Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cruise Day 4: SCUBA in Belize

Day 4 was the most exciting day for me! Not only would it be my first time to Belize, it would mark my first logged SCUBA dives after being certified in October!  Was I nervous? Yes. But very excited anyway.  Jon had promised and promised again to stay right by my side and to help me not look too much like the rookie diver I am... So, with a lot of nerves, we packed up our dive gear and headed down to the Stardust Lounge, where the dive group was meeting.

Belize does not have a dock with deep enough water for the cruise liners, so instead of a gang plank to shore, passengers use tender boats to ferry to and from the Sun.  So, as it turns out, it was the perfect day charter a dive boat because we skipped the crowds waiting to pick up tender tickets and then waiting for their ticket numbers to be called...we were picked up directly by the dive boat! We only showed a little bit of smugness as we walked through the crowds waiting to board the tenders and stepped onto our almost private dive boat!

Our boat had first made a stop at the Norwegian Dawn, another cruise ship anchored a short distance away, to pick up twelve divers, and then came to the sun and to get our six divers.  After a short ride over beautiful sapphire blue and turquoise waters, we arrived at a dive shop where we could rent gear and wet suits. Sadly, I had to pay for a full rental, even though I just needed a regulator... grrr...  I also decided to rent a spring suit (short wet suit), because it was, after all, December! (Turns out I was really glad I did... the little extra exposure protection made our long dives not only endurable, but perfectly enjoyable!) It was a thrilling moment when I flashed my SCUBA certification card and got handed gear! WHHHAATTTT!! (In my head, I'm saying that like Shawn Spencer from Psych...)

Anyway, I watched closely what the other divers did as they prepped their gear for the first dive site. Unfortunately, I was too slow on the uptake and my gear didn't get a spot on the nifty little tank and BCD rack on the boat, so my stuff had to look all nerdy stuffed under the bench... all well...

We went to two dive sites.  The first one was called Commando. I was very jittery getting all my stuff on and ready... trying to act all smooth and experienced... Jon and I were in a group together.  They asked us on the way about our level of experience with diving.  Jon has some 50 logged dives, and they only asked him, assuming that I, as his wife, had similar experience... so we were put in a group with all the other experienced divers... and me. Oh the pressure was on to look good... I got everything clipped in, snapped on, and buddy checked. The dive master walked me to the edge of the boat, saw that I had my regulator in, and said, "Ready? Off you go!" Ker-Splash!!! In I went.  Bubbles... breathe... blue water... breathe...bob up... breathe... Whew! I made it in and signaled OK to the boat.  What a rush!  That was a giant stride for me in more ways than one...

 The first thing I noticed was that visibility was amazing! Nothing at all like the 5-10 feet in front of you like you get at Monterrey. I could see... 30 feet? 50 feet? seemed like forever! We saw beautiful colorful fish and brightly colored and interestingly patterned corals in every direction!

For this dive, I liked having a dive master I could just follow around and not have to worry about navigating. Despite the clarity of the water, I did find it hard to keep track of the boat (I've never had a very strong sense of direction...).  We saw lobsters, rock crab, Moray eel, and one dive master catching lion fish, and then feeding said fish to the Moray eel! The dive was LONG--about 50 minutes! My cert dives were only about 25-30 minutes. I savored every moment of feeling weightless and mermaid-esque (yes, I did just make that word up)!--Every moment, that is, after I figured out how to clear my ears... the first few minutes were monumentally uncomfortable, but the dive was long enough that I got a pretty reliable method down to relieve the squeeze in my left ear.

After the dive, we relaxed on the boat for about an hour. The staff on the dive boat was great! They helped us put gear on, loaded weight pouches, and replaced the tanks between dives. After the first dive, they had cookies, pineapple, chips and salsa, and one of the dive masters chopped up the lion fish and served it as ceviche. I tried some... just tasted like raw fish with salsa... but I was glad to do my part to reduce the invasive species population!

 Our Second dive site was called Arena. Much of the same animals and plants were seen as in the first site.  I had one panicky moment when, somehow, first mist, then water filled my regulator and I breathed in ocean water instead of air.  It was gross... and kind of freaked me out (remember, I am still a rookie diver...) At that point, I probably could have just done a normal regulator clear and everything would have been fine.  I probably could have reached up to my shoulder and got my secondary, cleared it, and everything would have been fine.  But I am still a rookie diver and calm was not a word that described my outlook at that moment... "probably fine" was just not good enough with only one breath of air and 50 feet of water above me.  I almost kicked up to the surface...which would have been bad at best and lethal at worst... my instinct said, "AIR IS UP!" but thankfully, I had my training to override instinct.

 At that moment of unnecessary panic, the words of my instructor came clearly to my head: "If you got no regulator in your mouth, I wanna see little bubbles. Just show me little bubbles..."  Little bubbles... that's right: never hold your breath... That small, probably Spirit-inspired moment was just enough for me to get a grip on myself and not make a dangerous mistake. Then I remembered there was air a lot closer and safer than at the surface, so I kicked over to my buddy--Jon, who as promised was right by my side-- and grabbed his secondary regulator for a few calming and cleansing breaths. Turns out, everything was still working fine. I cleared out my primary and switched back and then continued diving on. I haven't a clue how water got into my regulator in the first place, and I did breath mist a couple more times on the dive, but I was still able to finish the dive safely and still have a good time... HOWEVER, my next SCUBA purchase is my own regulator!

Aaaannnyyway..... On the second dive we saw another moray eel and lobster, piper fish, lots of little bright guys. Just beautiful and amazing! I love being under water! Jon got a little cold towards the end, even in the warm Caribbean water. Overall, I felt like it was much easier to establish buoyancy here than it was in Monterrey. Might be because I didn't have 7-11 mm. of neoprene covering my body...

After the second dive, we headed back to the dive shop to return things, walked through an old decrepit, nearly abandoned manatee museum, then back onto the Island Hopper dive boat and back to the sun. 

 We Had to wait for a tender boat to unload when we got back and saw a jellyfish in the water. Yay.  Upon reboarding, we went to eat at the Garden Cafe.  I got teased by a middle aged lady who thought it was terribly funny that I was eating French Fries and whipped cream.  Ok, so I admit that's a little weird, but come on, we're on a cruise! I can eat what I want!!! She also asked if we were honeymooning... GO US! We still look that young and in love!

We wandered about the boat and found a game of Harry Potter trivia going on. I totally rocked it! Got 46/50! Then there was a game of regular  trivia. We totally sucked at that...needed my dad and/or Lynn.  Jon and I together got 4/30... I guess we're not cut out for Jeopardy... we'll have to make our money like normal people... All well! On to Day 5!

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At January 21, 2015 11:19 PM , Blogger Brooke Evans said...

1. I love the picture of you all geared up!
2. I would NEVER have thought about maybe losing track of the boat. but that is probably something I would do.
3. THAT AIR THING IS TERRIFYING. Thanks for not dying!
4. Seriously, really beautiful pictures.


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