Not only had I never dived in my life, but I had actively avoided it at every opportunity. To me, diving seemed like a way of complicating an otherwise relaxing holiday.
I thought it involved hours of practice, breathing exercises and standing around in a swimming pool waiting for the fun to start. How wrong I was. Within a couple of hours of arriving at Balear Divers, I was down in the deep blue sea, gliding over a reef pulsing with life.
The diving centre is set in the beautiful Port d'Andratx, where gleaming yachts and whitewashed hillside villas lend it an air of sophistication and good taste. You can come for a morning dive or you may be tempted to stay for a longer course. The centre is open from Monday to Sunday throughout summer and the friendly team will be happy to advise you on accommodation options, car rental and will collect you themselves from within a 15km radius.
Balear Divers cater for all levels, from absolute beginners like me to those wanting to study for professional dive PADI courses. Die-hard divers with their own equipment use the centre to fill up their tanks, take a ride out on their boats and to catch up with Lothar Manderscheid, the much-loved and respected father figure of this diving community. Together with his wife Olga, they have been running the centre for just shy of 20 years - and diving for many, many more.
I took the 'Discover Scuba Diving Course' (79€) which began with a brief theory session held in the relaxed open air courtyard. Did you know lungs don't have any pain receptors? The good news is that learning how to decompress is actually very straightforward and you'll probably do it naturally on the plane over to Mallorca.
Theory session completed, we put on our diving gear and headed across a quiet little road to the sea. The centre couldn't be any closer to the serene waters of the harbour. We practised exercises in shallow waters; the instructor patiently checking we felt confident with our breathing, hand signals and clearing our mask of water. Once we felt happy, it was time to get the boat to open water.
I confess to feeling a little nervous. A little voice in my head was still telling me that diving wasn't really my thing. I fixed my mask, edged to the back of boat, and jumped. The next half an hour completely opened up my mind.
There is something so otherworldly about the sea. Time seemed to slow down. The sound of my breath through the regulator set an unhurried accompanying rhythm. "Diving is an active meditation," our instructor had said. With an experienced diver holding my hand, I felt safe, while still free to move.
Shoals of fish of all sizes swum around me. A moray eel at the base of the reef opened and closed its mouth as I passed and an octopus lay half-buried in the sand. I swam through a rocky passage, which felt exhilarating. It got me thinking that this was just a tiny glimpse of a world I'd thought I'd never explore.
If you get the bug, there are plenty of other diving spots to discover. Peter, my guide for the day, enthused about the diversity of fish around the island of La Dragonera, and told me about the huge lobster he had spotted at Madonna's cave. The cave is 26 metres deep at the entrance, but you can breathe air in some of the caves and see stalactites.
Back in the sunny courtyard post-dive, a group of Spanish divers sat at the wooden tables studying for their exams. I spoke to a diving aficionado from Germany who had fallen in love with the place two years ago and had come back to get his license. His eyes lit up when he talked about it and I got a sense of the passion that drives the diving community. After only one day spent at the centre, I already felt that I could quite happily be a part of it.
Over the next couple of days I found myself daydreaming about the experience. I hadn't thought it would be for me, but now I was wondering when I might be able to go back again. Taking a leap into something new makes a holiday so much richer and more memorable. It makes you grow. At least, that's what it felt like for me. After my experience of diving, I feel more confident and more open to trying new things. I wholeheartedly recommend Balear Divers for their warm welcome and professionalism, and for making this unlikely diver's first experience so smooth.
- Diving / Scuba Centre