an aquarium), drifted above a monstrous Moray Eel, and spent most of the hour under water pretending I was in space.

What can I say? I’m a big weirdo who loves space. Ever since I was little, the night sky has fascinated me and Scuba diving let me get as close as I’ll ever get to being an astronaut… Well, until I buy my $200,000 ticket on Virgin Galactic.

Mission Accomplished

Scuba diving with Manta Dive on Gili Air

The first dive went perfectly and I was hooked. I finally understood why Meg was always on my case about getting certified… the only surprise is that she was able to wait so long for me to get it! After only one dive, I knew it would be hard to do a beach vacation ever again without also scheduling some Scuba action.

Luckily for me, I had 2 more days of training, which meant some pool work and a dive the next day, followed by 2 full dives on the last day.

Meg joined me for one more dive on the last day, which was perfect because I could show her all of the cool new moves I learned during my training. Let’s just say my James Bond roll off the side of the boat was starting to look pretty dang cool.

With the final dive completed, all that remained was the test. After watching the training videos and spending 3 days in the open water, the test was a breeze and I was a certified open water diver!

But that meant I was just allowed to go down to 18 meters with a dive instructor present.

Since there are so many cool things to see even deeper, Meg and I actually went back for one last dive in order to get our deep-water certification, which lets us go to 30 meters (100 feet). We just couldn’t help ourselves!

Now that I’m certified, the only question left is where should I dive next?

Scuba diving at Manta Dive Gili Air

We would like to thank Manta Dive for partially sponsoring our dives on Gili Air. As always, our opinions reflect our real experiences.

About Tony
Quit his job to try actually following his dreams for once... and is currently loving it. He is working hard to to make this life-style permanent by writing about his adventures and brainstorming money making opportunities with his partner-in-crime, Meg.

Bonnie November 13, 2012 at 2:47 pm

We’re going to be scuba diving with Manta Dive in January! Good to read this post about your experience with them.

Tony November 13, 2012 at 8:18 pm

You’re going to love it… they are fantastic! Plus, the Gili’s have to be some of the best coral and sea life you can see anywhere. Just a fantastic place to dive.

Can’t wait to hear all about your experience!

Bonnie January 7, 2013 at 7:25 am

We just finished two dives with Manta Dive this week. The instructors are wonderful! We got a free extra dive (just doing a taster course) because on my first dive my regulator fell apart and I had a near drowning experience… it wasn’t the instructor’s fault but she kindly offered the extra dive and was very patient with my nerves the next day. I am so glad I went again because it was definitely worth it (saw 3 turtles!). Thanks for documenting your experience here: it gave me the courage to give it a go myself :)

Tony January 7, 2013 at 6:52 pm

So scary about the regulator!!!

Glad they took good care of you though. Definitely did the right thing by giving you an extra dive! How cool was it to scuba with turtles? I’d never seen any outside of the aquarium before. Definitely loved it!

So glad something I wrote that might have helped you, but it sounds like you relied on your own nerves pretty well :)

Barb November 13, 2012 at 4:11 pm

So glad that you are now scuba-certified Tony! Are you planning any dives in Australia? A few of our favorite dive sites: Grand Cayman; Cozumel; Wreck of the Rhone and several other areas near Virgin Gorda. I personally thought that colors of the underwater coral and sea-life were best seen at no lower than 50 feet, unless your dive instructor has a big light.
I hear that the diving near Tunnels Beach on Kauai is amazing, but not sure if the water is too rough in the winter months. We snorkeled there during a few of our summer trips and I couldn’t believe the huge schools of gorgeous fish and there were lots of sea turtles. Carry on with your amazing trip – I love the articles that you and Meg post.

Tony November 13, 2012 at 8:21 pm

The wreck of the Rhone is one of the big reasons why I wanted to dive! After hearing about for our entire honeymoon in Virgin Gorda, I definitely need to go back.

The colors below 50 ft are pretty bad. Our instructor brought a tomato down to show us the difference. At sea level, it was bright red. At 25 meters (80 feet), it was a brownish burgundy color. Even more amazing then when you see a brightly colored fish that deep… it means that out of the water it must be like a neon light!

Thanks Barb!

JR November 13, 2012 at 5:40 pm

I have been jealous many times reading these posts and this post just added to my jealousy. you definitely knocked off one of my bucket list items. Congrats and it sounds so fantastic.

Tony November 13, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Anybody can do it! My instructor told me there is some great diving in the New England area… lots of wrecks. Although you will DEFINITELY need a wetsuit to do those dives!

JR November 13, 2012 at 8:48 pm

JR in a wet suit ? I will look like a sausage…….. I will have to check it out.

Tony November 15, 2012 at 6:41 pm


Caroline @ Traveling 9 to 5 November 13, 2012 at 9:39 pm

Of course Hawaii …. but I am sure you will find some great diving in Australia!

Tony November 13, 2012 at 10:54 pm

Definitely Australia. Although being on the last leg of our trip, we’re having to do the budget math to see what is doable… Don’t know if more Scuba is gonna be possible!

Vicky from acoupletravelers November 15, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Neither of us are Scuba certified but it’s definitely something we are going to look into when we get to South East Asia! I love love love snorkeling so I imagine Scuba is only 100 times better!

Tony November 15, 2012 at 6:43 pm

You have GOT to do it… I think it is a lot cheaper in SEA than other places as well. Certification lasts a life time and you will get a bunch of real dives out of it. So much value.

I had only snorkeled before, but Meg was always telling me how lame it was compared to Scuba. I never believed the difference could be THAT big… but it really was.

You are going to love it!

Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) November 16, 2012 at 2:16 am

Have you guys been to the Philippines? If not, you need to come here and dive! It’s got some world-class sites, and dives are generally quite cheap – we just did 3 yesterday for $70 per person. My Tony & I just got certified 2 weeks ago and we are LOVING it (we’ve already racked up 11 dives… you can see how our travel budget is slowly going out the window…). I’ve always had a thing for being underwater, and some of the things we’ve seen here have truly been out of this world!

Tony November 16, 2012 at 6:41 am

3 dives for $70? That is unbelievable! Now I really want to go to the Phillipines…

I’m so addicted and it is so easy to blow your budget. We spent way more on diving than originally planned, but at least the certification lasts forever. It’s more of an investment… right?

Emily in Chile November 18, 2012 at 9:44 pm

We are still SCUBA virgins, but I feel like eventually we’ll take the time to get certified. Rodolfo enjoys snorkeling more than I do, but I’m not about to let him go diving without me!

Tony November 19, 2012 at 5:41 am

Meg has been telling me to get certified since we met 6 years ago… and even though it took me forever to do it, she loves that I did.

It really is infinitely better than scuba diving. The act of diving alone is awesome, whether or not you see any sea life.

I could not recommend it any stronger. Learning to dive is a must! Plus it makes your next beach vacation way more adventurous as you can always add in a dive or two… good luck!

Cindy Burroughs November 21, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Where should you dive? THE BITTER END YACHT CLUB! That was an easy one….

Tony November 21, 2012 at 4:24 pm

BEYC started off my interest! I really want to dive the wreck of the Rhone… Meg did it when she was younger and everyone tells me it is great.

As usual, all stories about great vacation places always end at Bitter End. It truly can’t be beat!

Thanks, Cindy!

Rig December 2, 2012 at 5:15 pm

I agree with you that learning to dive is better than taking risk or tempting sit on the ocean and I endorse it through my experience.

Tony December 2, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Plus, once you’re certified you are certified for life!

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