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Learning to Dive: Becoming Part of the Underwater World – A Magical Experience with Arif and His Team Around the Dimaniyat Islands in the Sultanate of Oman

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I sit on the edge of the boat, feeling incredibly heavy. The wet suit clings to my body, and over it, a vest bulges with pockets of lead. The rest of the weights hang from a belt at my side, and the oxygen tank is strapped to my back. The anticipation is almost unbearable, and I can’t wait to do a backward roll into the warm, blue sea. Because I know: down there, I will feel weightless. And it begins again, that wonderful floating under the sea’s surface, above sea urchins and corals that look like tiny brains. Around the reef, we dive through schools of yellow-blue fish. Vibrant clownfish cross our path, and the feathery fins of lionfish shimmer at the bottom. Moray eels peek out of rocky caves with their mouths agape. Eventually, a leisurely paddling turtle comes into view – the moment everyone waits for. Even those who stayed at the surface snorkeling.

Everything okay – this gesture from the author is familiar to every diver.

Checking the equipment thoroughly. But before descending, the gear is checked: Is everything complete? Can I breathe easily through the regulator? Is the mask clean, or should I rinse it with shampoo again? Dive instructor Arif vigilantly supports the group. Straps are tightened, regulators are cleared, or tank straps are straightened. Meanwhile, we gently rock on the dark to light blue waves of the Gulf of Oman, from which sandy yellow rocks protrude: We anchor the boat in front of the Dimaniyat Islands, which can be reached after a half-hour boat ride from the coast of Muscat, the capital of Oman. Arif, who is from Pakistan, knows the underwater world here like the back of his hand. Below us is one of 26 dive sites along reefs that only insiders can navigate like they are second nature. “You will see at least three turtles,” Arif stokes our curiosity. He is a dive buddy you can only dream of. He keeps an eye on the group, takes nervous beginners by the hand, and notices if someone inadvertently ascends to the surface. That can happen, as it takes time to get a feel for the water. Anyone who thinks a diving certificate is a guarantee of skill will be quickly corrected. The so-called “Open Water Diver” certification, the starting qualification, is essentially a license to keep learning. Every underwater experience varies depending on the environment, current, or physical condition. Never dive alone. The buddy system remains important, not just for beginners. Even advanced divers don’t go alone – in many situations underwater, you need someone to ask if you feel okay or if your oxygen tank is still sufficiently filled. Or someone to signal the discovery of marine life. I like to paddle with all my fin strength behind Arif, whom I recognize by the orange holder of his dive mask. He knows best where we need to turn around the reef. When he signals for a safety stop before ascending, I float gently in the waves, knowing that just above the surface, the boat awaits our dive group.

Taking care of aspiring divers: Arif, Behnaz, and boat captain Papu (from left to right) from Pearl Dimaniyat.

I had to dive in the open sea four times. I had to practice taking off and putting on not only my weight belt but also my dive mask and the entire gear underwater. Several hours in front of the screen are also part of it since theory is now learned online through major organizations (see box), with many questions and tests leading to a final exam. What comes after that is pure joy – and the feeling of belonging. Not just to the community of divers but also to the turtles, corals, and fish that surely just wait for me to swim down to them again.

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