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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Eilat -- Day 2 -- Diving with the Dolphins

***Don't get confused! I am home!***
"Day 2" was Tuesday, November 11

It might not be nice, but when my sister took my daughter diving with the dolphins for her Bat Mitzvah, boy was I jealous!!

I have been swimming since I was a baby! I virtually grew up in the water. My childhood fantasy was to be a mermaid when I grew up, so that I could spend all my time under water.

Not surprisingly, I have always been fascinated by, and enamored with, dolphins. After all, dolphins are intelligent creatures, perhaps even smarter than humans, who live under water! And they are so graceful!!

So, when my friend suggested we go to Eilat, all I could think was: I am going to swim with the dolphins!

I was crushed when my doctor did not give me his "stamp of approval." (see Limitations)

Moreover, when I mentioned that my sister and I were considering learning to SCUBA dive together, my doctor asserted that I would not be eligible for a license. *SQUASH* another dream bites the dust.

Then, the rebound. I did not give up.

When I went for my second opinion, I asked the oncologist about diving with the dolphins. She did not see any reason for concern, and was willing to write me a note. (Salvation is on the way!)

The doctor stressed that I should not hide my medical history from the diving center (so much for that plan!), so I called the dolphin reef in advance, informed them that I had permission from one of the heads of oncology at Tel HaShomer, promised to bring the note with me, and received approval to dive with the dolphins!

What a fantasy! I was going to enter the wonderful world under the sea! I dreamt of this my entire life! I thought it would be so easy!

It was tougher than I expected....

First, you have to get into a wet suit, which I could not do by myself. Then, they strap a belt on you with weights to.... (you guessed it) weigh you down. Then, they strap on the air tank, which is also plenty heavy. Then, feeling like a bloated beached whale carrying flippers, we plodded down to the beach, stopping on the way for the photographer to snap our picture. (say "cheese!")

Once in the water, we were instructed to bend over and put on our flippers. When I told my instructor/guide*, Assaf, that I could not do it, he encouraged me to try. I should have told him that I can barely put on socks myself, and that is without all the extra bulk and weight. Instead, I bent over to try to put on my right flipper, since that leg is more flexible than my left leg. Assaf directed me to put on my left flipper first. I tried, more than once, before insisting that he help me. This was not the way I wanted to start (frustrated, humiliated, and feeling incompetent).

Nevertheless, I was not going to let anything spoil my fantasy. So, I lay back on the water, let Assaf put on my flippers, and we moved on to the next step.

I put the mouthpiece in my mouth, and breathed in the air. It was not like breathing through a snorkel! It felt like breathing with a shirt over my mouth. I could breathe in, but it did not feel comfortable. Assaf encouraged me to breathe slowly, and not try to fill my lungs. I did my best.

Then I floated, face down, on top of the water, and breathed via the tank. I felt like I was not getting enough air, and I stood back up. I knew I had to stay calm, so I focused on breathing slowly and steadily. I tried again, but it still did not feel right. I knew I should not stand up again, but I did.

I started to feel anxious. Would I be too afraid to go through with it? I had come this far, I did not want to fail. I looked at Assaf and told him that I was afraid. With gentle patience, he assured me that diving can be intimidating at first and that we would go down slowly, and he would check with me at every stage. I took a deep breath, lay down, and did not stand up again.

True to his word, every time I felt a bit of pressure, as we went lower, Assaf used hand signals to ask if I was alright. I signaled him that I was fine.

Within a few minutes, we were several feet below the surface, and I felt completely comfortable.

Once over my initial fear, I felt like I could stay under the water forever.

As we swam out a bit, I felt in awe of the underwater world. There were small coral reefs and clusters of fish. I recognized many of the fish from the underwater observatory.

Then there were the dolphins.

Every so often, one or two dolphins would swim by. They were so beautiful. But they did not stop to play. In a flash, they were gone.

At one point, five of the dolphins were all in tumble. A few of the other divers swam closer, but my guide held me back. Later, when I asked why, he explained that the dolphins were fighting and he did not want to "box them in."

And then it was over.

As we headed back to shore, I signaled to Assaf that I wanted to do a summersault underwater. This was not a signal that we had coordinated in advance, but after a few tries he understood what I meant.

It was fun, though slightly disorienting.

I did not want the dive to end, but our time was up.

Afterwards, I asked how far underwater we went. We were only 3-4 meters under water. You can reach those depths from a simple surface dive. But you can't stay down there for half an hour.

I could have stayed there forever, in that magical underwater world.

I mentioned my dream of getting a SCUBA diving license, and Assaf suggested I contact one of several physicians who specialize in SCUBA diving. I think I will.

Because I can't wait to dive again!

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

* Every diver is accompanied by a licensed diver, who holds on to the unlicensed diver for the duration of the entire dive.


rickismom said...

When I was a teen, I was my Dad's diving buddy (licensed). It was GREAT!. But I haven't dived in years.

jumblerant said...


My mum is prescribed by her specialists to go in a diving chamber, regularly, down a few metres to help her and others with MS of all ages. I threfore assume that there is a lot of literature out there about SCUBA being good for you!

If you are going to train for diving use a qualified PADI instructor, they're the best. I did my course in Eilat in 5 days - just another excuse for a holiday!!

May the air be pure and the water clear...

Anonymous said...

Let's see some scuba pictures!

MACMAN said...

You seemed that you had a great time swimming with the dolphins in Israel. I heard about that program and would love to see some photos of your time. I have scuba dived with the dolphins in Dominican Republic and it was so cool. Keep living your dream. Great post.
God Bless,

A Soldier's Mother said...

wow...you almost make me want to do it...well...almost. Me, I'm a snorkler. I like snorkeling. I would love to have come face to face with the dolphins, though. Yes, they are amazing - and so you are you. I'm so glad you did this!

Hope you do it again soon. While probably no where near as pretty, there is a diving school in Tel Aviv that helps people get licensed.


Anonymous said...

u have been tagged