In August last year Sarah and her son Theo learnt to Dive in the Azores and did their PADI Open Water Dive course with our partners on Sao Miguel in the Azores. Here’s Sarah’s story about their experience…
Before we left – Theo and I registered with PADI and Azores Sub for the online theory which cost around £150 each and involved watching hundreds of online slide presentations and videos with short quizzes and then 5 longer tests. Our dive partners in the Azores could see how we were getting on and we could have asked them questions if we’d had any problems. It took around 12 hours in total to do but we found we could only manage around 90 minutes at a time before nodding off!
Dive facilities on Sao Miguel – these were really good and lots of people said they were the best on the island. There was a large equipment store, separate men’s and women’s changing room and hot showers and lockers to leave your personal belongings in while you were diving, a room where they filled the tanks with compressed air. Upstairs there is a large classroom.
Equipment – all the clothing is Cressi. We were given 5mm wet suit ‘dungarees’ and a 5mm wet suit jacket with hood. This gives you 10mm of coverage over your chest which was needed. We dived in water temperatures between 20-22 degrees and at 20 degrees I definitely needed all that warmth when diving at 20m. We were also both given dive computers for every dive which not every dive company will give you.
We went out on RIBs – we went on 2 different ones and fell off backwards into the water to enter. There was a ladder to get back on.
Staff – all were very friendly and professional. Henrique was our instructor for the 3 days and it was just Theo and I with him. His English was really excellent so there were no language problems!PADI
The PADI Course
Day one – met at 0900 at the dive base, Henrique checked our theory results and then showed us the equipment we would be using, how to put it together and how to check it. He then drove us with it to the pool and we practised filling our mask with water under water and clearing it, retrieving your regulator, sharing your buddy’s air supply and practising buoyancy by swimming underwater round the pool for a few minutes.
In the afternoon we met at 1430 and went out on the dive boat to the west side of Ilheu da Vila Franca and had a 40 minute dive at 12m. The rock formations and crevices, small canyons were really impressive and the visibility was excellent. We saw loads of fish. We were back by 1630/1700.
Day two – met at 0900 at the dive base and took the equipment to the pool again. This morning we practised taking off the weight belt and BCD and putting them back on underwater, taking off your mask and putting it back on, and neutral buoyancy using breathing to control your movement. Back to Vila Franca for lunch and we met again at 1430 and went out on the boat again to the north side of the island and began our dive at the mouth of the lagoon. We dived to 11.5m for 35 minutes. It wasn’t as impressive as the first dive as the rock formations weren’t so impressive and there weren’t as many fish. We were back by 1630/1700.
Day three – this morning we met at 0830 for a double dive. We went first to the Dori shipwreck just off Ponta Delgada about a 30 minute boat trip from Vila Franca. The Dori was a second world war US cargo ship used to help GB during WWII. It was laden with iron and when the sea was rough, the boat rocked so much the iron load punched a hole in the side of the hull and it sank (in 1968?). It’s 120m long but we just explored the bow part which was full of marine life and we even saw a ray. We dived to 19.8m for 30 minutes. The sea temperature was 22 degrees and this was our favourite dive. We saw such a lot – at one point we were surround by hundreds of curious trigger fish.
Then we headed to Caloura and explored the Arcos da Caloura which are impressive rock arches. We dived beneath the arch and saw a conger eel hidden inside and lots of fish. Although not a cave, it’s still a bit claustrophobic and there was a strong current and it was colder (20 degrees). We dived here to 15m for 30 minutes.
We returned around 1330 and then spent half an hour with Henrique completing paperwork. It was all very efficient and well organised and we’d recommend it to anyone!
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