Returning to my happy place
In September of 2014 a friend and I embarked on a year-long trip to, and around Asia. It had been a life-long dream to travel by rail from London to Shanghai via Bejing, so we set off to make the dream a reality before being let loose on all of the wonders that this magnificent region has to offer. After 2 months of hard travelling through Russia, Siberia, Mongolia, China, Hong Kong and the Philippines we decided it was time to have a holiday, from a holiday (as unusual as it sounds, it’s good advice to take a break when on a tight schedule, all this travelling malarkey can get tiring!).
As I always had an interest in scuba diving, we researched where the top spots were and made the decision to drop anchor in the wonderfully enchanting village of Padangbai. It’s a small fishing village with a world class diving reputation, which lies in the east of Bali. One evening, we decided to stop at OK Divers after checking Trip Advisor (where would we be without it!?).
Instantly we were made to feel welcome by the relaxed atmosphere, attention to detail and friendly staff (a special mention to Argie the cat too). We made some enquires with the staff and booked ourselves onto a PADI discover scuba diving day. From that day we were hooked. The incredible marine life and diversity under the water on our first dives were breathtakingly beautiful. So, we couldn’t just leave it there, could we? Of course not! We returned a few days later with some newly made travel buddies and booked ourselves onto the PADI Open Water Diver course. This three day course was given with complete professionalism. The first day begins with theory and a pool session, followed by two days of two dives per day recapping the pool skills and getting to meet the incredible marine life. The exceptionally experienced diving instructors we had gave us the confidence to blow bubbles underwater safely and responsibly, leaving us free to explore and appreciate the deep blue sea and all of its gems. Dive after dive we never ceased to be amazed at what lies beneath the waters around Padangbai. There is something to suit everyone, from the newbies to the 1000+ scuba divers. You want coral? You got it. You want sharks? You got them. You want frog fish? Ornate Ghost Pipefish? Nudibranchs? Rays? You got it! There is little need to go Finding Nemo either, he’s everywhere!
So after 2 weeks of diving around Padangbai, enjoying the magnificently colorful sea and making new and lasting friends, we said our goodbyes and continued our Asian adventure with our PADI Open Water certifications and all the skills needed to enjoy other ocean areas all over the world. Funnily enough, we would always talk about our adventures in Padangbai when traveling got hard. I guess we all need our happy place, right?
So, what about now? It’s two years later, September of 2016 and the incredible journey has ended. It took us to places I had only dreamt about and we finished off with 2 incredible months in Nepal, climbing high in the Himalayan Mountains. But there’s a twist… Of all the places, people and experiences we were privileged to encounter, I am now sitting in the same spot I took my first breaths under water.
Back in good old Padangbai. I just had to come back, back to my happy place. These days, OK Divers retains the same friendly atmosphere that first attracted us and have now built on their reputation and created a top class hotel and spa just behind the dive center. Argie the cat is still here, the draft Bintang is just as cold and refreshing as it was, the people are still full of smiles and my thirst for diving can be satisfied again. I have just signed to become a PADI advanced diver too, allowing me to go deeper and explore other wonders in this excellent diving location.
What is certainly true about this PADI dive center in Padangbai, you come as a guest and leave as a friend. Cheers to that!
Written by Jay Saintey-Howes