During the weekends, not only did the interns visit other islands, and the the hikes of Mahe but they decided to start and continue their diving experience with some courses at the Underwater Dive Center Seychelles in Beau Vallon.
Read on as Gabriel and Merijn tell us about their Open water and Advanced open water courses with a group Night Dive!
For me, this internship also meant my first steps, or fin kicks, into scubadiving. Elena and I decided to partner up for our Open Water Diving certificate, as all the other interns already had higher qualifications than that. I sure was glad that I had already completed the theoretical part online, as apparently doing it at the dive centre would have taken me a weekend that I could now spend in the water!
Both me and Elena were happy with our supervisor Michael, he even managed to keep us concentrated during the confined water dives in the swimming pool, as our minds tended to (prematurely) wander off to swimming in the open ocean. Our first diving site was L’islot isle, a tiny island just off the coast of Mahé that you can swim around during one dive. After some initial problems with equalizing the pressure in my ears (I forgot to do it at some point, resulting in high pressure on my ears as I descended a few more metres), the dive actually went quite smoothly and we had some time to look around us and enjoy the corals and other animals at the divesite.
What bothered me a little, was that my first few dives I had the impression that the underwater life between 10 and 18 metres actually didn’t differ at all from the animals I had been able to spot previously whilst snorkeling. Thus I wondered whether I actually found diving worthwhile, considering snorkeling is free. This changed after my last dives to Ray’s point, Grouper point (x2!) and our night dive at the aquarium. The first two mentioned were not so much coral reefs as large granite formations with some corals on them. This resulted in some exciting observations of animals that I had not seen while snorkeling, such as an enormous Bumphead parrotfish, a formation of 5 huge marble rays and two white-tip reef sharks. Emphasizing the difference with snorkeling, Ray’s point and grouper point both had numerous large schools of pelagic fish, as you would expect in the ‘open water’.
Then as a grand finale, we all did a night dive together. For me and Gabriel, it was our first dive, and I expected to be nervous or even anxious the first five minutes in the dark ocean. The opposite was actually true, as soon as you backroll into the water at night, you dive into a very calming atmosphere, things are much less hectic under water than during the day. As you might expect, a different ecological niche is filled during the night by different species of animals, resulting in the sighting of spiny lobsters, nudibranchs, a huge(!) marble ray and… a green turtle! I very much hoped to encounter this creature during my internship, thus I was disappointing when I heard they are usually very shy. Of course the numerous hawksbill turtles I was able to swim with largely made up for this, but being able to lie on the sand next to a (groggy, I think we woke her up…) green turtle was an incredible experience.
For those who don’t know, the hawksbill turtle and green turtle are not that hard to distinguish! First off, as the name implies, the hawksbill turtle has a bird-like bill, almost like a hawk or a parrot. The front of the face of a green turtle is much more rounded. The second step to distinguish between them is to look at the back of the carapace: where this is fairly rounded and smooth with the green turtle, the hawksbill turtle has sharp edges (teeth-like) at the back of the carapace. Green turtles also grow larger than hawksbills.
In my case, I got my Open Water Diving certification three years ago, so I though that Seychelles would be the best place to go for the next level. Thus, I acquired my Advanced Open Water Diving Certification! Michael was my intstructor as well, and thanks to him everything went smoothly. The course consisted of five dives where you can experience five different diving specialitations.
The ones that I especially enjoyed most where wreck diving and deep diving. For the wreck diving we visited two wrecks that were sunk together called “Twin barges”. It was very exciting to dive around (and also inside) the wrecks and enjoying the scenery. I was impressed by the amount of fishes that were living and surrounding the wrecks: Stone fish, Lionfish, morays, large bunches of diamond fishes...It was incredible. Deep dive was also very impressive. It was the first time that I went deeper than 25 meters (28 to be more precise) and I have to admit that your dive perception really changes. Normally, when you are close to 30 meters depth you are not able to think as clear as when you´re dinving in upper zones. I realized it when Michael wanted me to answer a few questions that he had prepared in a waterproof slide for me. I am still wondering how I couldn´t write down my name backwards!
Regarding the rest of the dives, all of them went smoothly. Navigation and Buoyancy dives made me feel more confident underwater. Lastly, I did my fifth speciality in Drift diving. Basically, this dive consisted of gaining hands on marine currents and knowing how to use them while you´re diving, to make the dive safer and more enjoyable. Though it wasn´t as usefull as I expected (the currents were not so strong this day), the dive was still worth it as I saw a white tipped reef shark for the first time in my life! It was swimming around the coral reef and could be observed for 30 seconds. These 30 secs will persist in my mind as one of the best experiences in Seychelles. "
We're happy you guys were able to experience the diving side of Seychelles since we had been so focused on snorkeling and reef ID. Best of luck to your master's and thanks for all your hard work here!