These are silicon ear plugs with a tiny pin-prick hole enabling the wearer to equalize, while keeping water out. They cost about $20, and I bought them from a kayak instructor who handled them like they were small pieces of gold. Well, they’re worth more than gold. They are the keys to the Magical Kingdom! If you have ear issues and want to scuba dive, click here to find out more. I endorse them, I bow before them, I sing Hallelujah to their glory. Doc, whoever you are, you’re a freaking genius and every creature in the ocean loves you, including me, sinking into the warm, deep tropical waters of Papua New Guinea.
I'm here with the Scuba Diving Girls. Technically just Margo and Stephanie are the Scuba Diving Girls – a dive shop/online dive cult they run out of San Diego, but we're accompanied by some other girls as well, and SDG is a state of mind. We've come to PNG, as the cool kids call it, to explore Tufi and Walindi, two renowned diving spots. Tufi, with its views of the fjord and its world-class crescent-shaped house reef, was a perfect place to take my PADI Open Water Course. It's located in a small region on the eastern coast of PNG, almost comically remote, where locals and kids gather at the airstrip for the weekly highlight, a plane load of ghosts emerging from the loud sky bird. OK, it’s not the 1930’s, when the Leahy brothers discovered one million people living in the country’s highlands, previously unknown to man. We’re not white spirits returning with ancestors from the dead. We’re dive tourists. We’re coming from high, and we’re heading on low.
Underwater, I felt I could fly in an alien planet crammed with alien life forms. Sluggish, but free to float in any direction. The deep sound of my breath added an aural otherworldliness, bubbles floating to the surface, larger and larger, like jellyfish. The girls were the ultimate cheerleaders, offering tips, helping me calculate my pressure groups (although computers do all the work these days). Everyone got in the spirit, like watching a younger brother walking for the first time. Margo and Stephanie, with their blonde braids and branded tank tops, recorded my education for their website and Facebook followers, which you can see below. They filmed the process from my first discovery dive to my first qualified dive, swimming through the air hoops Glen would blow upside down. Another dream realized. Scuba diving (tick) in Papua New Guinea (tick). They tell me I’m one lucky son-of-a-bitch. I won't tell them they're wrong.