Journey with PADI: Becoming an Open Water Diver experience


12 o’clock. We arrived at a parking lot by the Jumeirah Beach for our first day of training where we were met by our instructor, Mustafa of Nemo Diving Center. We were then ushered to what appears to be their usual rendezvous – adorned with shining silver cylinders, wet vests that has hoses and pipes (that we would later learn as BCDs – Buoyancy Control Device), masks, snorkels, fins and happy, stoked faces. 

After a comprehensive discussion by Mustafa of the anatomy, assembly and disassembly of our scuba diving gears , we shortly had a return demonstration wherein we had to assemble and disassemble everything three times before stripping down to our swimsuits and sliding (with maximum effort) into our wetsuits. We then strapped on our weight belts and gears, did buddy checks and walked towards the shore to the water wherein we’ll have our first round of practicals, this time with Hossam, one of our diving instructors.

The water was cold and I shivered from both the temperature and nervousness I was feeling. I didn’t expect to be in the water so soon and the fear of being the loser in class (next to dying underwater- okay this one’s a bit exaggerated πŸ˜…) snuck up on me real quick. What if I have trouble breathing? What if I can’t do what my instructor asks me to do? What if I fail? What if I die? (haha okay, enough of this already πŸ˜’); and a few more what ifs continued to pile up as I tried hard to listen attentively to our dive instructor. Before I knew it, he asked us to slowly descend on our knees leaving our heads completely submerged. I kind of panicked on my first breath on my regulator when a stream of bubbles came up to my face and my mask started to fill with water. I looked around to see my “class”mates looking relaxed and comfortable. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Chill, girl.

Though I successfully calmed myself down during our first few practical exercises, I gave in to my fear during our first confined dive when I did a panicked ascent (I freakin’ bolted up to the surface!) when water came in through my nose after a failed attempt to remove water from inside my mask. A few seconds of struggling to stay afloat, I felt my BCD inflated and saw Hossam’s concerned face staring at me. I quickly apologized and he calmly reassured me. Embarrassed, I gathered myself and descended bravely after him. The rest of the dive ran smoothly and those moments of fear and panic floated away with each successful skill demonstration.

We initially intended to attend a class the following day, but our bodies were just too tired and didn’t want to push it too far. Plus, we haven’t finished the next two sections of our Knowledge Development and didn’t want to come unprepared; so our second session was a week apart from our first and the whole week pre-dive, I battled with some crazy jitters. 


Our day started with a quick rundown of what we learned during the first day. We assembled and disassembled our gears three times, racking up my brain for some forgotten details. We were reunited with our first day classmate, Arum, whom we immediately made friends with – yey for our first scuba diver friend! 😝 We found ourselves in the water not long after and the rest of the confined dive was a breeze. I found myself being more confident breathing on the regulator. Although I struggled a bit with my buoyancy, I proudly triumphed through each practical exercise on mostly first attempts. Well, except for that one with the weights. Damn those weights. I almost did an egg roll trying to strap back my weight belt underwater. It was hysterical! πŸ˜…


Third Friday of waking up early, driving to Dubai and perking up without the help of caffeine (I didn’t want to be a serial belcher underwater!). It was a short class with just me and Chat under our instructor since all of our classmates decided to finish the course the week before. While you can typically finish the course in 3-4sessions, we decided to maximize our time in order to gain more practice and confidence. We did the last round of practicals and I was doing them smoothly until the CESA (Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent) part – I was swimming up nicely but then failed to inflate my BCD orally upon reaching the surface and descended so fast I didn’t have the time to equalize my ears. By the time I came back up the surface (with the help of my instructor), my ears were hurting too much I was afraid something inside might explode. I remained calm while enduring the excruciating pain and took a few minute pass when Chat and our instructor descended back again. Thankfully, the pain subsided and I was able to descend slowly with them again. Magically, the pain was completely gone upon reaching the bottom. I guess it’s true when they say that the cure for anything is salt water! 😜

With Sylvia and her husband, Islam, one of Nemo’s dive instructors


Yup, you read it right! We still came back for day five! And because days four and five were more of “practice” dives, those were the days that we had the most fun! We went over the basics and focused on controlling our buoyancy on day four – we were also joined by another new found friend, Sylvia, who was doing her divemaster training at the time and also the wife of one of our dive instructors.

— and on the fifth day, which we also like to call our “graduation day”, we practically just swam around underwater, practicing our buoyancy controls over sea urchins on steroids! Seriously, I’ve never seen sea urchins as extra large sized as those we’ve seen under the seemingly plain Jumeirah water – I guess looks can really be deceiving, huh? What’s more was that we also got to swim with and feed a collection of different fish before ascending and ending the dive. Indeed, it was a beautiful day to graduate 😍

With our dive instructor, Hossam
Open Water Divers, yΓ‘ll!
With our dive instructor, Mustafa

Doing the certification course was hard work but nevertheless, enjoyable. I am really beyond proud to have done it and am now looking forward to my first dive out in the open water and for future trips that will definitely include diving! Chat and I already got each other diving stuff for Christmas, so it’s safe to say that we will really embrace this as our new lifestyle. So, see you in the water? πŸ˜‰

We did our PADI Open Water Diver Certification course in Dubai, United Arab Emirates under Nemo Diving Center. There are a number of dive centers in the whole of UAE and I’m glad we chose to dive with Nemo. We did our confined dives in the bay rather than in the pool which in my opinion would make adjusting to the real setup easier. Their instructors are not only knowledgeable and wonderful people, but they are literally diving majors! Cool, huh? I never felt unsafe diving with them. Nemo Diving Center also offer diving packages and other certification courses. You can contact them/Hossam here.

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