Picking up hobbies as you get older is tough, made tougher when you’re driving around the world in a small Land Rover Defender camper, where space is extremely limited. Over the last 4 years, we’ve navigated 37 countries, spanning 5 continents, but one thing’s been missing: hobbies. This year we decided it was time to change that and find options that we could do together on the road. What requires limited gear but can be done around the world? In comes scuba diving….

We’re starting our Trans-Africa portion of our around the world trip in Cape Town. Known for some of the best diving in Africa, we decided what better place to get PADI certified. In the week that led up to our Open Water Diver Course, we completed our eLearning portion of the course at a campsite overlooking the deep blue waters that we’d soon be diving into. We then headed into the heart of Cape Town for the rest of the course. 

A scuba instructor teaches a class of two scuba students while standing in a swimming pool
Image courtesy of Expedition Rove

Skills & Drills: Our First Pool Day

From the moment we walked into Into the Blue, we knew we’d make the right decision on our dive shop – their passion and enthusiasm for diving poured over into every conversation and interaction. They were equally as amped for us, as we were to be getting certified. After getting acquainted with their team, it was time to get down to business. Before we could go into the water, it was time for a quick test on the theory portion to make sure we understood the basics – equalizing, decompressing, gear setup, what to do in case of an emergency. Although we’d be going over these topics in great detail during the course, it was nice to feel like we had a good idea of what we would be encountering and have the opportunity to talk to their team about the topics we needed a bit more clarification on before actually heading to the water. 

two scuba divers practice their skills underwater in a swimming pool

We headed to the pool and jumped in the water for a quick swim test before getting a full rundown on the gear. After a bit of practice we got geared up and headed into the pool for what would be a highlight of the day for me: the first time breathing underwater with a regulator. I grew up snorkeling but the moment I took that first breath in the pool, deeper than any snorkel would reach, a whole new world of possibilities underwater opened up for me. I couldn’t believe it’s taken me this long to finally get certified. 

The rest of the day was spent in and out of the pool – getting acquainted with our gear, learning breathing and buoyancy techniques, and practicing tactics and techniques, so we’d be better prepared for most scenarios we may encounter in the ocean. At day’s end, we were exhausted but beaming from ear to ear. In a world where there’s so many distractions, it was the first time in a long time, we’d found an activity where we felt fully and whole-heartedly present.

Two scuba divers are at the surface of the water with Cape Town in the background. They are holding up hang loose signs with their hands.
Image courtesy of Expedition Rove

Taking the Plunge: Our First Open Water Dives

The next morning we woke up and nearly ran to the shop, eager for the day ahead. Today would mark a milestone in our diving certification journey: our first ocean dive. After meeting the team at the shop, we made our way to “Long Beach”, a fantastic shore dive site ideal for beginners. After a thorough brief with the team, we geared up and headed into the chilly waters. By this point, setting up our rigs was already becoming second nature, something I didn’t expect to come to easily. Confident, excited, and a little anxious we took our first steps into the blue and prepared to go under. Out loud together, “S” as we signaled to each other that we were ready, “O” to get our orientation to the shore, “R” to check our regulator were in good, working, order, “T” to check the time, “E” to prepare to equalize the pressure, and “D” to begin our descent down. And just like that, fully immersed and experiencing our first open water dive. After a few minutes exploring the surroundings and getting comfortable in the water, we ran our drills for the day – testing the skills we learned the day prior in the pool, this time in the wide open ocean with the added elements of currents, minimal visibility, and wildlife. After our two dives of the day, each around 35 minutes, we were hooked and ready for day 3, our final certification day. 

two scuba divers hold hands while exploring the underwater world in Cape Town
Image courtesy of Expedition Rove

Our final day of certification, we headed to one of the best shore dives in the area: Windmill Beach. We spent the morning and early afternoon testing our underwater navigational skills, ability to surface quickly in an emergency, and other useful skills to help us gain confidence in the water. For our final dive, we explored the area and all it had to offer: towering kelp forests, vibrant coral reefs, adorable little “shy” sharks, a bashful octopus, and even a playful seal. As we made our way back to shore, we were both howling with joy – we were now certified divers and could experience this underwater oasis wherever we were in the world. There’s something so invigorating about learning a new hobby and skill, and we were so excited to put it to the test that we decided at the last minute to book one final dive while in Cape Town. 

two divers sit on the side of a boat, getting ready for a scuba dive
Image courtesy of Expedition Rove

Putting it to the Test: Boat Dives, Kelp Forests and Seals

The following day we headed out for what would quickly become the highlight of our time in Cape Town: our first boat dive. Dolphins raced playfully along our boat, a giant alien-like sunfish slowly coasted by, penguins popped their heads above the surface in the distance. We’d barely left the harbor and this was already an experience for the books. Before long we were exploring the kelp forests and playing with a colony of seals, rightfully nicknamed the labradors of the sea. Two glorious dives, each around 40 minutes, allowed us to take a glimpse at the world from a completely different perspective, one we’d never had the joy of seeing before in such an intimate way. It was an experience unlike anything else and one that we’ll remember for the rest of our lives. This was our first dive as certified divers, but it definitely won’t be our last. We’re both over the moon to finally have a hobby we can take with us on all of our road trips and adventures, and can’t wait to get back in the water, wherever that may be in the world. 

Ready to dive in and get your PADI like Mary Hannah and Andy? Start your Open Water Diver course online today and contact your local PADI Dive Shop to continue your in-water training.

Author Biography – Mary Hannah Hardcastle

This article was written by guest blogger Mary Hannah Hardcastle.

Mary Hannah is an around-the-world Adventurer and Content Creator who lives and breathes for the outdoors and has always been drawn to anything that keeps her living outside of her comfort zone. She and her husband Andy have spent the last 4 years navigating the globe in their Land Rover together. Before hitting the road, she worked in Media/Advertising for one of the largest publishing companies in the U.S., Bonnier Corporation, where her love of the outdoors permeated her career as she worked on magazine brands spanning the travel, scuba diving, boating, powersports, and outdoor industries. Since departing from the 9-5 world, she’s built a freelance photography/videography business as well as their social channel, “Expedition Rove,” where they share their journey as they travel the globe.

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