Aubrey and I learned on our camping trip through Australia that sticking to your original plan isn’t always the best plan. Upon arriving in Bali, we somewhat naively expected to be immediately awestruck by the beautiful temples, lush rain forests and magical beaches we had seen in various travel books. Instead, I was amazed at how many motorbikes, pedestrians, dump trucks and taxis could fit on the narrow roads running through the island. At one point, I asked a local where the closest ATM is located, and I started walking that way. Shortly thereafter, he pulls up behind me on his motorbike and tells me it isn’t safe to walk, to hop on and he’ll take me to the ATM. Seconds later we’re just another speck in the crowd, zipping in and out lanes and squeezing between cars (sorry mom). We spent 5 days on Bali and truly enjoyed the rich culture, beautiful temples, and extremely friendly people, but we were ready to head somewhere without the hustle and bustle of busy Bali. So, we jumped on a ferry headed to Gili Air Island, just off the coast of Lombok Island.
The plans allowed for two nights on Gili Air before heading to Lombok and catching a flight to Singapore, but we ended up staying five nights. The island is a dream getaway: no cars or motorbikes, just picturesque beaches, great (cheap) food, Bintang aplenty and an assortment of diving shops. We hadn’t intended to do much on the island but decompress, but after talking to a couple Aussie’s who came to Gili just to get certified as open water divers, we asked ourselves why we weren’t doing as the Romans do and learning to scuba dive in one of the most beautiful marine environments in the world. The following day, I realized that there’s a price fixing agreement on the island, 4.7 million Rupia (about $350 USD) for a PADI dive certification, and about 10% less for an SSI certification. So, I surveyed online resources, visited the top three shops, and picked 7Seas Dive shop, a PADI shop with a good vibe and enough instructors to train us in small groups. Since the prices are fixed across the island, I was able to pick the shop that I thought was the best quality in regards to equipment, people and overall expected quality of the experience. As soon as we finished filling out some paperwork, we were watching the obligatory PADI training videos and getting fitted for gear. An hour later, we were in the pool next door to the dive shop, and later that afternoon, we were back rolling off the edge of a boat into the Bali Sea.
Over the next couple of days, Aubrey and I completed and passed a barrage of written exams and open water exercises, including practicing procedures for loss of air supply, water filled or missing mask, and emergency ascent without air from about 30 feet. The course included four open water dives, all at spectacular underwater destinations, down to a depth of about 60 feet. We visited coral reefs, drifted in a current along a 15 foot wall full of sea life, dove with sea turtles, and even witnessed an anemone fish (nemo) attack and bite our instructor’s finger.
At the end of our training and final exam, I felt like Aubrey and I had discovered something that we truly enjoy, and worked side by side to obtain our diving certifications. More importantly, I realized that learning to scuba dive with your significant other, no matter how long you’ve been together, will strengthen your ability to trust them with your life. I know that if something goes wrong, my buddy is there for me with an “octopus” to give me oxygen and keep me breathing until we get to the surface. If you don’t trust your buddy, stick with snorkeling.