Getting Lost: Just Add Water!

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Getting lost is always an experience for good reasons – surface or in the depths!

Some of the greatest travel stories come from getting lost, or losing yourself, in a new place…

Travel is about exploration, and some of the most fulfilling exploration happens when we lose ourselves — in a place, in a culture or in an experience.

A traveler is never annoyed getting lost, for many it is more enjoyable and could lead to discoveries and more surprises. One may wander a bit, but can always find the way. You know, that innate sense of direction, the traveler’s feet are with invisible compass! Admittedly, the advent of modern technology has made navigation a lot easier and worry-free.

I have my own share of stories on going astray and expectedly I was back on course, in the end I always find my way. But what about if one is in the depths? You suddenly find yourself floating deep down alone. You desperately look for some sign – bubbles, shadows, sounds or an obscured image of another diver. You lost your buddy, your DM or separated from the group – it wasn’t your fault, of course. It is challenging indeed, I have my own stories to tell.

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This elusive scorpion fish is right in front of me! The plankton season triggered the greenish hazy visibility.

Few years back, I was a newbie and had no dive computer yet, I went diving with my mentor after his invitation. I was learning with my new point & shoot camera. Although the waters was bit choppy, it was a warm and sunny day. Just perfect! But the waters was all hazy and greenish, it was plankton season then. I was following my DM but carelessly stopped to take photos when we passed-by the colorful reef. Moment later, I was all alone and the poor viz wasn’t really of help. Admittedly, a surge of fear enveloped me and my heartbeat went faster, I wasn’t prepared to be lost. I waited, in case he would try to look for me and incidentally found a rare scorpion fish sitting on the reef in front of me. It was S R T A, the scorpionfish was my inspiration to do my next move sensibly. Obviously, I made it to surface and swam back safely to the boat. I can’t forget the look of my DM’s eyes and chided me for my carelessness. He was deeply worried of my safety.

Indeed, it was heart pounding but it has taught me lessons as well!

In my memorable Tubbataha 2011 dream trip, everyone was praying for good weather and our safety pilgrimage in our paradise. Everything went well, until on the third day. There wasn’t much fuss actually, but the other skipper (there were two in our trip), went back delayed. One of our companion priest was lost – everyone was back on the boat except him. He surfaced later, unwary that everyone was deathly worried for him. Some of the ladies were crying already. Just few weeks our trip, a foreign national was missing while diving in Tubbataha.

It was not heart pounding for the one lost, but everyone in his group was affected!

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Clouding over the reef are juvenile fish – a sight to behold whilst waiting for my DM. Beyond four meters was zero visibility

Just few months back, we explored Guiuan, Eastern Samar for diving. Although it wasn’t in the diving map, the costal town has its own share of promising underwater sites. The devastation from Typhoon Yolanda was undeniably obvious – surface or underwater, but it wasn’t the reason why I was lost. We went only shallow at 14 meters, sans a dive computer after mine went flooded few months earlier. This time again, the visibility was poor after a passing storm. I lost my dive buddy first, our DM signaled he would find him and I must stay stationed on my spot. So, I waited. I looked around and entertained my eyes watching the thriving marine life over a reef. A cloud of juvenile anthias over some corals and a heard of groupers on another side, still it was hazy and beyond four meters was nothing! I had enough air and I waited further, just enjoying the waters and hazy view around me. The cloudy environment has that touch of mystery to me! I was oblivious of the time as I waited. Unknowingly, they all surfaced without me – our DM lost me as well. When I surfaced, the tension was noticeable – my companions were all watching out the surface for me. My dive buddy ran out and hugged me, obviously grateful I was back safe.

I felt sorry for the aftermath, our DM got sick and aborted our second dive. I hid my disappointment but as DM, he should be in control especially on such situations. Where is the S R T A technique? Our safety relied much on our DM who was obviously unprepared!

It wasn’t heart pounding on my part but it has taught me lessons again!

My early lessons in diving taught me that we can not eliminate risks but it is my responsibility to minimize and manage possible risks and must not undermine safety. Just like other things in life, risks are inevitable and we can’t always know we’ll be alright. Sometimes, I just need to do all I can and go with the flow and let things happen. The experience undoubtedly made me a stronger person.

Have you been lost whilst diving? Just one principle to remember – relax, think and do come out of the water alive. Your companions are anxiously waiting for you. Here’s to a safe diving as we begin another diving year this 2015!

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