On day two of my dive course I took a choppy one-hour boat ride with ten-foot swells to Turneffe North. The thought of being at depth gave me butterflies. During the ride, I took the opportunity to relax and practice breathing slow deep breaths. I had a new instructor who was an older ex-military Belizian nicknamed “the Legend”, seemingly stern at first but warmed to me over time.
We started with a simple fun dive to a depth of 30 feet. I descended slowly using a rope line, equalizing my air spaces for the very first time by holding my nose and gently blowing. The surface shimmered above me. To be surrounded by and part of the reef was amazing! This dive made me “get it” and taste what a real dive could be. Checking out parrot fish and giant sea sponges is so much more fun than simulating equipment failure!
On the second dive we descended and knelt on a sandy bottom to work through skills. First up, my nemesis, clearing a flooded mask. I found this to be quite scary to do under three stories of water, but it is a very useful, common, and important skill to master. The full flood was the worst. Nervous, at the end I took a little water up my nose and choked. I had the powerful instinct to head for the surface, but my instructor made me stay under and resolve the problem. Learned how to cough it out into a regulator and regain calm.
Day three was the final day of the course: my last two open water dives and taking the written exam. We headed to the nearby Belize Barrier Reef. Finished off my skills at Spanish Bay with a navigation test and full mask removal. At Dolphin Point, we had a victory lap fun dive. The reef is so spectacular. We glided through canyons of coral. My instructor scared up a huge turtle from the sea floor. As she rose, another turtle came out of the deep blue and snapped his massive jaw at her tail. The two began swirling around each other locked in what I thought was a dual but I learned later was probably sex. One of the remora suckerfish riding on her shell was knocked free and followed us around for the rest of the dive.
|Happy new diver’s id photo!|
While waiting at our final three minute safety stop at 15 feet, my instructor gave me a double high five, a double fist bump, and then shocked me by busting a move. I happy danced along with glee; a great final dive. Back at the dive shop, I took my written test (much like a drivers license exam) and passed. They took the picture for my id card before they finished grading my test. Achievement unlocked: PADI open water diving certification!
Next up, another dive day in the Belize reef. I think I am going to pass for now on the Blue Hole and whale shark diving until I have more experience; I want more normal dives under my belt first. The plan: head to Utila where I can actually afford to dive dive dive.