You’ll experience various cultures, nationalities, and experiences when diving with a group. Every day is a new day, every day is unpredictable, and every person has stories to share.
But this one was different.
We started our day at 7:50 AM, the usual time for a diving expedition in El Nido, Philippines. At the diving shop, I learned five divers would be in the boat: an Australian couple, a German couple, and me.
While preparing our material for the dive, I couldn’t help but notice how excited John was that day. He and his wife were from Germany. John wore a short wetsuit typical for diving in hot water, and his wife wore a swimsuit. I later discovered that his wife wasn’t going to dive with us; but she was on the boat too.
On our way to the first diving site, we had little time to chat due to the wind blowing our faces. So, we took the chance and started applying sunscreen to prepare for the first dive.
When we reached our destination, we all started preparing for the dive. John was going solo with a dive master, the young Australian couple with a second dive master, and given I was following a course, I was going with my instructor.
My group was the last one to go, so I assisted the other groups in preparing their dive. It was the usual preparations: checking for air, weight, mask, fins, etc. But what was different was John’s attitude.
John was so happy to go in the water. He was smiling, making jokes, and asking about the types of fish to expect underwater.
His positive attitude filled the boat with joy, and we all started our day with smiles. After he got into the water, I told myself, « Maybe this is his first time underwater! ».
Poor me. Little did I know that I was completely wrong.
After finishing the first dive, we took a coffee break and started chatting. At that moment, I learned three fascinating things about John:
- This is John’s 4th day diving in the area
- John has been diving for decades
- And finally, John was diving that day to celebrate his 70th birthday
I took a few seconds to grasp what I just learned.
How can someone be excited about something they’ve been doing for decades? What’s the secret here? And if he’s celebrating his 70th birthday with diving, it must be unique!
I had questions, and I wanted answers. But we quickly reached the second spot for the day, and it was time for me to go in the water. My questions will need to wait.
After finishing my training, it was time for a lunch break before the third and last dive. We retook the boat to a small remote island and enjoyed the beach and the garlic prawns prepared by the dive shop.
John approached me after lunch: “Are you having your rescue diver course?” referring to the exercises I’ve been doing before. “Yes”, I answered.
John: “Oh, cool, you’ll have new skills to apply in the real world. You’ll also open many doors to many destinations.”
Me: “Do you have any recommendations?”
John: “Well, I dived in the whole world. I secretly chose vacation spots based on the diving shops nearby. Don’t let my wife know, haha.
I can recommend many things, but each place has its unique charm.
I once did cave diving near Cuba, where you can go in multiple cave chambers to reach a completely dark area with no light. There you can find fish with no eyes! They don’t need eyes there; it’s completely dark anyway. You’ll use a torch and follow a line—one of my best experiences.
One time, I did wreck diving near Mexico. You’ll find Russian ships and even a motorcycle in the ocean. If you get closer, you can see how many kilometers it has on the control board.
Oh, and the Red Sea is great! Egypt is near you, it’s great for diving. It has blue water and deep oceans. It’s scary diving and not seeing the seafloor. A whole new experience…”
He went on remembering one experience after the other. Each time, with a smile on his face, trying to remember all the details.
I enjoyed listening to his stories, soaking this gentleman’s wisdom and experiences. Deep down, I felt some Ghibtah, an Arabic word meaning positive envy. This man over here is celebrating his 70th birthday today, has been diving for many years, and is still enjoying every moment. Wow!
It was time to go for our third dive of the day, and this time, I was sharing the dive with John.
We had a blast underwater. Dancing, watching fish, playing with turtles, etc. We did it all. Time went quickly, and it was time to go to the surface and head to the dive shop.
The crew in the shop prepared a small birthday cake for John. It was a wholesome moment; we sang, ate, and celebrated together. And finally, it was time to say goodbye.
What a day!
Wishing you all the best, John! Sending you love, health, and happiness.
From El Nido, Palawan. Mon, Nov 20, 2023.