Who would have thought that aliens really existed? Well not in the way we usually perceive it, but whenever Jeff goes for the plunge into the deep blue he is immediately immersed into a different universe – an alien world if you will allow. And this unique perspective on the underwater world is what led us to ask him more about it…
What inspired you to start scuba diving and how many years have you been at it?
I remember being very young, watching old Jacques Cousteau documentaries and being enthralled by what I was seeing. Amazing creatures and beauty in an alien world right here on our own planet! I wanted to see it for myself. It was many years before I actually tried it, but I became certified as an Open Water Scuba Diver in 1992 in the cold waters of Washington State, USA up near Canada. I became an SSI DiveCon (Dive Master) in Oregon in 1996, a NAUI SCUBA Instructor in Okinawa, Japan in 2002 and recently, late last year, a PADI SCUBA Instructor in Thailand.
In which places have you done scuba diving?
Amongst some of the many spots that I have been scuba diving at are in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Okinawa, Borneo, Bali, Sulawesi, Komodo, Andaman Sea in Thailand, Andaman Islands in India, the Philippines, Maldives, UAE and Oman.
Which are the best places for scuba diving in and around UAE?
I’ve only been here for a year, but so far the best places I’ve been and heard about are all on the east coast around Fujairah and in Oman, specifically Damaniyat Islands and Musandam – really nice reefs, relatively healthy corals and in many places lots of fish and other wildlife.
What is the most interesting part of scuba diving?
Being immersed (literally) in an alien environment, exploring places that many will never see makes scuba diving very interesting! Being weightless – it is like you are flying unaided or being in space without actually going up on a rocket. It’s fantastic! Each dive is a learning experience for me. Seeing how different organisms interact with each other underwater is so amazing!
I’m also a photographer, so one of my passions while diving is taking photographs. Though photography is a real challenge underwater, it is something I greatly enjoy. It allows me to return with magnificent memories of my dives which I can share and experience with others.
One place in the world where you would love to scuba dive?
Right now, if given the chance to dive anywhere, it would probably be in eastern Indonesia – Raja Empat or the Galapagos Islands off Peru or Cocos Islands off Costa Rica. Raja Ampat is in an area that is relatively untouched by human activity so the ecosystem is pristine, the wildlife abundant and the conditions just about perfect. Galapagos and Cocos would offer the experience of diving in another pristine (though threatened by illegal fishing) environment with lots of sharks! I happened to meet some great people on a live-aboard dive cruise in the Maldives last year who raved about Cocos and the thousands of hammerheads they dove with. I would myself love to dive with the hammerhead sharks!
Any memorable incident that you would like to share?
We did a night dive with manta rays in Maldives last year. The scene was absolutely magical and it will be one of the greatest and most memorable experiences of my life. Six huge (2-3+ metres across) mantas feeding on krill and plankton swimming and swirling in an underwater ballet right in front of us and just over our heads. The krill were attracted to our lights so the Mantas swooped in very close over and over again sometimes brushing our foreheads with their white bellies and nearly enveloping us with their fins — absolutely incredible. We did this for nearly an hour before reluctantly bidding farewell and surfacing. On the surface, each person was whooping and hollering with absolute joy. People were still grinning from ear to ear the next morning. It was an incredible experience!
Any words of advice for people who want to try scuba diving?
I would encourage people to give it a go. It’s safe. One of the things I love most about teaching scuba diving is the reaction of nearly every person after their first dive – pure elation! Most say something to the effect of, “That was the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my life!” It’s a great thrill to be able to facilitate that kind of experience for someone.
My advice is to experience the ocean and see what’s there. Most people will develop a new appreciation for the sea and understand more clearly why it needs to be protected from pollution, climate change, over-fishing and other human-caused environmental damage.
If you do come diving, please respect this magical environment and don’t take or touch anything. Most of the organisms down there are extremely fragile and can be easily damaged or killed. Many take decades to recover from damage. Take only pictures leave only bubbles!
Words By: Bandana Jain
Photos Supplied By: Jeff McBride