Gregor has always been encouraged to swim. Between the pool as big as a lake at the house and our frequent trips to Bali’s beaches, he has been a water baby from the start. In April 2005 I brought him a Bodyglove baby snorkel set from America. It added a new dimension to his afternoon swim sessions. Soon he had shed the life jacket and was snorkeling with confidence from one end of the pool to the other. His Emak (Grandma) brought him a baby wetsuit back from Canada and there was truly no stopping him.
Having mastered snorkeling in the pool, it was time to hit the ocean in Tulamben, North Bali. Tulamben is home to many of Bali’s premier dive sites, and is renowned for its easy shore dives. Divers were astounded to see a barely three year old snorkeling above them. And he was thrilled to search for Nemo and handle the ubiquitous blue starfish.
As I was pregnant and diving was off limits, Gregor and I became the best of snorkel buddies. Gregor’s inaugural snorkeling trip was in August 2005 when Hengky was diving on the annual Kapal Selam dive trip. Having practiced continuously in the pool and succumbed to the pressure of Gregor begging to see his favorite characters from Nemo, I took him for his first ocean adventure in Menjangan off Bali’s northwest coast.
We snorkeled the shallows with strict instructions that he must never let go of my hand. To keep it interesting I pointed out the fish we saw and let him handle a blue starfish or two and enjoy other interesting textures from the underwater world. He was hooked.
The next day in Tulamben we saw Nemo and Dory (clownfish and blue tangs). He was still a little nervous in the water, but the rewards were there and he loved to feel like the big divers, loudly proclaiming that he was a diver, too. He certainly turned heads as we headed into the water and we were constantly asked how old he was (just turned THREE!).
Gregor kept snorkeling as the months went by and he perfected his “diving” skills in the pool. Diving, as Gregor defined it, involved holding your breath and going underwater. This progressed to finding objects on the pool’s bottom and he soon graduated from the shallow to the deep end.
Hengky worked with him on equalizing, in the pool and airplanes, and soon we were assured that he could do it with ease. His favorite game became asking us to lie on the bottom of the pool in the deep end (2.25 meters), Gregor would then dive down and touch us on the head to show us what a great diver he was.
Hengky was convinced that Gregor had the skills to start diving like the big guys, and Gregor would beg us every chance he had. We had long discussed buying a small pony tank for Gregor, and when a friend offered to sell us his (after Hengky used it for Gavin’s placenta dive), we jumped at the chance. Before he even used it, Gregor was telling everyone that it was his tank and he was just letting his Papa borrow it.
Finally the big day came and Hengky took Gregor and his special yellow tank into the pool with a regulator. They stayed on the surface snorkeling for a long time with Gregor breathing from the regulator. At last they descended in the shallow end. Gregor came up beaming. Now he was a scuba diver!
Over the next few months Hengky and Gregor would take Gregor’s special tank in the pool to get Gregor acquainted with the procedures and sensations of diving. Gregor was begging for more, so Hengky packed his gear and tank on a trip to Tulamben.
On the first trip, May 20-21 2006, they stayed on the surface snorkeling but using the tank. They managed to go fairly far and Gregor got to see the underwater world spreading out beneath him. But he wanted more! He couldn’t really see Nemo. So, after rehearsing equalizing once more, Hengky took him down to see the fish he loves up close and personal.
I was on shore nursing Gavin to sleep and eating lunch… there they were, snorkeling, but wait! Where were they?? They had descended down to two meters for many minutes! Now Hengky was assured that Gregor really did get to see Nemo. Gregor was busy pointing out fish and having a fabulous time. Hengky helped Gregor equalize again and again to ensure there were no problems.
Needless to say, Gregor was hooked! And he loved to be able to proudly proclaim that he was a diver like his Papa and Mommy. Back in Kerobokan it was all he could talk about. As we planned our next trip to Tulamben, he repeatedly told me, “Don’t forget to bring my mask, my fins, my wetsuit, and MY YELLOW TANK!” He would quiz us on what color his tank was (yellow) and what color our tanks were (silver). In his cross-referencing manner he would say “My tank is like Tante Mumun’s tank, not yours!”
Back in Tulamben a few days later on May 25, Hengky and Gregor prepared for their first planned dive. I snorkeled above them, skin diving down to get their photo as they were encircled by schooling jackfish, visited Nemo and took in all of the other sights at Coral Garden in front of the Matahari Resort. The water was warm, 30 degrees Celsius, and the conditions were perfect. The ocean was flat as a lake and visibility was 20 meters. They went to 3.1 meters and stayed for a little over five minutes.
Gregor was ecstatic! He really was a diver now. We turned heads as we took him in and out of the water and he was happy to wave to the adult snorkelers above him. The next day, May 26th, Hengky and Gregor were back in the water. Same site, but this time to 3.7 meters for 13 minutes! Hengky gave Gregor a blue starfish to play with and again they visited Nemo. As Gregor’s confidence grew he was busy pointing out all that he saw and taking his Papa in new directions. After getting Gavin to sleep, I snorkeled out to join them. Diving down and waving to Gregor, I was completely blown off. I mean, really though, Mommy or fish? I’d probably choose fish, too.
On our last day in Tulamben we planned our last dive, this time a family dive, with Hengky and I in full gear and Gregor with his wetsuit, mask, fins, and, yep, yellow tank. Om Rochmad was there to document our adventure. Again we were greeted by the schooling jacks and played with a blue starfish. We had to visit Nemo (the clownfish) and Dory (the blue tang), obsessions for a kid who knows every line in “Nemo”. We marveled at the anemone. Gregor’s mask was leaking, so Papa and Gregor fixed it on the surface before heading back down. Another great dive, this time to 5.2 meters for 13 minutes.
Our baby diver is born! Now, how long til he visits his placenta at the Drop Off? We’ll let you know!