Thursday, August 20, 2015

Something Exotic

Written by guest blogger Scott Lindsay:

Guest Blogger and PADI instructor Scott Lindsay
Guest Blogger and PADI instructor Scott Lindsay

When I first arrived on Malapascua, I was probably the same as everyone else. Tired from the journey from Cebu city, and full of anticipation of what I would find on this small tropical island paradise. Like many who visit Malapascua, I came to the island for diving. This is probably the islands number one draw, but add to this the fact it has some beautiful beaches, awesome local residents and amazing food, what more could you ask from paradise?
There are many resorts large and small, and many restaurants offering all kinds of culinary fair. Prices range across the board, and I believe there is something for everyone. One resort in particular stands out from the crowd. That is Exotic Dive resort. Situated a little further away than the main bulk of the islands resorts and restaurants, it really is worth the walk (which is probably no more than 10 minutes from anywhere, as it isn’t a large island).

Thresher shark (Alopias pelagicus) at monad shoal, Malapascau.
Thresher shark (Alopias pelagicus) at monad shoal, Malapascau.
If you decide to stay in the Exotic resort, than you will have almost every need catered for. First they offer the islands original dive centre, and pioneers of the Thresher shark experience. Friendly, professional and incredibly eagle eyed dive guides will take you around many of the surrounding dive sites, pointing out the Thresher sharks, occasional other pelagic life, colourful nudibranchs, different sized frogfish, and mesmerizing flamboyant cuttlefish to name but a few.

Rooms vary in size, price and luxury, and all are well maintained and looked after by the friendly housekeeping staff.  The resort also boasts one of the best restaurants on the island. It takes the whole of about a minute to walk from the ocean to a seat, so after a hard days relaxation on the beach, or after a day of diving, you don’t have far to travel to satisfy the appetite you have worked up.
Exotics beac front restaurant
Exotics beachfront restaurant 
Firstly, let’s start with the staff. All are super friendly, smiling and joking, and always happy to help you. Even at its busiest times (there is a reason it can get busy) they are able to help you with anything you need. Next, let’s look at the menu. Well if choice is something you want, then there is no lack of it here. An Asian/ European fusion with of course some mouth watering Local Filipino dishes and surprising Dutch snacks, with many other favourites thrown in, the only word I can find to describe it is epic. Epically large in choice, epically large in variety, and portion size is never an issue (bring an appetite).  They offer 267 Dishes, which can be easily navigated through the Exotic resort app (currently available for android and soon available in the App store). 

Exotics android app
Exotics app
And if you are after something to wash down these amazing dishes, then happy hour is between 5pm and 7pm (they aren’t shy with the measures) for cocktails, or shakes and juices are available all day. There is also draft beer and quality coffee from the coffee shop style real coffee machine. If you have a sweet tooth, then one of the many deserts will entice you (if you have left room for one). The cheesecake is a particular favorite of mine. Maybe not the best in the world, but considering the location, it really does impress and satisfy.
Breakfast varies from a full buffet at busy times, to just a cup of good coffee for those in a rush (I am not sure where you would be rushing to though). As a diving day can start early here, as with many dive centres (around 4.30am), there is nothing quite like being able to return to a hearty breakfast to fuel you for the rest of the day.
So all in all, Exotic dive resort ticks many boxes. If you dont believe me, come and find out for yourself.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Underwater Transformation

Happy PADI Discover scuba diving participants, Malapascua Exotic Island Dive resort
Happy PADI Discover scuba diving participants

 It’s probably one of those things Instructors get used to, as the number of students they work with increases the smaller details may tend to lose their sharpness. So it is with a Divemaster at the start of an internship, and commencing a professional career these details can be most apparent.

PADI Discover Scuba Diving is a gateway for accessing scuba diving in the shortest possible time while remaining safe. It’s a straightforward ½ day course which can include an open water dive, if the student is capable and up for it.

Today I’m assisting a DSD course, which means I get to meet the guests, ensure all the paperwork is together, sort out their equipment and keep everything running smoothly for my instructor Joa.

Taing your first breaths underwater, PADI Discover Scuba Diving, Malapascua Exotic Island Dive resort
The joy of breathing underwater!
The key thing to remember is that typical DSD students have never taken a breathe underwater before, they may well be a proficient skin diver but the idea of strapping a tank to their back and diving for longer than 30 seconds has only just become a desire for them. For me I originally got into diving because I wanted to see things closer up, and experience the freedom I often observed in Scuba divers while I was trapped at the surface snorkelling.

Todays student Leo, is no exception, I sense his excitement the minute we meet, he tells me he loves snorkelling, but he’s never taken the next step into Scuba, but today is the day. There is a determination I recall from my open water course, even before my confined sessions, knowing the equipment would be on my back and I’d be breathing underwater without having to rush back up to the surface for another breathe.

Joa takes us through the briefing, a few pointers on process and what the in water experience will be like and Leo is head down for his multiple choice quiz. I’m impressed the key safety standards are still maintained, even in this slimmed down course. There is no official accreditation at the end, but the DSD booklet includes a mini log book, a certificate of completion and everything a budding diver needs to know about this course and the potential future courses available.

Finally we are getting on the boat and setting up the kit, the boot is finally on the other foot, I’m setting up a guests’ equipment for them. Leo is ready, we are in the shallow water in-front of the dive shop and ready to get under the water with a regulator for the first time. I’m sure every student is different, but I’m sure they all take that first breathe with the same amazement we all once did. Eyes widen, second breathe, okay brain time to tune in, we’ve just turned into a fish.

PADI Discover Scuba Diving, Try dive, Malapascua Exotic
The more you dive the more you smile :)
The skills requirements and practicing are just the essential safety requirements, we are in the water to do as much as possible for them when we make it onto the dive so it’s a case of clearing mask, recovering regulator and BCD inflation, deflation. Along with the presentation, Leo now has all the elements he needs for the dive. The mask clearance is always difficult, you’ve just worked out you can breathe underwater, now you’ve got to tell your brain to breathe in through your mouth and out through your nose. I can see the frustration in the mask clearance, you can never be sure if the skills will be too much and the student will run out of the water. Leo is sticking with it, tells himself to stop breathing in through his nose, sea water doesn’t taste so good. Then we spot a little baby puffer fish. Joa points to it, Leo looks, points himself and before he’s realised his breathing is calm, he looks at home. We’ve cracked it.

We check with Leo he’s feeling okay, take a short break to all get ready and jump in the flat boat for the short ride to house reef. A brief look over the side and Leo is checking the depth with Joa. 6m, I’ve put a decent line over the side of the boat and Joa and Leo will go down bit by bit with me following along. Plenty of equalisation, we arrive at the bottom, Leo is absolutely loving it and we’ve only done the decent, “Just wait till we start moving” I thought to myself.

Banded sea snake, one of the things you can see at Exotics house reef
This friendly sea snake can be spotted at the house reef
The house reef has plenty to see, though experienced divers definitely forget how little it takes to raise the breathing rate of new divers and DSD students. As we swam around, I had a firm grip on Leo’s tank valve to help him keep balance and buoyancy level, frankly we are both experiencing something new. I’m working with my first DSD student, assisting Joa, with real customers. The sense of responsibility is massive, I know Joa has everything under control and if anything was wrong he’d be ontop of it before I even realised. But I’m still there with Leo, experiencing his first ever dive.

25 minutes in, Leo signals that his ears are no longer enjoying the experience, we aim back to the decent line and do a safety stop. Everything remains calm, and before we know it, we are on the surface, relieving Leo of his equipment and getting him back on board.

It’s now, this very moment that brings it all home to me, Why diving? Why Divemaster? Why IDC and teaching ? Just look at Leo, he’s the happiest diver in the world, a matter of hours ago, he was a snorkeler, dreaming of escaping the surface to dive underwater and experience the freedom. He’s transformed and he’s not the only one.

We do a de-brief back in resort, his smile is even wider now, he can’t wait to get back in the water again, the experience has opened his eyes to so many possibilities and the sights underwater, I doubt it will be long before his PADI open water course is booked and he is back in the water again.

For me, it’s just the start of my Divemaster course, I’m seeing these actual transformations for myself 1st hand and I want more too. You read about it, in the PADI books, we are in transformation industry, just words, but when you witness it first hand, it truly is emotional.

Ryan started his diving with a DSD and is here doing his Nitrox course, its easy to get addicted to diving!