There are so many reasons to fall in love with scuba diving. We sat down with one of our favourite OrcaNation Dive Professionals, Buddy Tolba – who has been a qualified diver for over 2 decades, to find out what’s behind his passion for diving in open water and why he believes everyone should become a PADI Open Water diver experience the underwater world at least once a lifetime.
What inspired you to try scuba diving?
I started my PADI journey in 1999 in the Egyptian Red Sea. My family went on a vacation to Sharm El-Sheikh where they parked the car at a marina and boarded a tiny little liveaboard boat from which we were going to be diving for the weekend.
As I’d just turned 12, I was finally old enough to do my PADI Junior Open Water course (the minimum age is now 10 years old). Both my older sisters were qualified scuba divers, so I’d been looking forward to this, for what seemed like ages. I’d already finished my theory review and confined sessions a week earlier with a PADI instructor and was now ready to complete my qualification. I still vividly remember my excitement about finally learning to scuba dive.
Can you tell us about your first PADI Open Water Dive?
I remember feeling very apprehensive before my first PADI Open Water dive. I’d been snorkeling for years but was finally going to take my first breath underwater with my family. Our instructor went over the skills that we were going to be doing on the dive, and I remember thinking “that’s a piece of cake!” as we’d just mastered all the skills a week earlier in the pool. But now it was the real thing, and I will admit, I was a bit tense.
We geared up and did our predive safety checks with our buddy’s (my older sister was my buddy for our Open Water dive) we took our first giant stride off the platform into the crystal clear water.
We deflated our BCD’s and descended into a magical world for the first time. We saw amazing creatures like blue spotted stingrays, moray eels, butterfly fish and loads of other species swimming along the beautiful coral reef. Before the end of the dive the instructor asked me to do a couple of skills and then we came back to the boat where I was able to tell my parents about the magnificent experience I had underwater!
What encouraged you to continue diving after your PADI Open Water?
Quite simply, I loved every second of my first PADI Open Water dive experience! Growing up I continued going on dive trips with my family and completed my PADI Junior Advanced Open Water course where I dived on amazing wrecks like the Thistlegorm wreck and did my first night dive, which is still one of my favorite types of dives. I also completed my PADI Junior Rescue Diver course before I was 15.
Some of my friends also completed their PADI qualifications shortly after I did mine, and our families used to send us together on scuba diving camps where we used to buddy up and have some of the best experiences of our lives. Over 15 years later we still fall back on the memory of the first shark we ever saw, or that time we saw the octopus changing colour, or when that dreaded Titan Triggerfish chased our friend away during nesting season! (We still laugh out loud when we talk about that story!)
How did learning scuba diving change your life?
When I turned 18 I completed my PADI Divemaster course, this is when I finally started earning money while diving – there is nothing more rewarding than doing what you love. Throughout my university studies I was able to assist in PADI courses in our local pool with the local dive company and over the weekends we used to organize liveaboard dive trips along the Red Sea coast.
After racking up literally thousands of dives guiding and assisting in dive courses, I met my future wife (who was also a PADI Divemaster) and I decided it was time to start teaching diving myself and here I am today, a PADI Instructor and an OrcaNation Dive Professional!
Why do you think everyone should experience scuba diving?
I’ve spent most of my adult life scuba diving and have taught hundreds of PADI courses to date. I’ve seen and experienced life-changing events where people literally go from being afraid of the water to becoming professional divers.
Exploring the underwater world gives you the ability to connect with our planet. You become one with the underwater world and it really changes your outlook on life forever!
While diving with children, I’ve seen them take responsibility for themselves, solve complex problems together and communicate in ways that they don’t do in their normal day-to-day lives. In today’s world where technology leads the way in our social lives, underwater we are relieved of those stresses, we are able to experience life without the interruption of a pinging phone or the need for temporary entertainment with a video game.