Maldives Instructor Training - Brittnee's Story
19 November 2023
Apnea Addicts Freediving
Apnea Addicts Freediving School
Freediving - Maldives Intstructor Training
My traveling experience:
Preparation - A Nervous Traveller
When my colleague, Charl Marais, informed me that there was work to be done in one of the most tropical countries of the world, I did what any uneasy traveller might do; Googled how long I’d be in a plane for. Please don’t misunderstand me, I was ecstatic to be there, but what I was not looking forward to was traveling. I’m a nervous traveller. Packing. Flying. Security. Motion sickness. You name it, I am anxious about it.
However, in my mind’s eye, I could see the pearly white beaches, the crystal blue tropical waters, the sights and sounds that would motivate me to get on with the preparations.
About the Island: Omadhoo, South Ahri Atoll
The island that we were going to be visiting forms part of the South Ari Atoll. An Atoll is a ring-shaped island that encircles a lagoon. There are 26 natural Atolls that form what we know as the Maldives. This geographical information was important to us as we would need to plan our dives according to the currents that would pass in and out of the lagoon. This would ensure that we wouldn’t be ripped out to open waters, or end up in a washing machine cycle that is only saved by rescue boats. Fortunately, we had friendly locals with plenty of experience to guide and educate us before our endeavours.
The island of Omadhoo stretches just under 1km, with a width of approximately 300m. This small island is home to your typical coconut trees (of which there were numerous generously scattered around). The coco’s themselves provided a refreshing drink – post dive – colloquially known as “Toddi”, which is harvested as sap from the bough of the coconut trees. Naturally, the ocean is floored with stunning reefs that circumvent the island and have exceptional drop offs that allow you to reach depths between 17m to 35m. Ocean life expands from tropical fish such as the Pallette Surgeonfish (aka Dory), Schooling Bannerfish (aka Gill), Clown Triggerfish (not Nemo), Chocolate Dip Damsel and many others. We were also enticed by several species of rays, including the Feathertail ray, Spotted eagle rays, and Electric rays, which were all quite docile and pleasant (no touching is always the law of the ocean). The only sharks we saw were reef sharks, specifically the whitetip reef shark. I, for one, was glad to have only encountered this species of shark, but reveled in the stories shared amongst our freediving candidates about their experiences with the bigger ocean dwellers.
My traveling experience:
My bags were packed which grew into one large suitcase, one small suitcase, then also a loaded backpack with overnight clothes and toiletries for the flight and finally a set of 5ft fins which I clutched onto ferociously with my last free appendage – quite overwhelming. We had overpacked and needed to stuff my things in with Charl’s things because “only one carry-on is allowed onboard”; the polite and eloquently dressed air hostess informed us, her eyes darting between my innocent nonchalant gaze and the long fins I tried tucking under my arm to make them less noticeable. Charl informed me again that the fins are quite foreign to security and we’d need to have clear and concise descriptions of what these long flippy floppys were. We took to the all-knowing Google and had screenshots of their description and uses in Arab (which would be necessary if we were stopped by security in Doha).
I was perspiring like a proverbial pig by the time our flight landed – almost a nervous wreck. My underarms and other crevices were even more drenched by the time we got off the plane and into the bus, which at least got us out of the 40°C sauna that we’d stepped into (Doha was humid!). We now had to run, but first, security. This was it. The moment of all moments. Would I be pulled off into a dark room with a single light shining bright into the depths of my soul, being questioned by formidable task men? We managed to brazen through the crowds and security (more Charl, than I) and began the ever-so-long trek to our gate. Note to anyone traveling through Doha, give yourself at least 3 hours between flights. We had 30 minutes to get to our gate. We ran.
The final flight was enjoyed with our last top-up of delightful plane cuisine, and alcohol (Omadhoo, being a devout Muslim Island, did not have alcoholic refreshments). Once landed in Malè, we found our companion, Karo, and found a ferry to take us and our many many bags to the boat yard where we’d begin our 90-minute sea excursion to Omadhoo. It was spectacular. The fresh ocean breeze stole my heart and I found myself dozing off to the lulling drone of the engines hitting full-powered on the surface of the ocean.
Then it All Begins
Once we had arrived in Omadhoo harbour, we were greeted by our moped man, from “Scuba Inn”, and walked to our accommodation. We enjoyed a refreshing coconut and plotted our plan for the afternoon. It was about 1pm. We’d just completed 36 hours of flying and at 2pm, our candidates were due to arrive to begin the orientation of our Freediver Instructor Training Course.
By 3pm we jumped into the mystically warm waters of the Maldives. It was like heaven. By 6pm we were tired, yet in good spirits and continued further presentations with our candidates. After this day, I realised that this would be a very long week of very hard work, accompanied with incredible views, and incredible people.
The week was much of the same; diving, presentations, eating, sleeping. You’d think one would grow weary of diving into the same ocean and seeing much of the same things. Yet, with each dive there was always something spectacular to be experienced. With 1km stretch of land, and currents that we had learned to navigate, our shore entrances varied and allowed us to venture different sections of the coral reefs. We’d “jump in” on one side of the island, allow ourselves to drift with the current, and once we’d reach the end of the island, swim back inland, and walk back to our entry point, beginning again. (This is a great way to lose weight). Some marvellous experiences included the sighting of a Sailfish about 100m from our posse of divers, leaping out of the water, quite possibly on the hunt! We had also experienced the brute force of the currents, and at one point, exercised our legs for 10 minutes straight (another great way to lose weight) trying to get to a “safer” diving spot. It was thrilling, and totally memorable.
For those that enjoy food (foodies), cuisine in Omadhoo is simply delicious. I am not much of a foodie but found myself often ravenous (possibly from all the cardio), and was never unsatisfied after the meals at the select few “restaurants”. One favourite was “The Balcony” which was situated on, you guessed it, a balcony. Another was named, The Turtle Garden, which I imagine is named after turtles, which I did not see. There are many delightful eateries in Omadhoo, of which all can be experienced within one week of visiting the island. If you do find yourself visiting, take note that you will be consuming a lot of fried egg, as each dish is served with a fried egg on top of the meal (a great source of protein after all the weight loss).
Being on the island felt much like being on a boat, fully immersed in the ocean’s embrace. The sea enveloped me in a sensory symphony of pure nature, and its endless expanse, painted in shades of blue, enchanted me with its rhythmic ebb and flow. Whether I was floating in the crystalline waters or standing on the jetty alongside local Maldivian fishermen, gazing toward the horizon, the ocean’s allure was a constant marvel.
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Jorney coming to an End
Omadhoo offered a tranquil way of life, one that I aspire to integrate into my own. It taught me the importance of not sweating the small stuff, of finding wonder in life’s mysteries, and of pursuing passion in every endeavour. In the midst of it all, sharing a cup of coffee with friends, even in the late hours, took on a deeper significance, a reminder that each moment is precious, and our next breath is never assured. In the end, my journey to the Maldives, turned out to be more than just a trip; it was a transformative experience.
The adventure of traveling to the island, overcoming airport security with mysterious diving equipment, and finally arriving on this idyllic island, was a testament to the thrill of exploration. The blend of hard work and relaxation, the incredible underwater encounters, and the delicious local cuisine made this journey unforgettable.
But beyond the extraordinary natural beauty and the thrill of exploration, Maldives taught me a valuable lesson about life. The peaceful way of life on the island, the simplicity of nature, and the camaraderie I shared with friends over late-night coffees reminded me to savor every moment, to find passion in all that I do, and to cherish the people around me.
As I reflect on my time in Omadhoo, I’m reminded that life is a precious gift, and it is essential to seize every opportunity to explore, learn, and connect with the world and the people in it. Maldives, with its unending blue waters and the charm of its local way of life, has left an indelible mark on my soul, and I am grateful for the memories and lessons it provided. This experience has taught me to embrace the beauty of the world around us, to dive headfirst into new adventures, and to savor the simple joys of life, for we are not guaranteed our next breath.
WHAT IS AN aTOLL
a coral island consisting of a reef surrounding a lagoon. Examples: The Marshall Islands, in the central Pacific Ocean, consist of five islands and 29 atolls, which are each made up of many islets