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? Manta Dive, Gili Trawangan, Indonesia
⚓ Biorock Reef
⏱ 48 minutes
? 20m
? April 2018
♬ When Night Falls, by Barbarix (licensed under CC BY 2.0, sourced from Free Music Archive)
? Footage courtesy of Mandi Manson, edited with iMovie

When I first did my open water course in March last year, I had the worst conditions imaginable for my maiden dip in the ocean. There was a cyclone off the coast a few days prior, which resulted in zero visibility and current from hell when I did my first four open water dives. This led to my discovering that I’m actually a little claustrophobic, a suffocating sensation I’d never experienced before.

Despite this, I wanted to do the “Night & Limited Visibility” speciality as the final dive during my SSI Advanced Adventurer course, firstly because I love challenging myself to do things that terrify me, and secondly because I’ve heard countless stories about how incredible it is and wanted to see for myself what all the fuss was about.

I had the safety net of a close friend with decades of diving experience as my dive buddy and an awesome instructor whom I trusted, so I knew that this was the best opportunity for me to have what I thought would be a terrifying dive. I expected to hate it and simply tick off the experience on my little life log and move on. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I absolutely LOVED it! From the second my head sank below the surface, I fell in love with this sport all over again. Okay, in truth, that happens every time I hit the water. I am constantly surprised by the surreal and exquisite world that I find myself submerged in, and this dive was no different. It opened up a whole new dimension.

I felt like an explorer discovering new lands, armed only with my torch and a whole heap of wide-eyed wonder. You can see way more than I expected in the dark depths and I didn’t feel the least bit claustrophobic because I was far too busy having the best time. I think perhaps the claustrophobia I’d experienced during my OW course was simply a once-off reaction to those overwhelming first few days in the water, as I haven’t felt that sensation since then.

The dive was at the Biorock Reef, which is one of several artificial reefs set up to regenerate and populate damaged reef, and increase the biodiversity of marine life. It’s an ongoing project in several parts of Indonesia, and it’s awesome to see the positive impact that these structures have had.

As I’ve said before, any dive with an octopus is an exceptional dive, and from all the stories I’d heard about certain creatures being far more active at night, I knew that my chances were pretty good on this one. I wasn’t disappointed, and had my best sighting of my favourite little alien thus far, chilling on a rock for a while before edging its way into its rocky hiding place. We also watched two hermit crabs have a splendid quarrel about something very important, watched little worms swimming chaotically in the torch light before disintegrating at the slightest water movement, and marvelled at the plankton light up when we switched our torches off. It was all exquisitely captivating.

I’m a little bummed that I didn’t take my GoPro with me on this dive. I love recording my dives, but with the extra (mountain of) nerves ahead of this dive, I’d decided that taking any additional gear with me probably wasn’t a good idea. I realised that I was totally wrong the second I got in the water and instantly regretted that overly-cautious decision, but thankfully my trusty buddy had her camera and documented the occasion for me… including my very happy dance down main street on my way back to the dive centre.

I have to give a massive shout out to Victor from Manta Dive for guiding me through my SSI Advanced Adventurer course so professionally and making it such rad fun at the same time. I feel so much more confident in the water and had an absolute blast learning new skills and challenging what I thought my limits were.

TOP TIP: If you’re planning to dive on the Gili islands, get in touch with Manta Dive. The dive centre is awesome, with a professional team, a damn fine breakfast, and super cool accommodation.