…and I’m back! Apparently I like to plan all my major activities close together.
This weekend Shane and I drove to the village Scharendijke in Zeeland, which is a province in the south of the Netherlands. Here, we completed our PADI Advanced Open Water certification!
The drive down was only 3 hours and 15 min, or as a co-worker put it… “You’re driving ALL THE WAY there tonight?!” I suppose it’s all a matter of perspective. So we hopped in our snazzy rental car and hit the road!
We stayed in a bed & breakfast that I found online which ended up being (as expected) an elderly couple who rent out three rooms in their house, I would assume, mainly to divers. They were actually completely full when we were there. We weren’t quite sure what to expect as neither one of us have every really stayed in a bed and breakfast type of place before, but after the initial awkward arrival (we couldn’t find the house) it couldn’t have been better. The house was only a 2 min. drive from the dive center, we had our own large room with a sink (shower and toilet were shared), cable/wifi, and breakfast included! The best part, only 80 euro for the whole weekend.
I did have to laugh though because breakfast was SO Dutch. I’m not sure if we’ve mentioned hagelslag before. Hagelslag = sprinkles. Like ice cream sprinkles. And a typical Dutch breakfast (usually for children) will consist of bread with hagelslag. Our breakfast options include 18 DIFFERENT KINDS of hagelslag! I was so impressed. So, naturally, I had to do as the Dutch do. Hagelslag for breakfast it is!
Really though, this place was fantastic and if we dive in Zeeland again we know where we’re staying.
Ok, Ok, enough with the sprinkles and on to the diving!
The course was 5 adventure dives over 2 days. We were required to complete a navigation dive and a deep dive (below 20m/65ft) and the other three are left up to you. We ended up doing peak performance buoyancy, wreck diving, and Nitrox (increased oxygen).
As you might imagine, diving in The Netherlands is much different than diving in Egypt.
First, visibility was, at best, 3-4 meters versus the 7-10 meters in Egypt. Honestly, visibility, especially when we were above 10 meters (33 feet), was a lot better than I anticipated. A lot of people warned us about low visibility, and I think because of that I was expecting a lot worse.
Second, you had to walk a lot further to the dive site! You have to go up and over the current dyke to get to the dock so you can dive over the old dyke, at this particular location at least. There were also way more divers than I ever anticipated! The whole parking lot was full of people diving, or hanging out and watching their friends and family dive. Diving also seems to be one of those activities where everyone is instantly friends with everyone. It was a really fun to be in the middle of it.
The first two dives of the day were the peak buoyancy, which I was happy to have since I felt like I struggled with that before, and navigation. Aka: using a compass underwater. Aka: teach Whitney how to use a damn compass. I mean for real DAD (I blame you!) where was this life lesson when I was little?! Ok, so in all reality he probably did teach me how to use a compass but I forgot. After a 15 min explanation about getting my “boat back into the harbor then swim straight” (the simplest way Shane and the instructor could explain it) I did manage to successfully swim a straight line navigating on my own, and Shane and I together managed to navigate a full square! My friends, I call that a win!
I must say though, Shane and I have very different natural instincts. We had to do an initial navigation test where we had to attempt to swim a straight line underwater without a compass. I veered us towards land. Shane went towards the sea. Here I am trying to get us to land…to AIR!… and Shane is trying to go swim with the big fish. In the future, if we are compass-less, we’re going with my instincts.
The afternoon dive on day 1 was our deep dive. For this to count we had to go below 20 meters, and we made it to 23 (75ft)! Really there wasn’t much point in going deeper. After about 10 meters you couldn’t see anything unless your flashlight was pointing directly at it. It was definitely an eerie experience, and not one I wanted to repeat this weekend. I will definitely do it again, but hopefully somewhere with better visibility. Our instructor did get a few pictures on the way down. I think these only amplified Shane’s lust for a GoPro.
The deep dive was the last of the day, so Shane and I had a little time to explore Scharendijke.
Day 2 was our wreck dive and our Nitrox dive. All the “hard” stuff was over so these two dives were basically just guided fun dives. Our wreck dive ended up being kind of a bust. We went to the Scharendijke port where there are two man-made wrecks at about 10 meters, plus some man-made reef balls. These are actually pretty cool. They are large, half sphere balls with large holes in them. They were placed all around and then just let nature take over! They now house lobsters & crabs and sea squirts and other fun things. I digress. The wreck dive was a bust because the visibility was so bad you could barely see your hand stretched out in front of you. Shane took this picture as an example.
Needless to say, we didn’t stay at this particular site long. We ended up moving closer to to the reef balls where it was shallower & we could see more cool things… like starfish! They were everywhere!
The last dive of the day was actually on our own. This dive we planned together with our instructor, and he sent his baby fish on their way into the water to dive alone! We were back at the original dive site from day 1, so we were diving over the old dyke. We learned that in 1953 this dyke broke, Zeeland flooded, and thousands of people died. You can dive over the old dyke which is now home to a ton of sea creatures. Shane and I spent this dive just creepin over the dyke (and some more reef balls). It’s really amazing the things you see when you go slowly and just watch.
So! Long story short we are now certified advanced divers! A big thank you to our main instructor Teun, and to Wil who took us on our deep dive and sent the pictures.