Wow - it was busy, and then quiet and then busy again. I was very busy in assisting with an open water course with 4 people for the first few days. The first open water dive was quite an experience. We finished the confined water skills for the 4 open water students and a Discover Scuba Student (a single introductory dive for people who just want to see if diving is for them) and then headed off to deeper waters to take them on their first dive. So we had 5 students between the 2 of us. No sooner than the instructor would help one of the students start swimming underwater near the corals than another one (who'd previously been swimming quite comfortably underwater) would pop up to the surface (okay we were only at 3m) and then to make things even more fun 2 of the students got bored and decided to go off exploring on their own and I was banging my tank to try and get their attention to stay with the group. Fortunately the rest of the course went off pretty uneventfully.
Gato IslandOn the last day of the course we'd decided that the last dive - OW4 - was going to start at 10am, so I walked into the shop a little later than usual (no 4am start fortunately!) when Matt came up to me and asked if I'd seen the changes on the board ... We had a day trip (2 dives) organised to Gato Island (about 45 mins north of Malapascua) and I was now going in 30 mins as one of the DM's was sick and the other was on leave. The kitchen staff were on the ball and asked me what I wanted for lunch - and then I looked at the sea. That sent me frantically running around looking for sea sick tablets as I knew I'd not survive the boat trip otherwise. The first dive at Gato was pretty uneventful and I took up the rear of the group. Fortunately our group consisted of the newbies and we finished after about 40 minutes and we got safely on the boat and waited for the 2nd group to emerge. While we were waiting in the lee of the island the sky got progressively darker and I watched as the rain came closer. At some point I wondered where the other group was and looked out to see that their red balloon (SMB) poking out of the sea - "good," I thought "they're coming up" but while they waited out their 3 minute stop the current took them away from the lee of the island and into the waves. It was pretty hairy watching the boat crash up and down while the divers were trying to get gear off and back on. We ducked back into the lee for lunch and waited for the storm to pass over, but decided against a 2nd dive on the island and made our way back to Malapascua where I was told that I would be guiding the dive on Deep Slope with Dave, an instructor bringing up the rear. Well, talk about having to be prepared for just about anything. This was a day where nothing went according to plan and it was all about adapting to the circumstances. The next morning I'd volunteered to accompany a fun diver to Monad Shoal to see thresher sharks at 5am (alongside the instructor who was running a deep adventure dive) and arrived to find that another 2 divers had signed up after I'd left the shop - more changes! But all went well, except that we didn't see any sharks (I've seen them on 4 of the 5 dives I've done in that location).
And then the dive shop got quiet. Slowly the clients were departing and we were down to 2 fun divers! Now I was able to start working on the requirements for my certification. Unfortunately it didn't get off to a good start :( with my scoring a 1 on the 400m swim and having difficulty performing the expanding square in the search and recovery exercise. As the dive shop was still empty (and the weather had calmed down) a 2 dive trip to Tapilon Wreck was planned (south west of the island). This was a scenario dive for me and I had 4 of the DM's acting like clients to see if I could manage them - it was quite an experience trying to look after 4 people who were deliberately doing stupid things to see if I could manage them. The wreck is a Japanese cargo ship that was sunk in 1944 and you can see some of the cargo lying scattered on the sea bed - including ammunition casings and what looks like a box of baked beans, but actually are grenades. At some point we heard a sharp explosion followed shortly by another and I wondered if this was part of the scenario, or if the grenades had gone off - but it was a local fisherman dynamite fishing in the vicinity. Too close for my comfort.
At the moment I'm finding the physical side of things - carrying tanks to and from the boat very tiring and trying and that is impacting my ability to focus on the other aspects of the course. The good news is that I'm getting stronger and am able to do more and more, although I'm still concerned about completing the physical stamina tests.