I qualified as an Open Water Handicapped Scuba Diver on 22 October 2011 in Mozambique. It is difficult to describe in plain words what I experience 18 meters under water. I am completely blind. I lost my eyesight just after I turned 11. I am 59 years old. Recently in September 2017 I went diving in Umkomaas on the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal. On our last dive we saw some whales and all kind of other fishes around us. My buddy gave me some signals when we approached those fishes. I was breathless to know I was so close to all those God made creatures. Just being there among God’s handwork, was awesome. Diving has a wonderful calming effect on me. I am looking forward to future dives. I recommend scuba diving to all that loves the outdoor sports. Looking forward meeting you!
Heather Wagner – C4 quadriplegic:
19th April 2010
I met Frank a couple of years ago, and every time I see or speak to him he is so positive & encouraging. When I heard through a mutual friend that Frank had gone scuba diving, I phoned him just to find out how it went, never thinking that I was going to do it. He emailed me some info & the letters written by him & the instructors, & I cried while reading them. I was so touched by the impact it had had on everyone & the instructor’s commitment & dedication. Less than a month later I was in the pool getting my training!
Two months after finishing matric I was in a car accident, on the 14th February 1993, in which I broke my neck leaving me a C4 quadriplegic, and my boyfriend who was driving was killed. I coped okay at first, but the more time went by the more difficult it got. I thought, as everyone with a spinal cord injury thinks, that I was going to walk again. You eventually have to accept that it’s not going to happen.
It was 3 years before I seriously considered ending my life, but it was 16 years before I actually tried. I had thought about it so often & knew exactly how I would do it when the time came. In Dec 2008 I got my home care worker to turn me onto my side, as I have slight use of my left arm but no hand movement, and got her to leave a packet of sleeping pills on my bed. She didn’t know what they were as I had never taken one. At 11pm I chewed a hole in the bottom of the packet & emptied the pills onto my bed. I then picked them up with my tongue, but had to swallow without water as I can’t hold a cup or use my hand. I took as many as I could (about 37) until my mouth got so dry I couldn’t swallow any more, I just hoped it was enough. My care worker checked on me around 6am the next morning & found me unconscious. I live on a property with my parents & my sister, so she called them & they rushed me to hospital. I came to with a breathing tube down my throat & was so pissed off, & for the next 10 months regretted that it hadn’t worked.
I think that one of the reasons I battle so much is because I hate being paralysed & want to live life to the fullest. I was an extremely adventurous & energetic person before my accident, even winning trophies for athletics in Std 5, and spending holidays on our family game farm & swimming & bum-bashing in the Olifants river. This experience has given me something to look forward to! I’ve only just finished my training but I’m already thinking & planning all the places I want to dive!
Thank you Frank for inspiring me & encouraging me to do this & for doing it before me, my constant thoughts while I was underwater (& wondering what the hell I’d gotten myself into) were “If Frank & Andrew can do this, so can I”. Thank you Zelda for bringing HSA here, & THANK YOU Koos & Lynn for taking such good care of me & making this such an enjoyable experience that I can’t wait to do more.
Andrew Du Toit – C5Quadriplegic:
My diving experience with the Handicapped Scuba-Diving Association
Ever since I had a spinal cord injury 8 years ago and became a complete C5 quadriplegic I tried to get back into life and do things that I normally used to do as an able-bodied. I soon began to realize that there were certain things that I would never be able to do again. This made me very frustrated that I had gotten to a point where I just wanted to give up on life. As the years moved on I slowly but surely got my life back on track. I now live in my own place, swim with my physiotherapists at the Welgeheul hospital 2 times a week, go hand cycling twice a week, have a standing frame which allows me to stand up which is good for bone density and I have done a skydive.
When I heard about scuba diving and how free you feel in the water this was something I wanted to pursue but was not possible in South Africa as diving schools were not certified to dive with handicapped people. This made me very frustrated and people told me I would never be able to do it. This made me want it even more. I got myself very healthy and managed to get through the doctor’s health requirements but still nobody would dive with me. I was so frustrated that I got to the point of thinking about employing someone off the side of the street getting them trained and going diving anyway.
Then all of a sudden I heard about the Handicapped Scuba Association coming over from America to instruct dive instructors to dive with handicapped people in South Africa. In the beginning I thought that this was a joke but it was to become a reality.
From then on everything became blurred. We all started out at Forever Resort Warmbath where we began our pool training which we did for 2 days. All of a sudden there were other people with disabilities, camera and media people and the rest of the group whom I did not know. This made me very nervous as I have not really been exposed to others with disabilities. I would personally like to thank Forever Resorts for making my stay there very pleasant as the room I was staying in was very wheelchair accessible and the bathroom was my main concern which was very adapted to my needs.
Then started our trip to Mozambique going through the Kruger National Park into Mozambique. This was a rough trip but after 16 hours we managed to get there. I have never travelled in Africa other than South Africa and I was very excited to go see another country on our continent. The place of destination in Mozambique Guinjata Resort . We were greeted with great hospitality and made felt at home. The management and staff went out of their way to make their resort as wheelchair accessible as possible. They prepared a deck on the beach where we could settle and enjoy the ocean view.
This is where we kitted up in our wet suits and got onto the boat. This was then towed across the beach and pushed into the water. 2 people assisted me onto the boat and one sat behind me to give me body support. As we reached our place of destination, I was gently put into the water where one of my dive buddies was waiting to assist me. Once I was comfortable, my other dive buddy jumped off the boat and that’s when we began our descent.
What a different world, I felt totally free underwater and was now experiencing something that I have never done in my life before. At the end of the week I had completed 5 dives at an average depth of 15 m. And I am now certified as a level C – .H.S.A. diver.
At the end of the day I had achieved my goal, met new people with similar life challenges and made
some new friends.
A special thanks to Lynn and Zelda for making this a reality and for Bernie the owner of Guinjata Resort for putting his neck on the line and going out of his way to make his resort cater for people with disabilities and to scuba dive at a great location.
They will definitely see me again with my friends and family in the near future.
As ‘n disabled persoon wil ek net sê van my kant af geluk aan almal wat hier was en uit gehou het, al het dit soms gelyk of dit te moeilik is. Elke dag het net beter geraak. ‘n Paar jaar gelede het my lewe drasties verander as gevolg van ‘n motorfiets ongeluk, ek het my linker been bokant my knieg verloor en die gebruik van my linker arm. Ek het nooit gedink ek sal weer iets kan doen waarvan ek sal hou nie. Glo my ek het. Ons klomp is genader om te leer scuba duik. Ek, Koos, Versha, Frank die tank, Andrew, Laiken en Stanley. Ek het altyd gedink my disability is erg tot dat ek elk van my nuwe vriende ontmoet het!! Ek het besef ek is beter af as baie van hulle. Ekleen van hulle is ‘n groot inspirasie vir my, daarom het ek aan gehou en my beste gegee.
Dan wil ek net sê sonder die instrukteurs sal ons nie die mylpaal gehaal het nie. Braam le Roux was my instrukteur en dit was wonderlik om saam met hom te werk, ek het altyd veilig gevoel en presies geweet wat ek moet doen. Dan is daar Lynn, Zelda, Roger, Groot Koos en die drie wat agter moes bly in Suid Afrika Jana, Hayley en Leeroy – almal wonderlike instrukteurs.
In Forever Resorts Warmbad moes ons al ons oefeninge doen in die swembad, waarvan ons daarna vertrek het na Guinjata Resort in Mocambique. Dit was ‘n lang rit, om presies te wees sewentien en ‘n half uur. Dit is ‘n wonderlike plek en dit is beeldskoon. Daar moes ek van ons vyf duike doen met on oefeninge in die see. Dit het my weer laat besef dat on as mense net te ondankbaar is met als. Dit was ‘n wonderlike uitdaging en as jy wil voel hoe “Superman” voel as hy vlieg, gaan leer om te scuba duik.
Dan wil ek ook net sê dankie vir my grootste inspirasie in my lewe, my vrou Lindy Korff en my drie seuns Rohan, Dian end Dantè sonder hulle is ek niks. En dan laaste, vir al die mense wat dit moontlik gemaak het vir ons, dankie sê. Maar dan is daar ook een spesiale mens Bernie van Guinjata Resort wat ons moet dankie sê voor. Sonder hom en al die instrukteurs en Jim het Amaglubglub nie vandag bestaan nie. En heel laaste aan God, sonder dat Hy ons ‘n tweede kans gegee het nie…Dankie!r hom en al die instrukteurs en Jim het Amaglubglub nie vandag bestaan nie. En heel laaste aan God, sonder dat Hy ons ‘n tweede kans gegee het nie sou Amaglubglub nie bestaan het nie. Dankie!!!
Versha Mohanlal Rowjee – Age: 38 – Spina Bifida:
Swimming with the fishes: a whole new world
I was born with Spina Bifida. This is a congenital spinal cord defect. The effect is that I have dislocated joints, deformed bones, muscles and nerves from my hips downwards and club feet. My legs are very weak with almost no muscle and strength and restricted mobility thereof.
As a child I wished I could swim because it looked like a magical trick to me when I watched other children swim. But alas! The opportunities were limited by perceptions that a person needs to be able to use one’s legs to swim and kick in the water; something I was unable to do. At the age of 25 I DID learn to swim – not through kicking my legs in the water, but because when I put my head under the water, my legs floated very easily! I loved the sensation! I could swim! It was a whole new discovery for me – no crutches – no wheelchair – just me – freely floating in the water. It felt as though the water supported me and enabled me – as long as I trusted the water – there was harmony between us …..
My family home town is Mokopane in Limpopo province so we often went to Warmbaths for holidays and long weekends. On one of these trips, I was swimming in the pool at the Hydro. I later got chatting to a very kind gentleman who said that I looked like a mermaid when I swam. I told him that because of the poor blood circulation in my legs, I got very cold and could not swim in cold water. He took my address and sent me a dry suit, which he said I could try and it would help me stay warm when swimming in cold water. This happened about 10 years ago.
When I think back to this meeting, I believe that the forces of the universe were conspiring to affirm the fact that one day I would be scuba diving – even though I did not think so until a few months ago… but how much more real could this be when we arrived to do our scuba diving pool session at the Hydro at Forever Resort Warmbaths on the 19th February 2010? This was a dream come true for me….
And then the journey (of 1000 miles?) began and off we drove to Mozambique. I had been to Mozambique before – when I was a year old, on holiday with my parents. I have a picture of myself sitting on the beach, covered in sea sand and the wind blowing my little curly hair. Here I was; back after so many years, on the most amazing adventure of my life.
The night before our first dives in Mozambique was so high on nerves. I was part of the second group to dive, and I thought the people on the first group were so brave! We were all so excited – just remember to breathe – I told myself – the first rule of scuba diving – never hold your breath – how ironical – this was a breath taking experience!
When the people from the first group came back from their dives – we were all around them wanting to know how it was. There were smiles, tears, cheers and hugs all around. But still nothing could brace me for the experience I was to embark on and discover for myself. Off we went, wedged onto the boats – out to sea. My gear was put on, I was given instruction on how I was to enter the water and I decided that this was it! Just follow the instructions and breathe!
Down I went, with my instructors – just breath, just breath, just breath – equalize, equalize, equalize… and then it happened …. all my worries dissolved – were taken away by the mighty ocean. Wow, I thought, this is it – this is magic – that’s all! Yet it was everything – it was perfect. I felt like the mermaid – swimming with the fishes. They swam past me; almost as though welcoming me to their beautiful world. It was so friendly, calm and peaceful. I wanted to laugh – to cry – I thought to myself – what did I do to deserve this?
But there was a whole lot more that went into those moments of realization – the instructors, the course directors, trainers, sponsors, owners and staff of Guinjata Resort, our families and friends – those we went with and those we came back with. Thank you, thank you and thank you to everyone.
I was seriously traumatized by a robbery in June last year. My life changed after that – I never laughed again, I gave up on who I was. Last night I met friends who I have not seen in a few months, and they said to me, what happened – you look great – you are back!
This experience has brought me back. The ocean dissolved my trauma, the fish welcomed me and my friends and dive instructors showed me so much of love. I started to believe again that I will be ok.
Thank you, thank you and thank you to everyone.
Koos Coertze – T-12 L1 Parapleeg:
Op 6 Desember 2009 het ek n oproep otvang van Lynn Retief en Zelda Norden , toe vra hulle my vir n brief om te vertel wat met my gebeur het , en hoe dit my lewe verander het. Ons was sewe studente wat gekies was om te gaan vir scuba duik opleiding.
In die begin het ek gedink dat dit onmoonlik sou wees vir n persoon met n gebrek om te kan duik. Dit was n’ nuwe uitdaging vir my gewees wat ek met byde hande wou aanpak en vir die mense daar buite n’ punt bewys om nie teen ‘n persoon se gebrek was te kyk nie. Na die eeste dag se oefening in die water het ek besef dat ek nog steeds vrylik kan rond beweeg . Ek het baie vriende verloor na my ongeluk , nou het ek nuwe vriende ontmoet wat nie teen my gebrek vas kyk nie, hulle sien my vir die persoon wat ek is.
Ek het elke dag seer in my bene as gevolg van my ongeluk , maar die tien dae wat ek saam my nuwe vriende gespandeer het, het alles verander. Ek het gevoel ek kan weer lewe.
Ek wil net vir die mense daar buite se moet nooit terug kyk in die lewe as daar iets met jou gebeur het nie. Leef jou lewe voluit want jy kan dalk nie weer daai 2de kans kry nie. Ek het daai 2de kans gekry en daarom pak ek elke uitdaging tenvolle aan en die feit dat ek verlam is in my onder lyf, hou dit my nie terug nie. Dankie vir die mense wat die geleentheid vir ons geskep het om ons self te vind, ek glo dit het ons almal se lewens verander en nie net die mense wat opleiding gekry het nie maar vir die instrukteure ook
Frank Juskievitz – C7 Quadriplegic:
Life is valuable and precious…… and so I thought. Then I went scuba-diving. The revelation of valuable and precious have now taken on a new meaning and dimension. Valuable in the sense that living with a physical disability for some 27 years has been good, routinely mundane and merely just going through the motions. I had not partaken in any sport or recreation since my spinal cord injury. Scuba-diving is a life changing experience I needed. I can now partake in life’s pleasures even as a person living with a physical disability. At a depth of 5 meter or more the playing field has been leveled. At this level able-bodied and disable people are both on a par of weightlessness and freedom of movement. In this environment, life has become most valuable being filled with some amazing and valuable moments of freedom from my disability and the life of awe and inspiration from the kaleidoscope of colours and abundance of underwater life.
The golden rule of scuba-diving is to always breathe and never hold your breath.
A simple rule? Right.
So easy to say, yet so difficult to exercise; you constantly find yourself holding your breath in awe of the amazing underwater scenery and the glimpse of the glory of the Lord. Over the years my motorised wheelchair has become my comfort zone and the place I learned to adapt to life, to learn and to spend up to 15 hours a day. Take me out of this comfort zone and I feel totally helpless and insecure. Let alone this, you are still being placed in a heated pool – without a lifejacket! I must be undergoing shock therapy… and I’m glad I did.
Placing my life, my trust and my fears into the hands of my diving instructor is all part of the communication and challenges that are necessary to transform my life to a new comfort zone. The training is intense, scary yet exciting. Every skill learned in the confined water space is an achievement, a small step of victory in qualifying for the open water dives and the ultimate certification as an HAS scuba diver. Each step of victory is a tribute to the professional instruction, dedication and passion of my instructor to teach me to dive and to dive safely. The HSA training I received provided me with the confidence I needed to boldly face the open water dives with ease. What a breeze and pleasure. As challenging as the training seemed at the time, it now seems so absolutely insignificant in relation to your first underwater glimpse.
The first time I submerged my face into the ocean waters I was instantly engulfed in a new underwater world of wonder. As I descended closer to the reef beneath I was amazed and in awe of the indescribable glory that totally surrounded me and that kept me suspended in the zone of weightlessness and absolute freedom of movement. For the first time in over 28 years I realized I was in an environment where I was not aware, conscience or bound to the limitations of my disability. Freedom at last. I am now addicted to scuba-diving at Guinjata Resort and this is the most precious gift to me. It has certainly added value to my life. The added value of new friends & buddies, new interests and new passions to explore the oceans of the deep in the environment of weightlessness and freedom of movement. I now have a new sense of being. I am not merely going through the motions, but rather find myself invigorated and living life to the full as a person living with a disability. Living and planning my next dive with enthusiasm.
This is all wonderful and amazing, but rather selfish if it was just for me. On this trip, I have seen the
remarkable changes to both my fellow students and instructors. Students boldly facing their fears and apprehensions and being transformed with confidence to laugh, to cry and to live unashamedly.
Instructors, loving and passionate to stand in the gap, to make our dreams become a reality.
This event has been truly awesome and life changing to both students and instructors alike. Words alone will only do this event an injustice. My greatest joy is not my life changing experience in itself, but rather being able to share my life changing scuba experience with others and inspiring people with disabilities to take up the challenge and become HSA certified scuba-divers.
You can do it !!!
Lastly I would like to extend our eternal gratitude to all our heroes who made it possible for us to live our dreams. Without you this would all remain a dream and fantasy. Thank you for investing in all our lives. We purpose to maximize the return of your investment by inspiring others.