My time in Moheli ended up being completely different to what I had initially planned.
I had expected to snorkel and swim, and I had also booked us in for a ‘beginners guided dive’ to give us a taste of the scuba diving experience. I had no idea that I would leave Moheli with my PADI Open Water Certification – but I am so glad that I did.
We met one of the Laka Lodge dive instructors on our first night in Moheli and hit it off with her pretty immediately. A Czech native that had just obtained permanent residency in Australia, Katt was outgoing, likeable and seriously fun to be around. We chatted for a bit about our guided dive and ended up deciding to try and smash out our open water course instead.
I wish I could say that it was the magic of the Comoros that made me want to do it, but actually, it was mostly Katt. We got on with her so well that we thought she’d be the perfect person to teach us how to dive.
I had always planned to learn to dive somewhere where the course was dirt cheap – such as Thailand or Guatemala – and even though my bank account definitely didn’t love the idea of shelling out a chunk of moolah for the course, I am so deeply happy that I did.
Learning to dive started with learning all of the theory. I had thought this would be quite dull, but as it turns out, when you are learning about something that actually excites you, it is the the farthest thing from dull. Plus, we had some truly cringe-worthy nineties era PADI videos to keep us entertained.
Luckily, we smashed out the theory side of things very quickly as we had to be able to go on our dives in the slots that hadn’t already been booked up. If we had been slow on the theory we would never have had time to get all our dives in.
Once that was all done, it was time to actually go diving!
Many people do their first ‘confined water dives’ in a pool, but in the Comoros there aren’t exactly any pools anywhere, so those first dives are done in relatively calm parts of the ocean.
During these confined dives we needed to perform a whole bunch of scuba skills. Many were quite simple, but some were a little trickier! Getting the hang of your buoyancy definitely takes more than a try or two, and taking off your mask, replacing it and clearing it is much more unpleasant than it sounds.
Luckily, we were both able to do almost all of the skills on the first attempt, which meant that we were able to fly through the first few ‘confined water’ dives and get to the good stuff, properly diving and exploring the magical Moheli sea life!
One of the most exciting things we spotted was two octopuses (octopi?) mating! If you look closely, you can see one octopus reaching a tentacle around to another waiting octopus. I had never seen an octopus in the wild before, so to see them mating was really quite fascinating.
When you learn to dive, some of the most important things to learn are the various hand signals which allow you to communicate with your dive buddy. However, watching our instructor Katt signal “sex” wasn’t exactly included in the standard PADI training!
What I really loved about diving, was how it allowed you to get so much closer to the wild for so much longer. It really allows you to appreciate the details of the myriad creatures that call the ocean home.
Another benefit of diving was the reduced impact our presence seemed to have on the wildlife around us. Whenever I go snorkelling and dive down to get a closer look at something, the something in question usually appears quite startled and is quite quick to swim away.
This didn’t seem to happen when diving. I think that this is largely due to the much slower and calmer movements one exhibits while diving. It meant that the fish didn’t really pay us any mind and we got to get so much closer to everything.
A prime example was this butterfly fish! When we got right up close, it just continued picking away at the coral, appearing completely unbothered by our prying eyes.
One of the most exciting fish that we spotted was this lionfish – it just has such a unique appearance.
Learning to dive only left me with one regret – that I hadn’t done it sooner! The cost and required time had successfully kept me at bay for many years, but I honestly can’t believe I let those factors stop me.
Snorkelling is a wonderful way to see the ocean, but diving just provides so much more time, access and understanding.
To anyone who has been wanting to learn to dive but has been putting it off, I urge you, go and do it as soon as you possibly can.
I can guarantee that you will not regret it.
Safe travels and Happy Holidays!
Getting to Grand Comore: This is one of the least well connected airports, you will need to get yourself to either Addis Ababa (Ethiopian Airlines), Nairobi (Kenya Airways) or Dar Es Salaam (Air Tanzania or AB Aviation)
Getting to Moheli: From Moroni (Grand Comore) you have two options. If travelling in a large group it may be cost effective to travel via boat, but as a couple it would have been quite expensive, so we flew with the Comorian airline – AB Aviation – for our domestic flights
Laka Lodge: One night in a beach bungalow starts at €80 for one person or €140 for two including all meals – for more information click here
Camera: Images captured with a Sony DSC-RX100-III with Sony underwater housing
Remember: Getting your PADI Open water certification may seem quite expensive, but it opens up a whole new world of underwater opportunities for you, and it is well worth the moolah!