SDI Solo Diving course and Solo diving with sharks

Saturday 4th August 2012

Today I needed to complete a few dives solo in order to obtain my SDI Solo Diver certification. We headed out to Julian Rocks in Byron Bay with Blue Bay Divers and my TDI Instructor Daren M. It was a sunny day and flat seas as far as swell went, some current that picked up and some surge as well. VIS wasn’t great at about 4m however it didn’t stop us seeing some amazing things.

Nick K and Mark S were doing some more of their TDI Decompression course with Daren and Tom W and Andy G were going for a fun dive. Of course the point to a Solo diving course is to dive solo so I had no intention of diving with anyone. I wanted to challenge myself and learn the skills properly so I decided to dive with my twin tanks, stage EAN50 and my full camera set up with strobes. I hadn’t done a lot of navigation in the past, largely due to other people leading the dives and my main focus being on photography and videography…so there was every chance I was going to get disorientated if I wasn’t paying attention.

The low VIS and current were a great test of my navigation. Another test was my new computer deciding not to work upon descending, luckily I had a back up and used that instead. I guess there is a logical reason to diving with spares! Both dives I ended up being where I thought I was. I absolutely loved diving solo, it was refreshing to not have to worry, wait or look out for anyone but myself, as selfish as that sounds…it was great to just do my own thing! Whether I wanted to wait longer in a trench videoing sharks or change my dive plan, I could do whatever I wanted, and it felt great. It felt like it was just me, the sharks and the ocean. I thought I would miss pointing out things to my friends but I didn’t. The only part that I did find strange was the safety stop. Given there was no VIS at the safety stop and I could not see the rocks at all I could only have some faith in myself that I was in the right spot…it was a little eerie at that point, as there was nothing to look at to distract my mind from noticing that I was completely alone.

The other really cool thing about solo diving is that you can still dive with friends and then when you want to leave and do your own thing, you can do that too. I guess you could call it group or buddy hopping! I was fortunate enough to stalk out about 20 Grey Nurse sharks today, 3 Green turtles and a large Loggerhead that was intrigued by me and came over to say hi. Daren, Nick K and Mark’s group managed to see two Manta Rays! Very surprising due to the cold temperature of the water at present being 18 degrees (yes it was bloody cold by the way but seeing sharks make it worth it). Daren managed to see the baby WHALE (yes that’s what I said WHALE) or a shadow of it, that I spent some time looking for as I heard it talking to its mother underwater and it sounded so so close to me. I bet it was JUST the other side of that 4m VIS!

It was also my first time going out with Blue Bay divers in Brunswick Heads and I was surprised and impressed. The boat I thought initially to be quite small was more than comfortable and accommodating for all or our gas bottles and equipment, the crew were friendly and helpful, and they really catered for us which was nice.

Another first was wearing my new 6/7mm wetsuit and vest, which actually fits me properly and it made such a difference! I thought I may have been too light when I gave Andy my stage on the second dive and just dived with my steel twins and no weights, but it was fine.

Of course the best thing about diving is diving with my dive buddies and sharing our great finds so that will always be my first choice. But Solo diving is definitely worth doing in order to make you more self sufficient and aware of your own strengths and weaknesses, good for photography, and a real confidence booster.

Tomorrow I am finishing off my TDI Sidemount course and then waivers the big question…Will I break up my twin tanks and dive Sidemount?….To be continued…

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