Scuba Diving Class on Panglao Island in Bohol, Philippines

Scuba Diving Class with Holger Horn: Open Water with the Expert



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One of the many highlights of Peace Corps training was getting my scuba certification on Panglao Beach. Our instructor was a ex-military, taekwon-do grandmaster, and extremely dedicated environmentalist named Holger Horn. People told me I should have gotten my certification before I left the U.S., but I must say I’m lucky I didn’t!

  • Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004

    Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004
    Holger Horn, our legendary ex-military, taekwon-do grandmaster, environmentalist, and scuba instructor holding court in his dojo. In addition to running one of the top ranked dive shops in the Philippines, Holger works tirelessly to conserve the reefs near his shop in the Bohol Marine Triangle.

  • Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004

    Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004
    We took a short boat ride to a nearby reef to begin our open water dive. At this point, Holger admitted to us that he had no feeling in his leg below his knee.

  • Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004

    Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004
    It might seem odd to wear a wetsuit in a tropical climate, but the water 60 feet below the surface is pretty cold!

  • Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004

    Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004
    I hit the water like a ton of bricks, all that gear weighs quite a bit. Note that my hand is not on my mask, where it should be. The impact of the water knocked it off my face, but luckily I caught it before it could sink away.

  • Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004

    Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004
    Corey Fitch makes his entrance: Almost looks like he's covered in the slime from Ghostbusters.

  • Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004

    Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004
    To make up for my sloppy entrance into the sea, Holger made me do push ups on the bottom of the ocean.

  • Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004

    Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004
    Holger spotted this sea snake and was able to chase it back into its sea wall fortress. If a poisonous centipede didn't faze him, a poisonous snake with a comically undersized mouth doesn't stand a chance.

  • Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004

    Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004
    Lunch breaks between the morning and afternoon dive were always fun. Holger told us of his encounters with communist rebels in the remote areas of the country, and how he was able to study kyokushinkai karate in Japan.

  • Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004

    Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004
    With lunch out of the way, we went back out a short distance off the beach to dive again.

  • Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004

    Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004
    Pam turned out to be the teacher's pet of the class and didn't have to do push ups for taking her mask off like me.

  • Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004

    Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004
    Anemone fish might be small, but they don't like to be pushed around by a guy in a black rubber suit.

  • Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004

    Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004
    PCV Group 263 scuba class:(From left to right) Pam Meierding, Corey Fitch, Kris Kerecman, Jason Maclaren, Me, Eric Richer, Kristen Kerecman.

  • Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004

    Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004
    We tried to hold our graduation ceremony underwater but it was hard to understand Pam's commencement address. We settled for a hasty group photo instead.

  • Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004

    Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004
    Above the surface turned out to be a better spot for a graduation photo.

  • Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004

    Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004
    Like most graduation cermonies, ours ended at a bar with 50 cent drafts.

  • Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004

    Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004
    One more photo....and we're done.

  • Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004

    Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004
    Well, almost the last photo... On the way home I tried to pre-empt decompression sickness by hanging upside down on the jeepney railing. It didn't work, but it turned out I didn't have decompression sickness anyway.

  • Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004

    Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004
    Before we were allowed anywhere near the water, we learned that up is where the air is.

  • Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004

    Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004
    Pool party!

  • Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004

    Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004
    This means "pay attention" when you're underwater.

  • Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004

    Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004
    This means "try that again" underwater. Photo by Kris Kerecman.

  • Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004

    Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004
    No explanation necessary here.

  • Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004

    Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004
    Ma-ma! Ma-ma!

  • Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004

    Scuba Class at Alona Beach; Panglao - Spring 2004
    Minutes before we were scheduled to leave on our first open water dive, Holger was bitten by a very poisonous centipede that had taken up residence in his scuba boot. Most people would have been hospitalized in this situation, the venom from this insect is as strong as that of a scorpion. Holger toughed it out and finished the dive with us anyway.