Think of Madeira and what image comes to mind?
Lush gardens of palm trees and flowers?
Towering mountaintops reaching above the clouds?
Balmy afternoons taking tea on the terrace and looking out over the sea?
Or even a bottle of Madeira wine?
Madeira is all of these things of course, but can also be much more. Off the islandâ€™s rocky shores, not very far below the ocean surface, there is whole new Madeira – and a side of the island which relatively few visitors have yet discovered. Madeira may not be one of the worldâ€™s top diving destinations, but it is a great place for beginner divers, and those who have never dived before, to get to grips with this increasingly popular sport.
The prospect of scuba diving for the complete beginner can be daunting, and most learner divers would confess to being rather nervous the first time. Worries about breathing, getting in and out of the water, and of course, things going wrong, are perfectly normal, and instructors are well aware of your anxieties.
My first dive, known in the trade as a try dive was in the bay of Machico, just in front of the Dom Pedro Hotel in Machico. There was some swell, but the sea in that area was relatively calm. Nevertheless my heart rate increased significantly as my instructor calmly prepared my equipment and explained to me the few things I had to remember to do. Kitted out in all your gear, you feel as if you weigh a ton, and are sure to sink straight down to the seabed. You donâ€™t, of course – and when you first get in the water you will remain happily bobbing around on the surface until your instructor feels you are ready to go down. The first time you go under the water is both exciting and confusing – part of your brain is telling you that you canâ€™t breathe under there, yet you are doing. For more nervous divers like myself, this realization can take a while to get use to, as can the fact that you donâ€™t have to gasp for air, or take big deep breaths – your air supply is more than adequate and you can breathe perfectly normally.
It took me maybe three minutes to get over the initial amazement of breathing under water and to start enjoying the new world I was experiencing. And it really is another world. A silent world in which all you can hear is your own breathing and you are acutely conscious of every single breath you take. A world with a blue-green backdrop, but full of other colourful citizens, of all shapes and sizes, busily swimming about their business. A world whose floor is covered with a soft carpet of fingers gently swaying to and from. It is a world which seems to have no gravity, like the inside of a space ship, where you can float around upside down, do tipple tails, or just let the water carry you about.
The great thing about being a beginner is that your equipment and its correct functioning are totally your instructorâ€™s responsibility. He or she monitors your buoyancy, checks your air supplies and generally makes sure everything is running smoothly. You may also be attached to your instructor by a line, so thereâ€™s no way you can float away or get lost. Literally all you have to do is breathe pop your ears from time to time and look at all the lovely fish. It really couldnâ€™t be much easier. My try dive lasted for about 30 minutes, and passed only too quickly. Yet is was 30 minutes of my life that I will never forget, and climbing out of the water I felt ridiculously pleased with myself for having done it. I also, like most learner divers, wondered what on earth I had been so worried about – although it is normal, and even expected, there really is no reason for it.
But my other overwhelming reaction to the dive was, I later learnt, by far the most common of all, and may be of some comfort to all those would-be divers out there who have yet to take the plunge. It was quite simply when can we go again?
(Article written by Herman)