Friday, May 2, 2014

Making like Diver Dan in the South China Sea

When I was a young shaver - a really young shaver, we're talking pre-school, here - my favourite TV program was Diver Dan. My then "girlfriend" Diane introduced me to the kids' show, and we used to play "pretend" where I was the deep-sea diver and she was the mermaid, an ill-fated TV romance that never allowed the lovers to meet.

THIS is Diver Dan (on the left).
That spawned a brief interest in Sea Hunt, a more adult adventure series that involved scuba diving. 

As a kid, it just didn't interest me as much; let's face it, how could an adult series compete with talking fish puppets - especially one named "Baron Barracuda?"

Flash forward about 30 years. I'm in the Caribbean for the first time, and I'm snorkeling. It was an incredible experience, snorkeling around the cays of Belize. 
This is Lloyd Bridges.
NOT Diver Dan.

A year later, I earned my PADI open-water scuba diving certification. It eventually led to adventures like the once I had at the Maui Ocean Center , where I went diving with sharks.

Going deep sea diving never really entered my mind.

At least, not until I visited Malaysia a year after my shark dive.

We were in Kota Kinabalu, a city in Sabah, Borneo's northeastern-most province. Specifically, I was on Sapi Island, a short boat ride from the city harbour across the South China Sea.

Thanks to Borneo Sea Walking I would finally get to make like Diver Dan! 
This is not Diver Dan, either.

"Sea-walking is a really cool experience, especially if you've never done any diving (although some people do experience a bit of claustrophobia). It's very safe and very easy, with a minimum of fuss and equipment.

Essentially, from the diving platform, you put on a pair of weight shoes, don one of their helmets that rest on your shoulders, then walk down a ladder into the ocean to the sea floor.

It's not all that deep, maybe 10 or 12 feet, certainly not one atmosphere (33 feet - the depth at which decompression becomes a factor), but you are completely underwater, while a slew of different fishes swim by.

The air pumped into the helmets from a pump on the surface creates enough pressure to keep the water from filling into the helmet, even though the bottom is open...essentially, it's kind of like wearing a plastic garbage can over your head with a glass portal in the front so you can see. You can even reach under the lip while underwater to adjust your glasses,
Diver Dan.
scratch your nose, etc.

I would have preferred to actually to walk a little bit along the surface, but I guess the hoses only go so far. Once you get to the bottom, you follow a rope anchored to the bottom so no one wanders off and gets into trouble. 

While there, some scuba divers take pictures and videos to burn on a CD so you have something to help you remember your experience.

After about 20 minutes, it's time to climb back out and rejoin the group on the surface.
Okay, close enough. We'll call this Diver Dan.
Or Diver John in Borneo.

We did this activity in the morning. I actually wanted to go back to the same company in the afternoon and try another experience offered by the company: they have underwater scooters you can ride, with the scooter containing an air pump for your helmet so you can ride off underwater on your own, and pretend you're James Bond fighting Largo in Thunderball (albeit with a much smaller scooter!) 

However, they were concerned about an incoming storm, so they were not letting people go out in the afternoon. So I had to be content with a bit of snorkeling.

Still, it was a neat experience. 

Especially for someone who grew up watching Diver Dan.

"Below in the deep, there's adventure and danger;
That's where you'll find Diver Dan!
The sights that he sees are surprising and stranger
Than ever you'll see on the land!"

You too can be "Diver (fill in your name here)" in Borneo!

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