Divers walk down the beach towards the boat as strangers. The boat crew and dive guides carry the gear and air cylinders. Two newly certified divers seem a little nervous about their first fun dive while a life-long diver exudes confidence and marches towards the boat. Others seem to be each in their own mind focusing on the dive ahead.
The gear boxes, marked with each diver’s name, are placed under the bench and the respective diver sits above them. The engine roars to life and the anchor is lifted. The Divemaster gives a boat briefing, showing the location of the coffee, fresh water basin, and emergency equipment. He lightens the mood by pointing out the toilet as well as the kitchen, asking divers not confuse them! A polite chuckle from the divers breaks the ice. The outrigger pulls away from its mooring and the group heads towards the dive site.
As the sun breaks through the morning clouds, a diver goes to the front of the boat to catch a few rays. Another diver follows suit and strikes up a conversation about travel in the Philippines. Two other divers make their way to the coffee station and begin to debate the best recipe for instant coffee. While one diver believes the magic is in the amount of sugar, the other jokes that it’s really in the way you stir. In the end, it’s the local guide’s mixture that receives rave reviews and he is declared the winner. Their laughter can be heard well above the noise of the engine.
As the outrigger approaches the dive site, the Divemaster instructs divers to start gearing up. A girl travelling on her own breaks the renewed tension by joking about how much she hates putting on her wetsuit. While it keeps her warm in the water, it always seems so tight above the surface. Divers nod and laugh in hearty agreement. The buddy check between divers warms the air even more. No longer strangers, they are now in teams of two, ready to support one another below the surface. With the Divemaster’s exciting briefing about where they will go and what they might see, any lingering nerves dissipate. Diver after diver takes a giant stride into the blue.
The dive goes exactly as planned and as each diver climbs up the ladder, the volume of noise on the boat ascends as well. “Did you have a good dive?” the Divemaster asks. “Yes!” they exclaim, almost in unison. “Did you see that Blue-ringed Octopus?” a diver asks another. “Yep, it was so cool!” she responds. “Wow, those two Flamboyant Cuttlefish were really something! Are they always together?” a diver asks the Divemaster. “Yes, most often,” he replies. As they remove their equipment, divers compare how many Frog Fish they each saw; one saw three while others spotted four. Air cylinders are secured, the outrigger is untied from the mooring line, and the engine roars back to life. The boat heads back to the dive shop now full of excitement and laughter. It’s as though they’ve known each other for years.
As they disembark the boat, divers continue to compare notes. While the dive guides and crew unload the boat, divers sit at the picnic tables outside the Devocean shop and fill in their log books. “What was that funny-looking fish fluttering over the sand?” the newly certified divers ask the group. The veteran diver explains that it was a “Cuttlefish”. The veteran diver follows up explaining that the pygme seahorse they saw was rare and even he had only seen it once before. Two divers who brought Go-Pros with them show their fellow divers some of the photos and video footage they got of two Boxer Shrimp that appear to be mating. Laughter envelops the group. As they comb through the acquatic life encyclopedias, they share diving stories about where they’ve been or where they are going. Before they depart Devocean, they trade contact information and add one another to Facebook. Not only did the divers make lasting memories below the surface, but they also found life-long friends above.