Journey of super divers to sharks


More than a year ago, Dmitry Knyazev, the author of the OpenWaterChallenge volunteer project, and diving instructors, shark divers Petr and Irina Britanov, conceived a bold story: to organize a series of dives for divers with disabilities with tiger sharks in the far south of the Maldives, Fuvahmulah Island. Petr and Irina are unique specialists in working with tiger sharks. Their interaction with sharks is not training, not taming, not intimidating. This is communication based on mutual respect.

Peter and Irina began to prepare for the reception of divers with disabilities long before the start of the project. We bought a wheelchair, on which Irina herself, step by step, studied the territory of the diving center and the hotel for accessibility. Then they managed to convince the owners to make changes: make ramps, widen doorways, remove thresholds where possible.

The implementation of the project coincided with a difficult global situation, when many international projects were put on hold or cancelled. The trip was rescheduled and postponed several times. The participants changed plans and circumstances, someone was forced to abandon the trip. Naturally, there were also concerns related to the nature of the dives themselves - the participants had to dive in conditions that are among the most difficult in recreational diving. The ocean has special requirements: great depths, multidirectional currents, possible waves on the surface, which can make it difficult for divers with disabilities to get in and out of the water.

But the dream to meet the inhabitants of the Indian Ocean in their natural environment was so great that everyone did everything possible for their part to make this project a reality.

It was decided not to postpone the meeting with the sharks and to implement the plan as soon as possible. What's more, the dive program has been expanded to include a visit to Dunghetty Island and manta rays in addition to Fuvahmulah Island.

And it turned out to be an absolutely fantastic adventure.

Dive at Ari Atoll, Dhangethi Island. Manti

Part of the group flew to the Maldives a few days earlier to assess the accessibility of diving for people with disabilities on Dhangetty Island. But there was another reason for visiting this island - the realization of a big diving dream of one of the project participants, Dmitry Pavlenko. This dream was a meeting with manta rays. And everything worked out! Events developed as in the classic plot of the novel: the first day of diving did not bring the cherished meeting. On the second day the divers were more fortunate. But the manti withstood the intrigue and came only at the end of the dive. Well, on the third day there was a culmination of the event: three fantastically beautiful manta rays were already waiting for the divers. They swam side by side, performing an amazing dance. Considered and studied the guests. And there was a complete feeling that they purposefully came to meet and talk.

Dmitry Pavlenko: “What a delight it is to swim with manta rays, just space. You forget about everything, you breathe every other time to swim next to you, to consider every detail. You understand that they are studying you too. An unforgettable feeling from meeting them, which will haunt me for a long time to come.”

Fuvahmulah Island. Tiger sharks, thrashers and more

After the arrival of the main part of the group in Male, and the flight by a local airline to the island of Fuvamula, the project participants were waiting for 6 days of magical diving in the Indian Ocean.

Yulia Krylova: “The coolest trip, unlike any of our diving trips, except for the soulfulness and richness of bright events.

We had not typical Maldives with houses on the water, and we never even bought from the bank. But we had the volcanic island of Fuvahmulah, deep dives into the blue abyss of the Indian Ocean and an underwater encounter with sharks. We dived fully in the Far South of the Maldives, which is considered the top in terms of difficulty in recreational diving. In all this we were loaded and pumped in diving by Peter and Irina. They believed in us more than we believed in ourselves, for which many thanks to them and respect for the organization. They have a good team, the guys grasped everything on the fly, were attentive and responsive and helped us a lot in diving. I hope that we didn’t let you down and managed.”

The underwater world appeared before the project participants in all its splendor. A big gift was the meeting with the thrashers. Thresher sharks were supposed, but, of course, no one could guarantee a meeting with them. But the guys were lucky again, they met the foxes on several dives, walked at a close distance, allowed themselves to be examined, returned to the group again and again.

Yulia Subbotina: “Diving in the Maldives with Tigersharkprofi team will definitely stay in my memory for a long time. It was an incredible experience. Bright colors, diversity of the underwater world - it's something incredible. Only during the very first dive I met a turtle and a fox shark, and Irina managed to capture these emotions on video, I have already reviewed them many times, although a little time has passed. Tiger sharks - on the shore it was scary to think about them, but under water it was absolutely calm, because the professionalism of the team was felt, the representatives of which were always on the perimeter from the participants. It's definitely worth seeing these important predators."

Encountering tiger sharks is what most divers go to Fuwamula for. It is always an exciting and exciting event. It evokes incomparable emotions. Their power, speed, grace, eyes that reflect the Universe, probably never get bored. These are amazing creatures, each meeting with them is unique and not like one another.

Marina Kulikova: “My diving geography is not very large. These are the Mediterranean, Andaman, Red and Black Seas. Each of these seas gave me new and wonderful emotions. And now the first ocean in my piggy bank dives. Indian.

I was very lucky. Pyotr Britanov was always next to me and I saw the underwater world of the ocean through his eyes. On the very first dive, sharks - foxes (Thresher sharks) swam very close to us. I was struck by their beauty and grace. For the first time I saw sea turtles and fish of such a color, the colors of which cannot be found on earth. There was also a meeting, for the sake of which I flew to Fuwamula. Encounter with tiger sharks.

When I first saw sharks, I began to analyze my emotions and asked myself - why am I not afraid of them? I saw the power and strength of these animals and understood that they were predators. There were incredibly strong emotions of delight and surprise, but there was absolutely no fear. I mentally sent them a request that they swim even closer to me in order to see them even better. I really wanted to swim closer to them myself, but the well-organized team of the Fuvahmulah Scuba Club was always on guard for our safety. It is impossible to convey in words the feelings that filled me at the sight of these beautiful creatures. I am happy that my acquaintance with the underwater world of the Indian Ocean took place. And to feel incredibly strong emotions, you need to experience it yourself. Professionals in their field Petr and Irina Britanova and Tigersharkprofi team will help you with this!”

Olga Bobrova: “The lectures about sharks and other marine life from the marine biologist, “shark specialist” Nikita Kornilov gave a special atmosphere to our trip. Every evening we learned something new. These lectures helped us realize a very important fact: people are much more dangerous for sharks than vice versa. A real genocide of the “shark people” is taking place in the world. He is in dire need of protection and care.”

Difficulties of travel: were there any?

Despite careful preparation and possible difficulties, which were known in advance, some issues had to be resolved “here and now”. This has become a great example of the fact that additional tests only motivate and strengthen self-confidence. So, for example, the absence of instructors during the trip, with whom the guys had already dived, and the associated slight nervousness at the initial stage, turned into an absolute understanding that there are no difficulties in successfully building all the necessary communication with the dive center employees on the spot. People are ready to listen, hear, change the usual algorithms, learn quickly and take into account the needs of divers with disabilities.

Evgeny Burmistrov: “For me, a trip to the Maldives island of Fuvahmulah was different from other diving trips in many ways. These are three long flights from Tomsk. This is the first trip for me and the team without accompaniment divers and instructors. The dives themselves were also different. We did three dives a day. Mostly they were deep. Of course, a separate mention must be made of tiger sharks, which sometimes accompanied us to the point of observation of them, which added to the impressions. As a result, the trip turned out to be wonderful, which is also a great merit of the entire host team, which made our stay on the island and diving very comfortable. We must repeat!”

Yulia Subbotina: “I would like to note the team's involvement in the process. The most attentive and ready to adapt to a special request. Despite the fact that there was no experience in diving with people with disabilities, everyone understood each other as quickly as possible, which definitely added both comfort and confidence when diving.”

From “to do” to “done”

Dmitry Pavlenko: “We chose the following motto for our trip: From “to do” to “done”. It turned out to be very in tune with the feelings and mood. Our journey took place despite the accompanying difficulties. This was the first trip without instructors, and we overcame a difficult psychological barrier - we realized that the experience and level of our training corresponded to the difficult Maldivian diving. This trip significantly expanded the geography of our trips. Everyone returned victorious, inspired, charged, with new dreams and plans. On behalf of our entire group, we would like to thank the dive clubs Tigersharkprofi , South Ari Dive - Maldives, Petr and Irina Britanov, who did everything and even more to make this trip happen. Many thanks to Dmitry Knyazev's project "Open Water Challenge" and all the instructors who have worked and continue to work on training divers with disabilities. This is a grandiose affair, important, necessary, expanding horizons and giving new life meanings.

We deliberately do not use the words "paradivers" in our story, because we do not consider ourselves to be such. Evgeny Burmistrov came up with a wonderful definition - superdivers. Yes, it happens that on land we need more help than ordinary divers. But underwater we are free and the success of our dives is determined only by our experience, our level of training and our skills.”

Dmitry Pavlenko
Evgeny Burmistrov
Dmitry Frolov
Julia Subbotina
Julia Krylova
Marina Kulikova
Olga Bobrova