There are at least two excellent reasons why learning to scuba dive in the Canary Islands in January is an attractive prospect; and there’s one rather big reason why it might not be such a good idea.
The plus points are that as it’s the Canary Islands, not only is the weather good enough to sunbathe with temperatures being in the low to mid 20s Celsius, the water is also warm. Okay, warm may be pushing it but at around 19/20C it’s not going to result in a serious shrivelling of body parts. The other plus is that although the Canary Islands lie off the coast of Africa, they’re only a few hours flight from Britain. They’re long haul without going long haul.
On the downside, after pigging out like the world’s food supplies were in danger of running out, my physique in January isn’t at its best. Once I’d squeezed into a wet suit (with the help of a shoe horn), in my mind’s eye I had the appearance of Sean Connery’s rubber suited Bond circa 1965. Thankfully I didn’t get to see photos until after the event, but they did explain why the occupants of the Japanese whaling boat lying off the beach were rubbing their hands with glee when I waddled into the water.
Learning to Scuba Dive in the Canary Islands – The Preparation
Although all we really want to do is to slip into the rubber suit and slip beneath the waves, there’s a bit of classroom prep required first. Actually there’s a lot of classroom prep. I took my first flippered steps with Calipso Diving in Costa Teguise, Lanzarote. Gareth, an ex-navy diver, ensured that the do’s and don’ts of scuba diving were drummed into my brain before I got anywhere near the wet stuff. It was excellent preparation. By the time I plunged my head beneath the surface I felt confident that I knew what to do in all sorts of situations – save being set upon by a mermaid.
Learning to Scuba Dive in the Canary Islands – Things Worth Knowing
Speedos always make me think of Ben Stiller in Meet the Parents. They’re just not cool. But when you’re squeezing into what feels like a giant prophylactic, the more stream-lined you are the easier it is. Also, the belt designed to keep you on the seabed weighs a ton. Strap on the oxygen tanks and combined it’s like Jabba the Hut has jumped on to your back. Staggering across the sand to get to the sea is not a cool scuba diving look. Get in some weight training to prepare. Finally, make sure you go to the toilets before pulling on the rubber, wetting the wetsuit from the inside is bad form.
Learning to Scuba Dive in the Canary Islands – First Steps
The adrenalin rush really kicks in when you take those first steps into the water and, putting into practice what you learned in the training room (rinsing out your goggles, practising clearing and replacing the mouthpiece if it fills with water), get ready to enter a world of wonder.
Learning to Scuba Dive in the Canary Islands – First Impressions
Although used to swimming underwater, I’d never done it with a breathing apparatus before; breathing solely by using my mouth was quite freaky and I wasn’t sure how long I’d be able to manage it. The wetsuit felt seriously tight across my chest and stomach. For a few minutes, until I got used to the process of breathing and the wetsuit softened, it distracted from what was around me.
Learning to Scuba Dive in the Canary Islands – Swimming With the Fishes
However, once I’d become comfortable with the suit and breathing, the wonderment factor went screaming off the chart. Years of watching TV documentaries might have prepared me for what the world looks like under the sea, but it comes nowhere close to punch in the gut excitement at actually being there. The sea seemed ridiculously blue and clear – that was the effect of a cloudless sky but it did help give the impression that I’d entered a world where colours were simply more intense. The floating element added a dreamy quality that made it all the more surreal whilst the sound of breathing through the oxygen mask was exactly like every undersea sequence I’ve watched in countless movies.
As the breathing and movement became seamless and we ventured deeper into this Alice in underland terrain, the locals came out to meet us, observing me with the same curiosity with which I marvelled at them. A cocky cuttlefish stood its ground as I reached out a finger, raising a tentacle, ready to take me on in an undersea fencing duel; a sand shark whose slumber was interrupted swam grumpily past, flicking at me with its irritated tail. Specimens that until now I’d seen only on my plate in fish restaurants looked far more colourful and exotic in their own territory.
Until that point the biggest WOW factor of any trip had been a Kenyan Safari. Skydiving in Costa Brava was also something pretty special, but in that case I was relieved when it was over. This was something else; this was exploring a completely different world. It was Star Trek to me and forty five wide-eyed minutes floated by far too quickly.
By the time we emerged from the sea and I walked up the beach beaming like a drugged up Cheshire cat, the oxygen tank and weighted belt might as well have been still under the waves – I was floating.
The half day Discover Scuba dive with Calipso Diving is €60. There are various options available to suit everyone from first timers to experienced frogmen. I can’t recommend the experience highly enough.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites plus lots of other things. Follow Jack on Google+