TEFL courses online

Red Sea

"I'm stood on board a rather nice boat floating in the Red Sea. The sun is hot. Damn hot. Everything is blue and yellow: the sky a light blue, the sea a slightly darker and choppier blue; the horizon is a sort of dusty yellow with the suggestion of buildings rising out of a dry haze like something from an HP Lovecraft novel.

I've spent 3 days reading diving manuals and watching videos and even doing a bleedin' exam before getting this far. I've come a long way from shitting myself in the (freezing) shallow end of the hotel swimming pool wearing a mask and trying to breath through what felt like a piece of school-toilet plumbing. I have learned to embrace the wonderful simplicity of the breathing mechanism - I'm assured I could puke two pork-curries into it and it would still allow me to inflate my lungs seamlessly beneath the waves.

This was my first 'proper' dive. 12 metres. We'd already had a scare an hour earlier. A sudden gust of wind had blown some clothes into the water. My psycho-ex leapt in gleefully to retrieve them, being the 'dolphin-model-collector hippy-festival-peace-chic but-really-I'm-just-screaming-inside-with-the-cold-purposelessness-of-it-all' type: anything to please and prove that she was on top of it all was the order of the day.

On her way back a few of us started jumping up and down excitedly on the boat pointing at something gliding eerily toward her beneath the glassy waters. My ex took a breathlessly vigilant detour to avoid what turned out to be a large black bin liner. We thought it was a massive Sting-ray: we were so dissapointed. More so at the evidence of this kind of pollution rather than the thought of my ex getting eaten/stung/dragged to a watery grave. It was the sort of thing you expected to see in The Thames, not in the Red Sea. But I cannot convey the strange terror I experienced watching this thought-to-be-animal drifting like a jet-black ghost beneath the water. It was utterly alien and steeled my nerves for the experience ahead. Just snorkeling at a local beach I'd already been surrounded by a gang of Barracuda and nearly headbutted by a Trigger fish. Earlier in my youth whilst snorkeling off the coast of Italy I nearly drowned when a stray bread-bun floated into the side of my mask.

Once, in the south of France, I'd swam back to the shore with one arm in order to minimise the spread of Jellyfish poison through my other arm (it turned out to be little worse than a nettle sting).

The sea and I had history. It was such a fun place.

I was getting quite excited.

We had a pre-dive lecture from one of the instructors. He gave us a run down of some of the things he'd seen in the waters where we were about to dive. The last thing he mentioned was sharks. I felt a ripple of concern followed by a tense I'm-not-going-to-say-anything-or-I'll-sound-stupid vibe flutter through our mostly English entourage. I raised my hand politely and enquired as to the size of these sharks. The instructors looked at each other: "last one I saw around here was about a metre long," one of them said, "they won't bother you. Just leave them alone."

Like I was going to poke it with a stick or nick its eggs or something.

About half an hour later we reached our spot. We kitted up: checked our suits and belts and tanks. We were using what's called the 'buddy system'. Your buddy checks your gear and you do theirs. You do everything with your buddy. Everything. Above and below the water.

It was now minutes before we were due to dive and Roy, my instructor, came centre-stage of the boat for a last-minute pep-talk. He was a small guy, ex-army: the guy was a Jedi underwater. Quite amazing. A nice, friendly guy and incredibly professional. I'm proud to have learned under him, partly because the other one was a tw#t.

Anyway, Roy stood centre-stage and addressed us all. Everyone went quiet.

"I just wanted to say, if you do see a shark," suddenly the creaking of the boat and the wind was the only thing you could hear, "this is what you must do."

He regarded us with his small pale blue eyes. I could imagine him in the army. He wasn't smiling. This was serious business. He was giving us information that might save our lives.

"Most importantly, do not lose sight of the shark", sounded sensible, I thought, "they tend to like to come in from behind, so keep your eye on them," sneaky bastards, "get back to back with your buddy and that way they can't come around you and you won't be swimming 'round in circles like a gimp."

He let that first rule sink in. My thighs were burning they were that tense. I thought, what is this the flipping SAS?

"Secondly," again that pause, those serious little pale blue eyes, "you get your bearings. You look up and find the boat. It'll be above your head somewhere unless you're upside down. Don't spend too long looking for it or the f#cker'll 'ave ya."

We all nodded. I remember seeing one of the guys staring darkly at the floor.
"Once you've got the boat in your sights and you've got your bearings, get your knife out, stab your buddy in the back and swim for the boat as fast as you can."

With that he walked off. Knives? I was thinking: I don't have a knife. I looked around for the knives. I was about to raise my hand and say "I don't have a knife" when I realised we'd been had.

I was shitting myself for what felt like five minutes while he was making that speech.

The relief washed over us and we all laughed. One guy couldn't stop laughing.

Two minutes later I was jumping in the water. It's a stunning experience. All I can say is imagine a cathedral made from blue glass with a sandy floor: that's what it was like. Sun rays shimmering all around you, stunning.
But I kept my eye on that hazy distance, always on the look out for something circling us. Something big (a metre or more), grey, shark-like. But I think it's a good job they didn't give us knives. I was pretty jumpy for the first ten minutes or so. Somebody could have got seriously hurt."


If you have a story to tell click here

Words by Calvin Lennox