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Face the fear and dive in anywayHow I braved the waters of Jeju and learned to scuba dive
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승인 2009.06.20  15:25:28
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▲ Photo courtesy Jeju Provincial Government
“Am I really going down there?” This was the first thought that crossed my mind; my next thought was, of course, “wow, the ocean is really dirty. Like swimming in fog, or a yellow dust storm.” I was looking down into the ocean during my first scuba dive trying to calm myself down. I have no fear of water and have been a competitive swimmer since I was 6.

However, not being able to see more than three meters in front of me in open-water, and not being in a safe, chlorinated swimming pool was a little scary. My diving instructor and I started to descend. At about three meters I found I could not make my ears pop. The technical term is to equalize pressure. After what seemed like an hour of trying, but was really only about two minutes, I freaked out and surfaced. Yup, I’m a wimp!

My friend at the surface tried giving me a pep talk, “it’s great down there, you’ll be just fine.” My dive instructor convinced me to try one more time. This time I figured out the trick I’ve been using since: swallow while trying to equalize. Once I relaxed and started looking around I was treated to some of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.

The water surrounding Jeju is filled with a wide variety of marine life. Soft corals in beautiful shades of pink, purple and orange are situated next to lush kelp beds.

Since my first time diving I have completed a course to receive my open water dive card. During this course I was able to spend a few hours diving around Munsom Island located near Seogwipo Harbor. This area was usually filled with divers, even in poor conditions.

On one memorable dive we had to deal with pretty high winds, and it can be a lot of work to swim against these plus the surf they create. In a very small area I have seen some stunning sea creatures, including a lion fish, a few scorpion fish, target fish, a dozen nudibranches, a massive swarm of jelly fish -- which, while pretty are not very fun to swim through. The stings are mild, but bring vinegar just in case.

The area around Munsom is also used by the Jeju Submarine Tour, so if someone in the dive group sees something like a boat, but it looks to be sinking, it’s a submarine. Swim away from it.

In July I will be getting my advanced scuba certification. My dive buddy and I are traveling to Guam just for diving, that is if he can avoid hitting his head on rocks while swimming upside down. Hint, make sure to stay a least a meter above the bottom while looking up, or just stop swimming for a few seconds, the view is great.

So, to anyone interested in diving, give it a try, don’t worry, there isn’t anything too scary down there, really, I promise. Oh, and make sure you know how to swim first. It makes it a lot easier to deal with kicking against the wind and surf.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (
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