I sent this to my diving crew shortly after I dove for the first time after getting certified this past summer.
I am on the plane back to the states. I have been dying to write this email to you, my Eco diving family! It's gonna be every little detail cuz I feel like I learned a helluva lot on this, my first dive without you guys. Also, cuz I'm just excited to share every little detail and hope you'll appreciate it!
After several days in the rain forest, we arrived in the beach town of Guanacaste. We checked in and I immediately went to Scuba Caribe, a PADI-certified diving center next to my hotel. I had to pay $100 for the trip which included equipment and two dives. Is that a normal price? Everything felt expensive down there.
The next morning, I arrived at 8am and met my dive leader Kadir and Jose Luis, the boat man. I would be diving with two visiting Canadians named Jason and his 15 year old son, Ian. Jason said he'd be on about a thousand dives. Ooookay.
I brought my fins, mask, snorkel, boots and gloves. They carried the tanks and gear. We got on a small boat which took us to the bigger boat. Once we got on, we drove out to an island, about a 15min ride. It was gorgeous! As we rode out, we saw dolphins literally jumping high in the air! I said, "You paid them to do that, right?"
Once we stopped, we started getting into our gear. The gear was almost identical. Not as nice as ours but good. Kadir went over the plan. He said we'd be going down to about 75ft. That freaked me out a bit. I didn't say anything though. I figured I'd be fine. And like you guys said, there's no police. You're on your own.
As usual, before I knew it, they were geared up and in the water. I was still putting on my fins. That's my least favorite moment. When you feel like you're holding everyone up. I double checked everything and jumped in. The water was extra salty. I filled my BC but movement still felt tough. I heard some type of weird hiss. I figured it was fine. I got over to the rope down and my weight belt was loose. I was used to wearing the weights in my BC. Kadir came back up and tightened my belt. I was feeling something that I had never felt before. Panic. I looked down and saw nothing. Everything was new. I tried going down and my mask was filling with water. I rushed back to the top. I was hyperventilating. "Shit," I thought. "I can't believe I'm panicking like this." I was thinking about all of these elements combined. The weird sound I heard, going down further than I've ever gone and simply the unknown surroundings. Kadir came back up. I told him, "I don't think I can do it. Can I wait for the second dive?" Maaaaan, thank god he was patient. He told me to breathe and we'd go down slowly. He told me, "just keep looking towards the bottom." I took a few deep breaths, double checked everything again, tightened my mask and started to descend. After a few feet, I could see the bottom and that actually worked at calming me. I was starting to feel like my old self again. Kadir kept checking and I kept giving him the okay sign. We started moving and just as I was starting to really feel present, my regulator was slowly breathing in more and more water. No matter what I did, I was breathing in water. I tapped Kadir, gave him the "something's not right with my regulator" sign and he helped me switch to my secondary. Totally breathing fine again. Phew. I was starting to panic right before and during the switch. But I'm ok now. And the dive was incredible! Although the it didn't feel like it, he says we dove to 75 feet. We saw an eagle ray, tons of fish, some eels and these really cool very thin and long fish. Considering how much air I used up, I had to go up before the others. That's when I had my highlight. I looked up and in front of me was this massive MASSIVE school of fish. They were like a wall. I slowly ascended, did my stop, then reached the top. Inflated my BC and paddled on my back over to the boat. They came up about ten minutes later. I gave Kadir a pound and thanked him. Kadir asked, "Which one of you was singing down there?" "That was me," I said. I told them about my regulator and they switched it out. We waited an hour and moved. One spot was called Tortuga and one was called Argentina.
The second dive...the second dive!!! Well, I was way more relaxed. We descended to about 50 feet. We started going across the bottom and Kadir stopped us. He put both of his hands on top of his head in a prayer position. Yes, the sign for "shark." And there, not too far away was a white tip shark. We settled on the bottom, staying very still and that's when I could see....there was a whole school of them. A couple swimming about but most just laying at the bottom. We sat and watched. Jason took some photos. Then, slowly, Kadir moved towards them, getting them to move out of our way. Seriously, it felt like we were swimming through their living room. I was literally saying, "Don't mind us. Just passing through." There was a small moment when Kadir was ahead of us and the sharks were circling back around us. In all honesty, I think they were just waiting for us to be gone so they could resettle but it kinda looked like they were circling us. I STAYED CLOSE TO KADIR AND SWAM AS FAST AS I COULD. Once we got past them, there was something massively dark ahead of us. Again, I wasn't sure what it was. My heart was racing a bit. It was a sunken boat. It was so cool!! There was something so strange about floating above a boat, as if I was flying. We then went back through the sharks on our way back. We had been down for about 45min. We checked my air. I was down to about 600. Kadir gave me his secondary. I used his for a bit as we moved closer to the dive site. We did our stop. Then he switched me back to my regulator and sent me up.
Guys, it was so incredible. I learned so much about staying calm. I learned about checking my equipment. Double checking. Asking questions. I saw amazing marine life. We saw an octopus, a massively long eel and did I mention the sharks?
I look forward to seeing you guys at the next dive center event. When is it again? First Tuesday of the month?
Have a great summer!
pic by Jason Fields