Suntans and surfboards

It isn’t all work. And let’s face it – as work goes, this doesn’t exactly suck. I get to spend my days in the ‘office’ surrounded by beautiful, buff bodies with dark tans and big smiles. And then there’s all that rubber … ! Anyway, between the beautiful beach, the good food, the awesome diving and the cute boys, this is pretty much a perfect holiday. Throw in a couple of good paragliding sites and i’d be in heaven (and probably never coming home).
Two thirds of the way through the break I still haven’t seen a whale shark or a giant manta, but with a week, 2 safaris and 6 dives to go I remained hopeful. Weekends are for leisure, although once again, i wasn’t going to enjoy the Friday night party, since i’d elected to join the early dive on Saturday morning. This time to do my ‘Navigation’ adventure dive. I dragged myself out of bed at 6am, only to find myself locked out of the main house when I went for breakfast. I’m glad I don’t sleep in the main house – i’d never GET any sleep. No-one else was getting any either that morning, since I was not above waking up the entire house to get in. I made breakfast, had a very random conversation about ‘Special K’ cereal bars with one of my co-volunteers who was still drunk from the previous evening, and left for the dive centre. It was a nice group assembled for the morning, and we set out in pretty good spirits. Dive leader for the day was my Open Water instructor, Adam (who has about the most beautiful smile of anyone i’ve ever seen), and our support crew were ‘Sid and Suze’, a really sweet couple from Holland who were in Tofu doing their Divemaster certifications. They both know how I roll (or rather, how I ‘float’), so I felt confident that i’d at least reach the bottom, even if they had to grab my ankles and drag me down. My dive buddy that day was Mike from Boston, and the ride out to the reef was a fun one. I felt better than I had done prior to any of the other dives, and was looking forward to it for a change, although I was questioning my ability to navigate an unfamiliar site underwater when I usually struggled to navigate my way from the bedroom to the bathroom at that time of the morning.
That day, a miracle happened – I sank, straight off. Landing on the sand next to Adam, I looked around for everyone else and was somewhat confused to find them all above me still descending. Wa-hay, finally! Adam and I worked through my navigation tasks, which basically involved me swimming out and back in a straight line over s set number of kick-cycles (difficult when you’re trying to swim perpendicular to the surge so are basically going nowhere), and then making a square. Okay, I get the point, Hopefully i’ll never have to do this for real, but at least I now know how to use a compass. Tasks done, we joined the others for the dive. This time, we’re at ‘Amphitheatre Reef’, which isn’t a deep site, but it’s a nice one. We saw lots of cool fish again (some huge fish – i’d tell you their names but I still haven’t learned the ‘fish list’), and again I found myself having a fun experience instead of a stressful one. I lost my buddy a little early since he’d burned his air supply, and he disappeared upstairs with Suze. I wasn’t far behind him – guess I wasn’t as relaxed as I thought. Shortly I was heading to the surface myself with Sid. Shucks, another three minutes staring fixedly at the delectable Sid. Damn. Seriously, life is hard.
Back on the boat I assumed ‘the position’, lying on my front astride the side of the rib with my legs bent out and feet crossed. It looks hilarious but it’s actually really comfortable and good for minimising the effects of the barf-inducing bobbing of the boat, as we sat stationary waiting for the others to surface. I dozed, while Mike, Sid and Suze took the piss out of me. I knew I looked stupid – a drowned, rubberised rat – splayed out in my wetsuit, hair plastered across my face, but I was happy to be ridiculed if the pay-off was not throwing up on Sid. I opened my eyes to find that the aforementioned was now only wearing half a wetsuit. Jesus, wish he wouldn’t do that. I sucked hard on a cola sherbet lollipop.
Saturday afternoon was whiled away pleasurably in pretty much the same way Friday afternoon had been – baking on the beach with the occasional cooling dip in the ocean, with one of the guys from the dive boat. I’m really starting to like this diving lark. So far i’ve met some really nice people and the scene is really chilled. Everyone’s buff, tanned and beautiful, and everyone’s got an interesting story to tell about how they got here and where they’re going next. I’m starting to wonder how i’m going to cope when I rejoin the corporate world and all the conversations are about where people studied, how long it takes them to commute, and what unfulfilling job they do. Still, a girl’s gotta eat, right?!
Up to this point, I hadn’t had more than two beers on any night, since i’d been diving most days or at least on a boat and not wanting to be hungover for it. Saturday night however, was all about the full moon party at Dinos beach bar. I may have mentioned Dinos – Tofo’s only ‘club’. I’d been once and left early. This week, however, I wasn’t getting off so lightly. After grabbing dinner with the guy from Toronto who I hung out with in Maputo and some of his dive buddies (again, more hot guys – seriously, this place is single-girl heaven!), we made our way to Dinos for about 10.30pm. The night was yet to get underway so we sat outside by the fire, talking, smoking and getting covered in sand again. Somehow, the place had filled-up while I wasn’t paying attention, and the next thing I knew there were people everywhere. I’m not sure at what point it seemed like a good idea to have the first sambuca shot. They serve them in test tubes, a double measure for 55 mets (about £1.30). It ended up being a really fun night, with lots of drinking and dancing – everyone from the dive centre was there, including my dive buddy Mike and his friend Chris, both from Boston. Chris is a non-diver, something which is practically sacrilegious in Tofo. I think I spent most of the evening telling him repeatedly that he should definitely do it. I pretty much lost count on the sambucas. I know that I rolled out of the bar with some friends at around 4am, having agreed to spend some time the following weekend with a cute guy with a lovely smile whose name I couldn’t remember, so he could teach me to surf. Now there’s a guy who likes a challenge, since I suffer a deplorable lack of balance and coordination. There’s a really good reason why people like me don’t ski. We hitched a ride home in the back of a pick-up truck, and I was out the second my head hit the pillow.
The next day dawned, and we started to count the cost of the evening. I reckoned I was down about 600 mets, which I estimate to be less than £15, although I have no real idea what the exchange rate is. The hangover, mercifully, was nowhere near as epic as i’d anticipated. I put this down to the bread I ate before I passed out, and the ten minutes I spent with my head down the toilet sometime after sambuca number five. Just call me Pandora, Tarquin. We took our sore heads to the beach and crashed out on the sand. That evening we went to a local restaurant with Toronto and his buddies, and I ate a truly delectable seafood pasta. All in all, it was about the second-best way you could spend a hungover day …
Monday morning dawned, and we were off to the local estuary to snorkel and take pictures of the local marine fauna. In the main we were looking for sea horses, but since the estuary is pretty much a nursery for the reef, there was sure to be lots to see. After a bumpy ride in the back of a truck we arrived at the estuary and donned reef shoes and rash vests, and struck out across the sand. The water was low and snorkelling was a bit of a challenge, since in some places we were practically ‘boobs to the bottom’, but the place was absolutely teeming with life. It takes a while to really start to SEE, but once you do you realise that that there is life absolutely everywhere. Baby reef fish, sea horses, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, nudibranches, starfish … the underwater cameras were having a good outing! We had to abandon the exercise after about an hour and a half, since it was damn cold in the wind, but it was a really great outing. I’m turning into a geek, I can feel it …
Tuesday morning and the diving started again. They’re missing a trick – they should market this as a fitness bootcamp and charge even more money for it. Now I know why all the girls here have great bodies, and it really can’t be considered any sort of achievement since buffing-up is a natural bi-product of this lifestyle. I’ve basically lived on processed carbs and Dairy Milk for the last couple of weeks and i’m in about the best shape of my life. Go figure.

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