Another adventure, another fascinating world discovered and this time it was below sea level. As long as I can remember, swimming came to me easily. I had never been timid to jump from different heights into the lake or try to swim to the bottom.
So I set a goal for myself – to get a PADI Open Water certification during my time living here in Belize. By Sunday Aug 31st in the afternoon I had passed my test and became a certified diver! I was so exhausted after 2 and ½ days in San Pedro, studying and learning how to dive that my celebration consisted of just smiling for the rest of the day.
Now, I was thinking of how to explain my experience to my readers and I think I will keep it short of the scuba diving technicality and more of what happened under water.
I’m not the one to brag much, but I must say that I did catch on the techniques of scuba diving fairly quickly (which made my instructor’s job a little easier). After my pool training, the instructor offered to take me out soon after to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve as one of the options to do 2 of my 4 dives. And I accepted ;).
How do I explain what happened next? Basically on my first real dive I saw so many aquatic creatures and the life of the barrier reef, I was in paradise. Except when I saw two moray eels sent a chill down my spine. The first one was a small little bugger and then my instructor pulled my attention to another one just left of it stretched out to about 5ft with its mouth opened! It was slightly startling, especially that they look like a mix between a serpent and a goblin. Swimming by the wall of the reef and watching it drop meters below makes you feel so tiny in the ocean. In fact, I felt like the alien who has come down to see the aquatic community. Returning to the boat, there was a strong current that was pushing out to the sea. In order to pass it, we had to descend to the very bottom (about 7m/20ft) and cross it because swimming head on would exert too much energy and waste our air. Afterwards, I saw beautiful sea turtles chopping on sea grass, a zebra fish, nurse sharks, sting rays and manta rays, trumpet fish and more!
The following day was beautiful! My next dive was early Saturday morning pass the barrier reef and further out to the open water. Taking the boat out was rough since the wind had really picked up and the waves were large. Sort of a free roller coaster ride – same drop and turn in the stomach. Yet, I didn’t get sea sick!
The bottom depth this time was almost at 18m/ 60ft. Equalizing was a little tricky, but I got a hang of it as well as clearing my mask underwater. Again, not that I like to brag, but I think it’s pretty cool that I am able to take off my mask underwater and not panic (anymore). On this dive, the fish were bigger. I saw much larger nurse sharks, rays, groupers and a remora fish. Now a remora fish (can grow to up to 30-90cm long) attach to sharks or rays and feed off their scraps, but when a remora is detached from their host, they like to try and cling onto a scuba diver, and one had an interest in me. It was about 50cm long and at first I thought it was cute that it got close to me, then I realized how annoying they can get. These fish maneuver very quickly and will not give up to get close and cling to a part of you. Luckily I scared it off with my waving fin.
Diving in shallow marine is a joyful experience; passing by sea creatures living naturally in their habitat, coral beds, snorkelers and other divers – in other words, the popular spot. In the deep open water, it’s isolating. You look around and its just blue that goes on forever. At the bottom, there is coral and your marine life, but because sunlight doesn’t reach the bottom as much, the colours start to fade.
At the bottom of the deep water dive I looked up and the surface was so far away, in that moment I felt microscopic in the sea, never mind feeling tiny by the coral wall. The feeling I got at 18m/60ft underwater was a similar feeling seeing the earths horizon bending from your commercial flight window. For me, I suddenly become conscious of my significance in this vast world.
My instructor Pedro at the Belize Pro Dive Center was very skillful as well as knowledgeable and I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher! I am pleased that I had this experience with them and I will definitely be going back to do more dives.
I will definitely share them on my “Aadventure Trips” section!