Scuba diving is a chance to explore another world for Akila Khan, quality engineer at Sheffield Forgemasters.
I first tried scuba diving when I was 15 because my aunt runs a dive school.
I didn’t have enough spare time back then to really commit to it, but in September 2016 I went back and started the Open Water diving course, spending a weekend doing theory tests in the mornings and practical pool tests in the afternoons. We then repeated the pool skills we had learned at an open quarry site in Lancashire to gain the Open Water qualification.
Once I qualified, scuba diving quickly became something of an addiction. In 2017 I became a PADI Master Scuba Diver which is the top recreational scuba qualification, obtaining specialty certifications in Rescue, Deep Diving, Dry Suit Diving, Underwater Navigation, Enriched Air Diving, Oxygen Administration, Night Diving and Search & Recovery.
The next step for me was to become a professional and undertake my PADI Divemaster training, which I completed within six months and I obtained my PADI Instructor qualification in June 2018, which meant that I could start training people up to a professional level in scuba diving.
It’s been a real step-change for me, very challenging but equally rewarding. I love introducing people to scuba diving so that they can experience a view on the world that is like no other. I think more people are becoming aware of scuba diving as a potential hobby because of programmes like Blue Planet, which have really brought life in the oceans into people’s homes.
The biggest change for me though, is the way that the sport has encouraged me to think about pollution and the impact that we are having on the environment, because the effects of our addiction to disposable goods is no more apparent than in our rivers and oceans.
I can now teach a Project Aware course called ‘Dive Against Debris’ and also go out on dives purely to help clean up our waterways, which is rewarding and quite surprising when we see the bizarre array of objects that end up underwater once they have been disposed of.
It is also becoming clear that the changes in ocean temperature are having a devastating effect on ecosystems, I’ve witnessed this in the Maldives where there was evidence of coral bleaching at various dive sites. Plastic pollution and debris was also an issue during two trips to the Red Sea in Egypt. The water seemed to be warmer and there was less marine life to be found on the second trip, just 12 months after the first.