Day 8- Mabul Island continued

Of course, I woke up in the middle of the night having a panic attack that I couldn’t dive anymore.

I tried to visualize how to do everything, be calm, clear my mask (this is proven to help in sports psychology studies) and so on- but then my mind would drift back to freaking out and how disappointed I would be to not dive anymore. I worried that my anxiety would ruin something I really. This vacation was to help me heal and move forward- not to be ruined by my anxiety as well!

I got a few hours of sleep before I was awake again- just in time for the 430am prayer on the loudspeaker. The roosters were also crowing a ridiculous amount well before sunrise, so in all I did not sleep more. My right ear (the one I hurt in Australia) was giving me trouble, kept feeling clogged and grossly, even leaked a bit in the night because there was a stain on the pillow. Lovely.

It was also completely pouring rain. I was already struggling to psyche myself up for this dive, there was no way I wanted to do it in the cold rain and starting that way (Bryan agreed, even for himself)- so while half of me hoped it cleared to give me the chance to improve and get a good dive under my belt before our Sipidan dives (the exclusive, coveted ones people come so far for) the following day, I also equally thought if it was pouring like that, I’d be justified not going…and that would satisfy my anxiety- but I don’t like to do that. Give in and it will get worse- although anxiety is NOT simply a mind game either.

I was recommended an herbal supplement called pharma gaba from a friend and I had brought it in case I was having anxiety- so I took some. It seems to work- and even if it’s a placebo effect, I could care less as long as I feel better. I was too anxious to eat much brekky though, so I choked down a hard-boiled egg and some French toast- which was all good but I really didn’t want to eat at all, though knew I had to or I’d get faint and things would be worse.

I was actually starting to feel pretty calm (the supplement?) and felt like I was going to get back on the horse so to speak and hopefully be ok. The rain stopped and it was actually nice- so we headed out on the boat to a place called Kapilai- which is not really an island, but rather a sandbar with grouping of huts in the water. Basically, they just put a little resort on stilts in the middle of the open water, which doesn’t seem to be that unusual, though seems a tad frightening to me (like in the many storms, that there is no LAND to retreat to should your hut get flooded). This resort actually used to be at Sipidan, but when it became a national preservation site in 2009, they had to move the resort…so they did. I picture that they had a barge float the bigger huts over, but Bryan suspected they rebuilt it? That seems implausible to me, but we will have to investigate further to find out!

We used some soap for our masks- which was the fatal flaw we’d left out the day before. I have to soap my mask EVERY time, or I will be miserable I have determined. As we began the dive, I felt good. I was a tad nervous, but I had the camera with me (which wasn’t working properly, unfortunately), which I felt was a good distraction to keep me from over thinking things. Concentrating on the idea that I was trying to capture video and pics occupied my brain just enough that the bad thoughts had no room- so this turned out to be the triumphant, “get back on the horse” dive I needed!

The site was really cool- they sunk some frames of local huts and they were growing coral and such- an artificial reef. This provide to be particularly interesting as it seemed like an ancient civilization that had disappeared or something, rather than just seeming like junk growing coral, which I kind of had the impression I would feel about most artificial reefs. I came face to face with my favorite friend, the dog faced puffer- and we had a moment. However, the camera was not working right and didn’t totally capture it the way I wanted to.

Basically, the camera would record video, until the minute it hit the water- then started taking stop motion pictures incessantly and would NOT turn off. So I got a series of pics of the puffer, but not the video of him and I interacting…this camera issue would prove to be super annoying as we proceeded- even more so that it’s a brand new GoPro that we borrowed from a friend- and the whole point of them is that you can make great vids as an amateur because it’s so easy to use?! Sure. I even fiddled with the settings quite a bit and still it won’t do what I want…

We got out for our hour interval between dives (you have to have surface time between dives or you can build up too much nitrogen in your blood and get the bends), so we had tea and cake on the boat. Not my fav (I was hoping we’d go back to the island) as I was unable to get dry, but it was still warm out and I didn’t get cold. During the interval we started talking to a couple who we’d seen around the resort, that have a girl who’s about 9. The parents/ in laws are there too and watch the girl while the parents dive. Turns out they just recently sold a dive shop they owned for 20 years in Jersey ( a small island south of the UK). They were interesting people and we talked about the shark dive we’d done and some other things. There was also an Japanese American woman who lived in San Francisco who was talking to a German guy- and they were talking about Seattle. I guess they had both lived there at one point…what’s crazy though is the SF woman was telling me how more and more great whites have moved into the bay- and that her friend regularly swims to Alcatraz and back…like multiple times a week. WTF, really? I honestly did not think you’d even be allowed to do that as it’s a major water way- and part of the reason Alcatraz was so successful is because people didn’t make it off. Oh- and to make this chick even crazier-she learned that in a wet suit, sharks will think you’re a seal, so she doesn’t wear one!? The water is as frigid as around us in the northwest as far as I know- I don’t know how she doesn’t just get hypothermia ¼ of the way into her swim…or why she would do this all repeatedly. She will most certainly die doing all of it, in my opinion!

The weather was holding out, which was great. Actually, we both got a bit burned on our face- and even a bit on my hands. I did not put lotion on my face because that is purported to make your mask fog up- and you know how I feel about that! I faced away from the sun and wore my rash guard (a long-sleeved shirt that surfers/ divers wear) but still, the water reflected off the surface of the water anyway I guess. I am again reminded of “Fool’s Rush In” except instead of “the white people melting”, it’s when Salma Hayak’s dad in the movie tells Matthew Perry’s parents to put some sunscreen on because “the sun reflects off the water like a mirror”- to which the mom says, “I think we’ll be just fine in the shade”…and the next scene is them riding the escalator at the airport beat red with white sunglasses outlines and looking terribly pained. Mine isn’t that bad, but it’s worse than I would have imagined it could or would be from being shaded.

The next dive we did was Siu Siu which is Chinese for “small small”, because all the animals and things are small- nothing big there. We all do buddy checks before we get into the water- make sure we have air, check each other’s regulators, buckles and so on- but when our guide got in, his regulator wasn’t working! He clearly hadn’t done a buddy check. He had to use the spare regulator instead, but this did not slow us down, so we were off.

This was a sloping reef wall to a sandy bottom about 60m perhaps at it’s lowest, but we didn’t go that deep. If we did 30m on any dive that’d be surprising- but we did at least 28 on one. We saw some turtles and a moray eel, which is always cool. They are so ugly, but fun to find. Apparently at one place there’s one so big you can wrap your arms around it and its head is as big as a big dog! That’d be a sight! In all, this site wasn’t spectacular, but it’s fine as long as my dives go well at this point and my mask doesn’t fog! There were some really cold spots though where cold currents came in and I did get a little chilly on that one.

The boat ride was about 10 minutes back and we’d have another dive after lunch- but I decided not to go on that one, wanting to end it on a high note rather than push it. I was already really thirsty and despite drinking a ton of water, didn’t want to feel dehydrated like I did the day before, so I’d had enough. They went to a place called Eel Island, but did not see eels. Bryan said I didn’t miss anything special, but he always enjoys the dives anyway. Even if I’d missed a hammerhead, that’s how it would have had to be, because I know my limits.

Instead, I just hung out and was catching up on the blog, and when Bryan got back we went to the bar to hang with Chelsa before her night dive. I did not realize she was already leaving the next day or I’d have gotten her contact info- but either she didn’t care to forgot/ didn’t think about it. I know she was going to try and extend her stay another day…but we found out later that was it. Chelsa, if you’re reading this*, feel free to contact me if you’re ever in Seattle or want visitors someday to Calgary!

*Note: Chelsa found the blog and we’re now in contact again!

The German guy on our boat earlier turned out to be named Adi, and he came over and asked if we could try downloading some video of this other German lady’s camera because it wasn’t working for him. It turned out the micro card needed to be taken out and we have an adapter- and it fits in my computer so we were able to see her videos, which were amazing. It was some kind of Sony camera which she wore on her wrist (which I don’t think is the best way to do it)- as we found out too, she would often aim wrong and be slightly higher than whatever she was trying to film. So although excellent quality and color (not just greenish like many), she missed the subject a little bit.

The vids were still great though, particularly of a cuttlefish we saw, which can change colors and flash- it is so bizarre…and it was really big, like perhaps the size of a large cat? I took it upon myself to copy those videos too (as we’d also seen this exact cuttlefish in the same spot), so I was glad at least to have a little bit to show from the dives- even if not my footage.

Dinner was- can you guess? Cauliflower, broccoli…but wait, carrots too! There was also a really yummy spicy peanut sauce and fried tofu which was good- really, I wish the peanut sauce was the sauce on the veggies vs the sweet and sour type, but as always it was just fine. What’s funny is how they randomly throw in an odd thing- like one time it was rice, veggies (and meat for meat eaters), then French fries. This time it was mashed potatoes. Totally random potato dish that doesn’t fit the meal, but very good and both were nice to have when we’d only had rice and veggies for a while. I was still missing cheese a bit though.

After dinner we checked the board and were headed to Sipidan the next day! This is the coveted spot, supposed to be some of the best diving in the world. This is also an advanced dive site, which was a tad intimidating since I only just got back on the horse so to speak, but I was determined to make it FOUR good dives. That’s really what we came for! There are some pretty crazy currents- and when I say this I also mean up and down currents, which can be frightening. Down currents especially!

Imagine you’re just swimming along and suddenly your depth is increasing and you try swimming up and you can’t…it could literally suck you down like a drain. Just like rip currents at the beach you cannot fight them so you have to change course. On the surface, you swim parallel to shore, which will eventually get you out of its reach and then you make the turn towards shore. Here, you’d swim towards the reef and there’s a small pocket where you can swim back up the wall and get back to normal depth. The thought of this petrified me- as I am sure it would anyone, really. I wish I had not heard someone talking about this earlier actually- but knowledge is power- and hopefully, I won’t have to use it! I also heard someone saw a hammerhead shark the other day- which is exactly what we are hoping for too!

NOTE: some pics are not mine, as our cams were malfunctioning…

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