The alien world beneath the turquoise waves is indescribably beautiful. It is a world of vibrant coral gardens, lush kelp forests, vast sea grass, deep abysses, and towering mountains. It is also a world of strange creatures; you can see more living organisms under the sea in 10 minutes than on land. In the watery depths are millions of species, many of which remain unidentified.
However, exploring the kingdom under the sea is a dangerous endeavor. The cold temperature and the pressure can kill a person. Toxic marine organisms can snuff out a life with a bite. There are sharks, whales, and other aggressive animals that can turn our place in the food cycle upside down. But the main biggest hindrance to exploring this world is that unlike fish, we can’t breathe underwater. We need to use special gear to breathe, move, and survive in this alien world.
Scuba (short for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) is a specialized set of gear that, when properly used, allows a person to breathe underwater. The keyword here is “properly.” With proper use, scuba gear, just like all other specialized gear, can definitely work for your safety, convenience, and enjoyment. Improper use, on the other hand, can lead to inconvenience, accidents, or even death.
Since Sweetie and I have expanded our playground under the sea, we need to know how to properly use scuba gear. We need to know what to do in case something wrong (e.g. we run out of air, our masks get ripped off, we lose consciousness, etc.) happens while underwater. We need to develop skills that enable us to explore other dive sites. To do that, we need to be certified and licensed divers.
Good thing that my first-degree cousin, Jonjie, is a professional, high-level IDC Staff instructor associated with PADI (Professional Association of Dive Instructors). He happily agreed to handle our PADI Open Water Diver Certification.
I earned my PADI Open Water Diver license last March 2014 while Sweetie completed her training and acquired her license last July 2014. Thus, this article will cover both my and Sweetie’s certification, which was held in Kontiki Dive Resort. Taking the course with Sweetie was Kristian, a new friend and a fellow adventurer.
Training started with a simple signing of waivers and application forms.
Then actual classroom training began. Most of the time, we watched informative and modular instructional videos by PADI. Jonjie, however, stayed close by so that he can address our questions.
Normally, the five modules of PADI’s Open Water Diver Course instructional video are distributed in the course of two to three days. However, we decided to view all the modules in one sitting so we could focus on the actual dives and practical training in the coming days without interruption.
After the video, we answered a simple 100-question test to gauge how we understood the principles of diving.
Excited for the dives, guys? Sweetie and Kristian struggled with their wet suits until Jonjie showed us cool techniques that make donning wetsuits easier and faster.
The actual practical training began. Jonjie briefed us on what we learned from the video, the principles of diving, the etiquette of diving, safety protocols, and other important things that we need to know. Just look at Sweetie’s and Kristian’s intense concentration.
How to properly and efficiently assemble our equipment was the first thing we needed to learn. Here, Jonjie taught us the different parts of a standard buoyancy control device (BCD) and how to attach it securely to the cylinder tank.
Once that was done, Jonjie explained the parts of a standard regulator set with an A-clamp first stage, primary regulator, Octopus (a secondary or spare regulator), and a submersible pressure gauge (SPG).
Jonjie showed us how to properly, efficiently, and safely attach the regulator to the cylinder. This needs to be done correctly to prevent air from leaking out of the valves.
Also, notice how he pointed the SPG downwards with its face to the ground. That’s to prevent injury in case the SPG explodes from the high-pressure air released from the cylinder.
The next step was to learn how to breathe through the regulator; yes, there is a proper way of breathing. Jonjie also taught us how to wear and use a mask and how to purge water if it somehow gets inside your mask.
Since voice communications is impossible with standard scuba equipment, divers communicate underwater using simple hand signals.
“Got it? No questions? Good! Now let’s see you do what I just did,” Jonjie told us. Here, Sweetie and Kristian assembled their own scuba unit with Jonjie’s supervision.
Jonjie is a very hands-on instructor. He makes sure that we don’t miss the tiniest details. He calls our attention to the most trivial mistakes.
The weight belt allows a diver to counter his or her natural buoyancy, allowing him or her to sink in the water. The belt needs to be loaded with the right weight—too light and the diver won’t sink. Too heavy and the diver would be in an awkward position underwater.
Additionally, the belt needs to be oriented properly so it can easily be disengaged underwater in case of an emergency.
After a final check, we were ready to dive. Just take a look at our brimming, excited faces.
Jonjie also taught us how to don the flippers and the BCD in the easiest, fastest way possible. Oh yes, we didn’t have to wrestle with the straps, clips, and buckles!
Time to enter the water. In the Confined Water Diving section of the actual training, the usual training venue is supposed to be a swimming pool. But Kontiki Resort has a nice pool-like section near its shore.
Also, we thought it is actually better to train in a pool-like environment rather than in an actual pool. That’s because we can train in the actual environment that we’re going to dive (i.e. the sea). It’s also more interesting to train here since you can see lots of fish, sea grass, rocks, etc., rather than the tiled floor of a pool.
Jonjie also showed us the steps to make a proper descent, which involves signalling your partner, getting your bearings, etc. before actually going down.
In case you are wondering what is that contraption we’re holding, that’s the BCD’s inflator/manual deflator hose. By pressing certain buttons, you can add air or deflate the BCD to adjust your buoyancy.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t use our waterproof camera; it got busted during our holiday in El Nido, Palawan. So to give you a glimpse of the training underwater, I’ll just use photos taken during my certification when the camera was still able to take underwater shots. Someday, we may recreate the training and take photos of what happens underwater.
Jonjie allowed us to breathe underwater for a few minutes to get used at the sensation. Let me tell you, your first breath underwater is a memorable, indescribable experience. Suddenly, you feel free!
Stop right there and look at me, Jonjie signaled. While we watched him, Jonjie performed the different set of skills that we need to master. After watching him perform the skill and giving him the okay sign that we got it, he tells us to do what he just did.
Everything seemed so easy, but believe me—at times, we completely failed!
Some skills are fairly easy to do. But don’t let that ease fool you because such “simple” skills can get handy underwater. Here, I took the regulator off my mouth for a few seconds then place it back again. Sounds simple, right?
Well, not when you’re panicking underwater! Yes, it can happen. What if your hose snags on a branch of coral, ripping your regulator off your mouth? What if your dive body accidentally hits your regulator, which disengages from your mouth? That’s why we need to master this seemingly simple skill so that we would know what to do when such mishaps happen.
This was one of the most uncomfortable and challenging skills I had to perform. I’m not used to swimming with my eyes open. But Jonjie sternly told me that I should do that; what if my mask gets dislodged? I did so, and it felt really weird with cool water caressing my eyeballs.
After getting used to that new feeling, I had to put my mask back again and purge the water out of it. Whew!
After determining that we have performed a set of important skills correctly, Jonjie led us farther down the reef to a depth of 30 feet. Here, we practiced maintaining neutral buoyancy, which is one of the factors that define a good diver.
In simple terms, neutral buoyancy means that you don’t sink or float. Rather, you hover above the corals and seabed like an astronaut in space. When you’re neutrally buoyant, you
- won’t damage the delicate corals under you
- will be more relaxed
- won’t move excessively
- conserve your air
Neutral buoyancy can be achieved through controlled breathing and the right amount of air in the BCD.
As a diver goes deeper, the increase of water pressure starts to press on his ears. The sensation is uncomfortable and painful and can cause permanent ear damage if not addressed right away.
To counteract the pressure, a diver needs to equalize the pressure. Equalizing involves holding one’s nose shut and blowing into it (just like you’re getting rid of snot when you have a cold), swallowing, or shaking the jaw side to side. Any of these actions counteract the outside pressure.
After spending 45 minutes to an hour underwater, we surfaced and climbed back to the resort. Jonjie then gave an evaluation of our diving performance and offered tips on how to improve our skills. Judging from Sweetie’s and Kristian’s smiles, it’s obvious that they did quite well!
After taking a light lunch, we dived back into the water, reviewed the skills we learned that morning, learned new skills, and had another evaluation of our performance.
The next weekend, we went back to Kontiki to complete the training and certification. Sweetie (and Kristian as well) became clearly more adept with the gear as she assembled her scuba unit on her own with very little supervision.
Checking your diving partner’s scuba gear is a must before diving. We want to make sure that everything is working the way it should be.
Sweetie and Kristian became truly excited when they entered the water as they gained more confidence in their skills. Gone was the fear and apprehension.
The last two open-water dives involved reviewing the skills that we learned, learning new skills, and diving to a depth of 60 feet. As we went deeper, we began to realize just how bit and alien this world is. Giant corals of all kinds, mollusks that we’ve never seen before, strange fish, and all kinds of aquatic flora bloomed on the kantil’s wall. Such mystery! Such beauty!
But the best highlight of all was that we saw a huge, menacing barracuda along the rock wall. Like any other responsible outdoorspeople, we kept our distance. Too bad we weren’t able to bring a camera to take a photo of the creature.
After successfully completing and mastering a few more skills, we, at last, became licensed PADI Open Water Divers! Here are the happy students and the proud teacher!
With practice, safely and properly disassembling the scuba gear now felt “natural.”
See that 100 peso bill under my mask? It was a bonus! I found it on the seabed while going back to shore. I kid you not!
A great experience always ends with a simple but sumptuous meal.
After a month or two, a special mail came to our door. Yes, you guessed it. It’s my PADI ID straight from Australia! I’m officially a PADI Open Water Diver!
Sweetie’s PADI Open Water ID is still being processed, so she got this temporary ID. Her permanent ID will be sent to her within a few months.
Congratulations to Sweetie, Kristian, and me! With our PADI Open Water Diver certifications, we can now broaden our horizons (or in this case, depths) and discover more of the spectacular underwater world with a new-found confidence and respect.
And all of these wouldn’t be a reality if it were not for our extremely knowledgeable, competent, firm, and no-nonsense instructor Jonjie Deparine. Now we understand why you are known as one of the best instructors in the industry; we experienced it first-hand! Thank you so much for bringing us to your playground, Jonjie!
With your training, we are now ready to explore other dive sites, marine sanctuaries, and reefs and become custodians of Mother Nature in our own small way.
1. If you have never tried scuba diving before but are interested in giving it a shot, we recommend booking a DSD session first before going for full-diver certification. This will give you a “feel” of scuba diving, which will help you decide if the sport is for you.
Visit our WithLocals Discover Scuba Diving at Enchanting Kontiki experience if you wish to book a DSD session with us. You can also contact us through our:
Please provide us your cellphone number in your messages so we can easily contact you.
2. If, after your DSD, you decide to become a licensed scuba diver, then you may want to have yourself certified. Sweetie and I are certified under PADI (Professional Association of Dive Instructors), the largest recreational diving membership and diver training organization in the world. The PADI Open Water Diver Certification Course is an entry-level, full-diver certification course that serves as a gateway to more advanced courses. Click here to learn more about the PADI Open Water Diver Certification Course.
3. As a duly certified PADI Open Water Diver, you gain several benefits:
- Obviously, you can dive safer and better because you have the necessary skills.
- You can avail of the services of PADI affiliated dive resorts, centers, shops, and other establishments worldwide.
- Within the limits of your certification, you can dive in various dive sites all over the world with a dive buddy independent of a Divemaster or instructor. Of course, it is still strongly recommended that you dive with a Divemaster or instructor in a dive site that is new to you, if you are still not confident of your skills, or if you wish to dive beyond the limits of your certification.
- You can save money since you won’t have to pay for a divemaster or instructor (but see point above).
- Dive resorts, centers, and shops will allow you to rent or purchase scuba equipment. Many scuba establishments won’t allow you to do so if you don’t have proof that you are a certified diver; your certification assures them that you know what you’re doing.
- You get dive invitations locally and globally.
- And more!
4. Our dive instructor, Jonjie Deparine, can train and fully certify you as a PADI Open Water Diver. Get in touch with us so we can arrange your certification course with him.
5. The PADI Open Water Diver Certification rate includes:
- PADI Open Water Diver Manual
- Classroom instruction
- Short exams
- 5 Confined Water Dives (instead of training in a swimming pool, you will start the actual scuba instruction at KonTiki’s house reef)
- 4 Open Water Dives
- Complete Scuba gear rental
- Instructor’s Fee
- Entrance Fee at KonTiki Resort
- All application forms
- Laminated PADI Open Water Diver ID (within 90 days after completion of the course)
- Free snorkeling and swimming after each session
You need 3 to 4 days to complete the PADI Open Water Diver Certification course.
6. If you are taking any medications or if you are suffering from an ailment, please bring a medical statement from your doctor that you are fit and able for scuba diving.
7. To get to Kontiki Dive Resort, follow the directions below:
- In Opon/Lapu Lapu City, ride a jeepney going to Soong, Maribago.
- Ask the driver to drop you off at Julie’s Bakeshop (left side) right before Imperial Palace (or tell the driver to drop you off at Julie’s Bakeshop at Iskina Datag).
- From Julie’s bakeshop, follow that road and turn right; there are signs that point you to Kontiki or you can ask for directions. Kontiki is at the dead end of that road. You can ride a habal-habal (P20 per head. Convenient but expensive!) or endure a 15-minute hike.
8. All PADI Courses are performance-based. In other words, you learn by doing the required skills. Jonjie will let you master each skill before proceeding to the next. This system enables you to work your way through the course at a pace that is fit and comfortable for you.
9. Relax and enjoy the course, but listen carefully and follow your instructor. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. If you are having trouble mastering a particular skill, feel free to ask the instructor to demonstrate the skill again. Remember that the underwater world is beautiful but hazardous, so you need to master basic diving skills in order to make your dive efficient, enjoyable, and safe.
10. Important things to bring:
- water (at least a liter)
- rashguard (or tight-fitting dry-fit shirt), board shorts, or cycling shorts.
- extra dry clothes
- extra money