More Than Colorful Coral

I’M ALWAYS AMAZED at what people will do for love. My girlfriend, who is terrified of the ocean, announced that she wanted to learn to dive and then accompany me on a trip to Raja Ampat, Indonesia. I was thrilled. We come from different backgrounds and always look for activities we can do together. 

Andrea decided to get certified in Brazil, where she lives, before the trip so we could spend all our time together diving. The first night of theory instruction went well, but the next day’s pool session did not. Her BCD was too big, and her weight belt slipped past her waist. While Andrea struggled in ill-fitting gear, the rest of the class quickly learned the skills. As she became more frustrated, the instructor grew more impatient. 

After a terse command to “just kneel on the bottom of the pool,” Andrea gave up and got out. The instructor asked her what was wrong. She tried to explain about the improper equipment and her fear of water. “Maybe you should see a psychologist,” was the instructor’s advice. Andrea burst into tears and left.

Andrea heads out for her first dive in Indonesia with the rest of the dive group.
Andrea heads out for her first dive in Indonesia with the rest of the dive group.

She called me later, feeling like a complete failure. “I’m sorry, but I just can’t do it,” she sobbed. After she calmed down, I called Kyle, my dive partner. Kyle has been an instructor and a dive shop owner and has done almost everything related to diving. He suggested that Andrea finish the theory part of the class and then complete the practical training and certification in Indonesia. Andrea agreed but went one step further. She got some private training and finished her certification before leaving Brazil.

After a joyful reunion in Bangkok, Thailand, we met Kyle at a resort in eastern Indonesia. Andrea was exhausted from traveling and decided to sit out the first day. While she got to know Tika, one of the resort owners, Kyle and I joined eight other divers to explore one of the more than 30 delightful coral reefs nearby.  

After returning from our dive, we helped Andrea suit up with her rental gear and then swam out to the house reef to make sure everything was in order. While Andrea could perform the skills, it was clear that she was not confident. There were also challenging currents in the area, so we agreed that Andrea was not ready to dive with the group.

I offered to stay behind the next day and work with Andrea on some skills to help her gain confidence. That night Tika outlined what we could expect where the boat would be the next day. Andrea sheepishly told Tika why we would not be going with the group. Tika put her arm around Andrea and said, “You should come out with us; I’ll take care of you.”

True to her word, Tika gave up a day of diving to work with Andrea on underwater skills and techniques. The following day, Liké, one of the resort’s dive instructors, promised to keep a close eye on her. By the third day, Andrea was swimming in and around the colorful corals like a mermaid. The rest of the two weeks were better than I could have imagined.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. I have seen immense kindness, assistance, and willingness to share throughout my dive history. Divers are a family, and thanks to a lot of patience and care during our trip, that family added a new member. AD

© Penyelam Siaga — Q4 2023