Central America trip CliffsNotes

As I meet people now who are curious about my adventures in Central America, I want to share this blog with them but my prolific 100+ entries from the trip are a daunting pile to sift through. So to help I have put together a collection of entries that to me represent the essential narrative, the most important/meaningful/highlight moments of my trip. It’s not the whole story, but they are my favorites. It’s still a good chunk of reading (it was a crazy six months ok? There are a lot of stories!), but hopefully it is more a digestible guided tour. Enjoy!

Let’s get this fun in the sun started!

Origins story
Safety concerns for a solo woman traveler
What’s in my backpack
Mexico: Day 1, arrival in Merida
Mexico: My first cenote, the beginning of a water love story
Mexico: Tulum ruins
Mexico: Tulum cenotes
Mexico: San Crisobal de las Casas
Guatemala: Border crossing and arrival
Guatemala: Hiking Santa Maria volcano
Guatemala: Colored chicks, the first sign of Semana Santa
Guatemala: Lake Atitlan
Guatemala: Bugs
Guatemala: Chichi market
Guatemala: On traveling solo
Guatemala: Semana Santa in Antigua
Guatemala: Alfombras
Guatemala: Semuc Champey
Belize: I decide to get SCUBA certified
Belize: Open Water course, day 1
Belize: Open Water course, days 2 and 3
Belize: Caye Caulker, sunset at the split
Belize: Cat calls and drug dealers
Belize: Erin’s Caye Caulker food manifesto
Belize: Just say yes
Belize: Crystal Cave
Belize: Iguana photo shoot
Belize: I heart stew chicken
Honduras: Epic transit to the Bay Islands
Honduras: Roatan
Honduras: Deciding to extend the trip
Honduras: Settling in to Utila
Honduras: Advanced Open Water
Honduras: Le sigh roommates
Honduras: Makeshift rum cake
Honduras: Rescue Diver
Honduras: Falling in love with Utila
Honduras: Perpetual illness
Honduras: Snorkel vanity shots
Honduras: Stability in Utila
Honduras: Thunderstorms
Honduras: A birthday party
Honduras: Photo dive
Honduras: Nico’s 100th dive day
Honduras: Last Utila dive
Honduras: Leaving Utila
Nicaragua: Erin gets a travel buddy
Nicaragua: Lady at a cock fight
Nicaragua: The Fourth of July
Nicaragua: Granada
Belize: Epic three-day transit to Long Caye
Belize: The Blue Hole
Mexico: Diving cenotes
Mexico: Swimming with whale sharks
Mexico: Isla Mujeres
Utila throwback
Erin’s top 5 Central American hostels

A week on Isla Mujeres

From Playa del Carmen, we moved north up the coast to Isla Mujeres. I had heard from other travelers that it was a cool, chill place to hang, much better than Cancun. Rich and I went to give it a shot. We took a collectivo to the Cancun bus station (MEX$30/$2.50USD), connecting bus (MEX$8/$0.75USD), climbed aboard the passenger ferry (MEX$70/$5.85USD) and left the mainland behind. En route we suffered through some live entertainment (does anyone really dig pipe flute music?) and arrived on the island in about ten minutes.
Making the crossing from Cancun.

We stayed on the northern tip of the island and hung out at Poc-Na, the local hostel that has a beach party every night and is a great place to meet people. My first impression of downtown was just how tourist-focused every single business was. It didn’t have the same plastic quality as Cancun, but everything on the main walking boulevard of Avenue Hidalgo was designed with the American tourist in mind. Knick knack shops and dinner specials quoted in USD, all with American price tags to match. We did find a few restaurants tucked away that served cheaper food–with tortas priced at a pretty standard MEX$25/$2USD–but most closed down for dinner. The best reasonably priced late night option we found was a taco stand outside the grocery story on the center plaza. Tacos loaded with toppings were MEX$15/$1.25USD, double the price of Tulum but half the price of other restaurants.

The first really special thing that happened on Isla Mujeres was my adventure swimming with whale sharks, detailed in a separate post. Super awesome! If you come to Isla Mujeres during the summer months it is a must-do.

Toes in the sand at Poc-Na.

I was getting a little jaded by the beachy lifestyle, but I would soon get over the slump. Back at Poc-Na we were generously invited to a private house party being thrown by a group of Americans from Georgia. We arrived just in time to watch dusk descend on Cancun just over the water. The house was beautiful, our hosts an awesome group of guys, and the atmosphere a fun change from the hostel beach parties. We all hung out chatting, having a great time. I lamented my lack of skinny dipping on this trip to a very cute Swede and suddenly I had a partner in crime. On the count of three… splash! And skinny dipping is like dominoes; once one falls, it’s not long before you’ve got a pool full of naked people dancing to “Thriller”. Excellent, and you’re welcome. 😉

A beautiful start to an awesome night.

Lovely sunset over the water. What a view!
The next morning, I was super happy after having WAY too much fun the night before. Keeping my excellent mood going, we splurged on breakfast at a restaurant I had been eyeing: Rooster Cafe. Eggs benedict all around please. Um, yeah, it was so fantastic of a breakfast feast that I went there every morning for the next two days. So delish!

Earlier we had linked up with James, Rich’s friend from traveling in Argentina, and Helen, who we convinced to join us on the whale shark excursion. They were excellent friends to hang with throughout the week. We had a delightful surf ‘n turf double date with them on their last night on the island before they headed to Tulum.

We did have one casualty on Isla Mujeres though: Rich’s beard. After not shaving since his thirtieth birthday in Utila, he decided a more clean shaven look would blend in better at the swanky Cancun resort we were headed to. He opted for the 70s porn star moustache for two days before shaving it all off. The in-between look was, let’s say, sketchy at best!

Rockin’ the Mexican mo.
As my plane flight approached, I got the urge to do one last day of diving while I was still able. We did two dives off Isla Mujeres: Gunboat C58 and Punta Sur. Diving the current off Punta Sur was unreal. I had never experienced current like that before. Someone asked me recently if diving feels like flying. In normal conditions I’d say kind of because you can move in all directions, but this current most definitely felt like FLYING! It just took me, swept me away and was incredibly fun.
About to dive the wicked current off Punta Sur.

Rich about to get reg popped by a Hawksbill off Punta Sur. It was the end of turtle mating season, so we saw a bunch!
Making fun of my addiction to selfies.
Alright Isla Mujeres, I was skeptical at first but you got me. Adventures, cool people, and beautiful scenery. You are indeed la isla bonita.

Fulfilling a dream: diving the cenotes of Tulum

Seeing divers in the cenotes–beautiful sinkholes only found on the Yucatan–around Tulum was what first lit my interest in diving. I extended my trip in Central America for all sorts of reasons, but changed my return departure point to force myself to come back to Tulum as a diver. An early inspiration, I was not going to leave the cenotes unexplored now that I had the skills and opportunity to experience them more fully. As my trip turned me back towards the cenotes, I grew so excited!! Spoiler alert: they were each gorgeously unique and turned out to be more freakin’ awesome as I hoped.

Sun-dappled and stoked after my first cenote dive.

Many people are concerned about diving in an overhang environment, and rightly so as it limits direct access to the surface. This does increase the risk factor if something goes wrong because you cannot simply go up for air. However, cenotes are not as dangerous as many might think. There are two categories of overhang that often get confused: cave and cavern.

Cavern: There is access to open water (meaning: air) within 60 seconds from overhang areas and you can see sunlight. (Interesting fact, because a cavern requires a daylight zone there are technically no caverns at night; all caverns become caves when the sun goes down.) Recreational divers can enter when led by a trained cave diver with extra gear and following more strict safety protocols.

Cave: There is no sunlight or access to air within the cave. You must go in and go out. Only cave divers with special equipment and significant training should enter.

Cenotes can either be caves or caverns (or have areas of both), but the ones recreational divers go into regularly are caverns. The amount of overhang varies greatly, with some being very cave-like with extensive overhang and others completely open water. Regardless, when diving caverns you follow some different safety rules. Instead of using half your air out and half back, you use a rule of thirds: one third out, one third back, and one third emergency reserve. ALWAYS. Your guide must be a full cave diver and enter the cenote with cave diving equipment including most notably double air tanks. When diving a cavern/cave you use a line that marks a safe path and tracks how to return to open water. You dive with a light, pay attention to signs underwater, and use good buoyancy to not run into walls/ceiling or kick up sediment on the bottom (which can ruin visibility and cause big problems).

What to do and not do when diving a cavern, posted outside of Dos Ojos.

Dive shops in Tulum do exist but there is also a strong network of independent guides who either give private cenote tours or work for the dive shops on a contract basis. Differently than ocean diving, there are no boats or boathouses, so all you need is a guide with know-how, transportation, and access to gear (easily available in Tulum; all the guides have a gear-supplier and access to the tank fill station). My travel companion Richard had a personal recommendation for an independent diving guide, Julia Gugelmeier. Julia was kind enough to meet with us upon my arrival to explain how everything worked and answer all of my cenote questions over beers. Julia was already booked to dive with another group, so set us up to go with her associate Sandy Moskovitz (you can book diving with Sandy via email: samoskovitz@gmail.com).

After meeting with Julia, we went out and had an intense night… I most definitely should have gotten more sleep than I did, but stumbled out of bed diligently at 7am, grabbed a ham and cheese croissant and a banana-grapefruit liquado to perk myself up, then waited by the curb to be picked up. The powerful Tulum taxi mafia dislikes guides picking guests up at their hotels and driving to cenotes because they want the business for themselves; the common practice is to meet for pickup in an alternate location. (Yeah, it’s serious.) She arrived promptly on time and we quickly found we had lots to talk about. Sandy had been an instructor at Cross Creek in Utila, the sister dive shop to UDC! She spent a good amount of time in Utila and knew many people in common with Rich and me. It was a ton of fun to talk shop about Utila life. I had no idea my spending so much time there would enter me into an inner community of divers who also know and love-hate that mad crazy place!

We made a few stops before heading out of town to gather everything we needed. First, we went to the house of her equipment guy (why pay expensive rent for a retail/storage space if you can keep your inventory at your house?) and suited up in some brand new gear; very pleased with the quality. We used 5mm wetsuits as the cenote water at 25C is a little cooler than the Caribbean. Then over to the fill station to pick up our tanks. Rich couldn’t help his divemaster instincts and carried tanks out to the car. It all sounds a little piecemeal, but when you see the system that is in place it all starts to make sense and you realize it is legit and just a non-traditional way of providing high quality diving service. Then off to our first cenote dive: the Pit.

I am a documentation fanatic, and it is a best diving practice to keep a log of all your dives. I write in mine religiously, largely as a diving journal instead of statistics and boxes checked for each dive. Below I have included the notes from my dive log for the cenote dives, in italics.


We started with two classic cenotes. The Pit is a great first cenote dive as it is beautiful, yet fairly straight forward: a deep open water dive with glimpses into caves below. On a typically beautiful Yucatan day the sun pierces the water for some dramatically beautiful light effects.

Entry fee: MEX$300/$25USD for Pit and Dos Ojos combo ticket
Max depth: 37.7 m
Time in: 9:53 am
Dive time: 38 min

My first Tulum cenote dive! All open water, we descended to a deep dive in the bottom of the pit, passed through a shimmery helocline as we went from fresh to salt water, saw a layer of trees decomposing, Watched rays on sunshine pierce the cenote and illuminate a rock formation in the center. Absolutely beautiful. Love how 100% clear cenote water is! First time in fresh water. So nice to not have my eyes sting when water gets in my mask! The dive gear is shiny chrome because there’s no salt to corrode.

Looking down into the pit as another dive group gets ready to go down, me snapping a photo from the deck below. Photo courtesy of Richard McKenna.
Me looking up out of the pit, just catching Rich back!
Cenote water is so magical.
Rays of sun coming into the Pit. Image from http://www.tauchernest.de
Image from http://www.gocaverndiving.com
Photo credit: Paul Nicklen via http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/


This was where I was first inspired to dive, and now I was back to explore it fully. Fantastic! There are two routes in Dos Ojos–the Bat Cave line and the Barbie line. We went Bat Cave. Dos Ojos feels more like a cave than the Pit, swimming through passageways in a loop. I was in awe of the experience, absolutely loved being inside the beautiful cavern. I’m now one of those people I wanted to be!

Entry fee: MEX$300/$25USD for Pit and Dos Ojos combo ticket
Max depth: 10.5 m (note: super shallow in some places. In snorkel areas, my frog kick brought my fins out of the water.)
Time in: 11:55 am
Dive time: 53 min

I adored this dive. Brought me back full circle to why I became a diver. The cavern is immense, and the formations above and the crystalline floor below remind me of Crystal Cave in San Ignacio, Belize, but flying through instead of climbing. I did have moments of “holy crap, I’m in an overhang environment!” but all felt very under control and safe. Inspiring experience and breathtaking dive. Diver air bubbles trapped in the ceiling, glistening and moving like mercury. Tasty sandwiches for lunch!

Snorkel area of the first eye. Photo courtesy of Richard McKenna.
Divers heading into the cavern. Notice some of the trapped air bubble in the ceiling in the upper left corner. Image from http://www.expertvagabond.com
Strolling the grounds after, basking. Photo courtesy of Richard McKenna.
I hope Sandy will laugh I included this… every little touch helps make for a good day of diving. And Julie’s sandwiches were great–so unusual to have bread with seeds, spinach, good cheese and meats, and roast vegetables in Central America! Actually quite an unexpected treat for this foodie.


Day two: visual obscura day! After our first day of classic cenote beauty, our second day focused on weird phenomena. Up first, Angelita. Unusually not connected to a large underground cenote system, Angelita does not have an inflow of current so as plant matter decomposes a murky hydrogen sulfide cloud has formed. It’s an unusually spooky and organic cenote. So freakin’ weird! Definitely a favorite.

Entry fee: MEX$200/$16.66USD
Max depth: 37.4 m
Time in: 9:20 am
Dive time: 37 min

I love each cenote more than the last! Angelita is a deep near perfectly round hole, not connected to other systems so there is no current and decomposing plant life creates a murky hydrogen sulfide cloud midway down. We descended through the cloud, magical mystical enveloping. I felt a fine grittiness in my wetsuit that I loved. It smelled lightly of rotten eggs. The visibility cleared immediately under the cloud and a spiny tree rose from the depth like something out of a spooky story. BREATHTAKING descent–made me squeal with delight! Under the cloud it was beautifully odd. My heard beat rapidly, I was so entranced. Had to try to calm my breathing, but still chewed through a lot of air. Wound around the perimeter and up, then moved through the cloud up — a smokey pea green. I reached for Rich’s hand as we went up, he and Sandy becoming figments. Coming up, I couldn’t see the bottom half of my body, then emerged from the liquid smoke, my fins stirring it slightly and beautifully as I delicately kicked up. Came up feeling elated. Wondered if it was possible to get high from the cloud, or maybe just narked from going deep. 

Gearing up. Nice to prep on land instead of a rocky boat.
Rockin’ the Flor de Caña swag. Oh yeah…
Angelita, with new swimming guide ropes.
What? This is weird… Image credit: Anatoly Beloschin via http://thewatchers.adorraeli.com/
Approaching the cloud. Image from http://samwhiteside.blogspot.com/
Coming up through the cloud. Image from http://samwhiteside.blogspot.com/
Debrief. I should probably get in on that…
What an awesome dive!


Another weird one, Calavera is connected to Gran Cenote and has the feature of a very distinct helocline–border between fresh and salt water–that the line passes through over and over, so you get to experience the phenomena thoroughly. Super cool to see the difference between the two! I totally dug it.

Entry fee: MEX$150/$12.50USD for diving (you can get in for around MEX$40 for just swimming)
Max depth: 16.1 m
Time in: 11:37 am
Dive time: 41 min

Surprisingly awesome dive. I’d been here swimming twice before but had no idea of the super cool helocline phenomenon underneath  The line zigged and zagged up and down alternating between fresh and salt water, often passing through the helocline, which made everything blurry like an oil mirror or gazing through a transparent oil slick. We went through many times–so cool! Buoyancy changed too, became more positively buoyant as I sunk into the salt water. The light from the holes above shone green and we saw snorkelers thrashing above at the surface. If they only knew what they were missing! Love the mystery of vision being obscured. Mystical and special. Found treasure: a dive light at the ladder. Rich’s light broke AGAIN. It happens to him on every dive!

The jumping off point.
Looking up to the swim area. Image from http://samwhiteside.blogspot.com/
More bouldery that other cenotes. Image from http://samwhiteside.blogspot.com/
Following the line, up and down… Image from http://www.moskitoplayadelcarmen.com/
Image from http://www.gocaverndiving.com/


I couldn’t get enough so opted for a third day of diving, just Sandy and me. Dreamgate was only opened to the public a couple of years ago, so isn’t as popular or as busy as the other cenotes I dove. We were the only people there. Another factor is that the cavern is highly decorated with fragile stalactites so is not appropriate for divers who cannot control their buoyancy. Sandy said there is a gentleman’s agreement between all the divemasters to only bring people who can handle it here and that she never brings anyone here on their first day, only after she has evaluated their skills.

Entry fee: MEX$200/$16.66USD
Max depth: 6.9 m
Time in: 9:00 am
Dive time: 43 min

So DARK! Felt like a cave dive, not a cavern (though does have two dark air pockets inside). Fine stalactite formations, beautiful, especially the ceiling. Followed by a school of small fish the whole time–attracted to the light. Crawdads. Was a buoyancy obstacle course–so much fun! Felt awesome about my buoyancy; some of my best work. So much fun being hyper aware of buoyancy. When we got out, I loved it but felt very eerie because of the darkness. The cave feel make me feel still and struck inside. I decided instead of a second Dreamgate dive (our plan), I wanted to end on a cheerful sunny note so switched to Gran Cenote instead. I’m drunk with power!

The fifteen-minute long suspension-killing drive to the cenote entrance.
Pulley system to lower tanks and other gear to the water surface.
Shallow entrance. Image from http://www.xibalbahotel.com/
Ceiling detail. Image from http://www.xibalbahotel.com/
Passing through Dreamgate. Image from http://www.xibalbahotel.com/
Beautiful, lovely Dreamgate.


My cenote journey ended with the classic and beautiful Gran Cenote, the one most tourists go to if they only have one day. It was pretty and happy, and a perfect spot to eat lunch, just the note to end my cenote adventure on.

Entry fee: MEX$150/$12.50USD
Max depth: 10.0 m
Time in: 11:15 am
Dive time: 45 min

The sunlight and beautiful ambiance of Gran Cenote is so happy and cheery. Under the water it really is grand — the rock formations are a brilliant white and more majestically large. Passed through a keyhole archway swimthrough that was a picture perfect view of the open water spots. I dug watching the snorkelers’ feet kicking around too. 🙂 Positive energy of people having fun. We had lunch together in the cenote, fun chatting with Sandy , getting the scoop on being an independent guide in Tulum.
Classically beautiful Gran Cenote.
Sunny and lovely.
Image from http://www.gocaverndiving.com/
Living the dream. And it’s gooood.

It is unreal how beautiful the cenotes are from within. They inspired me to learn to dive and called me back. Fulfilling dreams is what this trip is all about. And I am taking that lesson with me. I know I will be back.

Hungry for more? Check out this photo gallery or the video below:

A week on Long Caye with Huracan Diving

Back in April, I was lucky enough to meet the lovely staff of Huracan Diving when they were all vacationing in Caye Caulker. They had a warm familial spirit and welcomed me into their group immediately, adopting me for an evening. As my travels continued in Central America, I stayed in touch with my new friends and when the road led me back up to Belize in June I came by their island paradise on Long Caye out in the Lighthouse Reef for a visit.
Hellooooo Long Caye! *

Most visitors who come to Long Caye have one primary activity in mind: diving. And Huracan is a prime place for a Belizian diving holiday (check out their stellar reviews on TripAdvisor). Run by Ruth Devacht (be sure to take her up on one of her signature coconut caprianhas!), it’s a place that perfectly mixes excellent personalized service with homeyness. She thinks of everything when considering how to make guests’ experiences great. Consider the condiments at breakfast: spreads like Nutella and Vegemite to give travelers around the world a taste of home. It is not a five-star luxury resort, but this four bedroom guest house is a beautiful and relaxing home away from home.

Huracan lodge. Home sweet home. *

Being a diver myself, I was stoked to check out what I had been told was the best diving in Belize. I was not disappointed; the diving around Long Caye, Hat Caye, and Half Moon Caye is indeed all pretty fantastic. I dove eight times in six days, with one day off to go kiteboarding (more on this below!). The gear, service, boats, and staff were all top-notch. No need to take my word for it: the head guide and dive instructor Jerome just won Belize’s tour guide of the year award.

This is why Long Caye kicks everyone else’s butt for diving Lighthouse Reef.

Because dive sites are so close, there is either three one-tank dives per day or two in the morning and one in the afternoon, at 8am, 11am, and 3pm. Of course, one of the major attractions in Lighthouse Caye is the Blue Hole, which was a blast. You can read the story of my Blue Hole Day here. The diving staff includes multiple divemasters–Jerome, Ruth, Ryan, and Jhoanna–who are all awesome, listen to the kind of places and diving activities you like, and plan dives according to your interests. The reef is absolutely stunning, with so much healthy sea life and gorgeous scenery.

Heading out to the boat.

Our chariot.
Divemaster and swim-through queen Ruth giving a briefing.
Diving the reef. *
Diver diver, are you okay? Most definitely!

I put together a quick video with a mash-up of some of my favorite moments from my dives. While we did see big stuff like reef sharks, spotted eagle rays, and turtles, I really like normal reefy creatures so that is what I put in my video. My very favorite is the sharpnose pufferfish (the hummingbird of the sea)! As you’ll see, I also adore barrel sponges. Yes, I’m a little weird.

My favorite: sharpnose pufferfish! *

Surface intervals are also a special daily occasion at Huracan. When diving out at Hat Caye or Half Moon Caye you can take your fruit or candy bar snack and go ashore to explore the islands. When diving just off Long Caye, the boat returns home to freshly baked treats waiting at the lodge.

A gorgeous arrival on Half Moon Caye.
The red-footed booby in his natural–and only–habitat on Half Moon Caye.
The old Half Moon Caye lighthouse, slowly being claimed by the sea.

The remote location and “go slow” island rhythm of life can easily lead to a pattern: eat, sleep, dive. But I didn’t stop there. There are a bunch of other things to do! Ryan was my ready willing and able tour guide and fun partner. We kayaked, snorkeled, biked, and last but not least he taught me the basics of kiteboarding–his specialty. Check out the video below for some of the highlights. Included is a sequence I like to call “Erin the Christmas tree worm TERRORIZER!”. 😛

Biking the boardwalk over the mangroves that make up the majority of the island.

Fishermen off the west dock on a calm evening.

Ryan is the instructor at Huracan Kiteboarding and there was no way I was leaving the island without a lesson. Ryan was clear, kind, and patient as he walked me through the gear set up, safety, and kite control technique. We launched the kite and he demonstrated some basic kite movement and control, which explaining the theory behind where the kite should be positioned in the air, how I should steer by moving the bar left and right, and adjust power/control by moving the bar up and down. He handed the bar over to me, hooking in my chicken loop, and I tried my hand at flying. It was really cool! The kite is powerful if you want it to be, but quickly you get a feel for comfortably keeping it under control. I graduated to body dragging, using the kite to pull me through the water. Wheee! Super fun. I had more trouble doing this with only one hand, but crashing meant he got to teach me about water launches. 😛 On day one, I didn’t quite make it up on a board, but I was pretty tickled by playing with the massive kite. Totally a blast. Needless to say, I did not make it through nearly as many books as I planned.

Gear check!

Getting ready for a water launch!
Flying the kite–booyah. So much fun!
When I did manage to sneak away with a book, the adirondacks at the end of the dock were my favorite reading spot.
Kickin’ back for an afternoon read.

Huracan works on an all-inclusive basis: your package includes diving, accommodation, meals, snacks, and some beverages. The main house has four guest rooms, so accommodates eight guests maximum. When I was there, there were two other guests plus the staff. That’s it. Virtually a private vacation. The house feels warm and comfortable. Everyone has their private space, but eats and chills out together often in the sunny dining room.

Our eating and hang out space. *
One of the four guest rooms. *
En suite bathroom. *
The entry way and center of the lodge. *
Just a normal island clothes line. Wish I could wear candy-colored bikinis every day!

Their new chef Shannon did an awesome job of keeping us all happy and well-fed, cooking a variety of tasty things with that good home-cooked feel. We were spoiled by a beautiful breakfast spread every morning, the meals throughout the day were delicious and hearty, and there were frequent snacks timed perfectly with our diving schedule. Food is life to me and one of my very favorite things, and I felt very taken care of.

A typical breakfast spread with everything to make the start of anyone’s day kick-ass.
Lunch: Chef’s salad, while filling up the ol’ log book after a morning dive.

My favorite: stew chicken, rice ‘n beans, fried plantain, and potato salad.

Shrimp fettuchini alfredo. I spiked mine with Marie Sharp’s habanero sauce. 🙂
Lobster night!
Our awesome chef Shannon, hard at work.
Very important shipment from the mainland!

But what makes a real difference is the people. Especially on a small island, it is important to have good company with positive energy. Ruth and her crew have that in spades. They are a welcoming bunch who treat each other like family and welcome you in as one of them too. After spending a day diving, exploring, chilling, and generally having fun, we kicked back in the living room together most evenings before hitting the hay. Hey, we’ve got to get up and go diving tomorrow morning! One of my favorites was a new game Ryan taught me: Rummikub. He whooped my butt for two days straight before I got a win off him!

Learned how to play Rummikub–super fun! Ryan executing his trademarked rearranging strategy.
Silly face photo contest with my new little friend.
Hostess with the mostest joining in!

All in all, I had a lovely visit exploring Lighthouse Reef and spending time with everyone at Huracan Diving, a homey little oasis. So much fun in so many different ways. It’s a special place and visiting was a treat and a joy. Thank you all for having me and for a wonderful week!

Send off party.

Thank you for such a lovely visit!

* Photos from http://www.huracandiving.com

Utila throwback and warning

There’s a video about Utila making the rounds on Facebook, but I thought I’d share it here as well. To everyone who has not experienced Utila: BEWARE! All so classic. This is where I got stuck for seven weeks… insane Utila, steals your soul, actually. Good god I love that place! 😛 Miss my Utila crew and our crazy times desperately! ♥

So many truisms, I couldn’t stop laughing because they’re all so crazy but also spot on:

“…another week won’t hurt…” Love that finding Dr. John in the bar is *actually* the official emergency response plan (true story). We rode a bike into the water too, but it was off a freakin’ boat into open ocean instead of a dock! Notice the eyewear of choice; this is where my douche bans habit began, along with so many other bad ideas… Oh Tranquila Tequila Tuesday, the most dangerous day of the week. Going diving at Black Coral Wall, of course they are because it’s crazy overdived and everyone is sick of it. And the lies… “not drinking tonight” but in a Flor de Caña singlet. Yeah, it’s a healthy place, riiiight…

Blue Hole Day

Ah, the day many a diver waits for when visiting Belize: Blue Hole Day. The Blue Hole is one of, if not THE, most iconic dive sites in Belize. Unlike most of the reef diving that goes on around here, the Blue Hole is a flooded cenote way out in the Lighthouse Reef. It is 1000 feet across and 150 meters deep, was made famous by Jacques Cousteau, and is now a marine reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Despite its fame, the Blue Hole received mixed reviews from many divers I encountered, mostly due to the fact that it is just a deep blue hole without the “prettiness” of the reef. But I’ve been diving the reef in Belize and Utila for thirty-odd dives now, so welcomed something different. I was curious what I would think but had an inkling I would dig it.
The Blue Hole, arial view. Image credit http://www.atlasobscura.com

I celebrated Blue Hole Day on Long Caye with my friends at Huracan Diving, where I stayed for a week. Upon waking up at 6am with that same “it’s my birthday!” feeling of holiday specialness, I was immediately confronted by a dilemma: my blue bikini was still wet from hanging outside in the rain. I could of course wear my dry pink bikini but that would be so off theme for Blue Hole Day! I shared my problem with Jerome and Ryan over first breakfast (more on this later) and both voted there actually was no dilemma because whatever I wore was going to get wet on the boat anyway. I took that as two votes for blue. 😛

Yay for Blue Hole Day! (note the bikini choice)
Yum… no better way to start the day than first breakfast!

Huracan Diving on Long Caye is in the unusual situation of being located very close to the Blue Hole, within the same reef in fact. Most people stay further away in Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye and must get up very early then take a two-plus hour boat ride to get to Blue Hole, usually arriving about 8am, followed by two dives at Half Moon Caye (these people always rave about). It’s a huge day trip! But at Huracan we were was just fifteen minutes away and took multiple trips to nearby Half Moon Caye on different days, so we could take it easy. We got up at a reasonable hour, had first breakfast, departed Long Caye at 7am, and were the first ones at Blue Hole by a long shot. Diving early and without crowds is always better, especially when there is silt that can be kicked up and destroy visibility. As my friend Nick would say, winning!

This is why Long Caye kicks everyone else’s butt on Blue Hole Day and diving Lighthouse Reef anytime.

Our divemaster Jerome briefed us once we anchored at the south side inside the Blue Hole. From the boat we could just barely see the reef edge that is so distinct in arial photos. We went over our dive plan with particular interest paid to going deep; to reach the stalactites we would be maxing out the depth limits for recreational diving so received reminders on maintaining neutral buoyancy at depth, ascent path and timing, the possibility of additional safety stops if needed, and awareness of possible nitrogen narcosis.

What’s inside the hole. Source: Google Images

Down we went, equalizing like normal down to the edge of the reef at about 30 feet. From there it was a sheer drop down. We regrouped, then descended into the dark blue. It was an easy sinking descent to our max depth of 43 meters, a new personal record for me. At that depth, we reached the stalactite overhang. Approaching them, my mind began to race with excitement, wondering if I was tinged with narcosis, but I slowed my breathing and calmed down. From there we saw reef sharks lazily swimming beneath us. We wove in between the stalactites, encrusted with sea life, and I knew for certain then and there I was going to adore cenote diving for sure. Happily, I did flips for the camera, perhaps a little narked out after all. (And yes, I did notice shortly after the flips that my backup second stage had come loose and fixed it…) The whole ambiance was one of adventure and otherworldliness. I loved it.

The deeper you dive the more quickly you use up your air supply, so on a deep dive you can only spend a little time down at depth then take the majority of your time slowly and safely ascending. We spent about ten minutes from jumping off the boat, descending, and swimming the stalactites before beginning our twenty-five minute ascent. On the slow way up we worked our way out of decomp, saw more reef sharks, and enjoyed the view of the blue deep. We took our normal safety stop at fifteen feet at the top reef, and all was well. As we returned to the boat and got ready to depart, a second boat just arrived from Caye Caukler was just being briefed. We were in and out before anyone else.

A little deeper than we’re *technically* supposed to go…

Another glorious thing about Blue Hole Day at Huracan? Double breakfasts! One at 6am beforehand and one at 9am upon returning. I was psyched after a great dive, quick boat ride home, hot shower, and clean clothes that continued my fashion theme. The gang gathered for second breakfast (including pancakes with nutella+chunky peanut butter for me!) and a log book debrief. We were pretty happy after a great morning of diving.

Log bookin’ it up with the gang over second breakfast.

After the adventure of the morning I took it easy for the rest of the day. To add to the happy times we had stew chicken with rice and beans for lunch! Afterwards, Ryan and I spent the afternoon kayaking, snorkelling, having fun with his new GoPro video camera, and scaring the bejesus out of Christmas tree worms and the spots off Flamingo Tongues (two of my favorite creatures!) at the shallow reef just off the coast near the Long Caye west dock. That night we ate shrimp, drank Belikin, and I finally got my first win against Ryan in Rummikub. Heart Blue Hole Day!

Happy blue diver.

The LAST last Utila dive

So Utila. I stuck around an extra few days waiting on a travel buddy, to wrap up my time in Utila with final experiences, and to check out the Dive Festival going on right now. A few festival events sparked my interest: the Guinness Wold Record diver pyramid, the $10 sidemount/rebreather try dive, and the lionfish hunt, for instance. None of these I made it to, but instead: the UDC “fancy” fun dive for $15 (instead of the usual $30). By fancy I thought they meant formal attire, but apparently they meant the British ‘fancy’ meaning ridiculous. Well, I can do that too.

I rummaged through my pack and found a costume I deemed appropriate: a mismatched electric blue and pink bikini combo over hot aqua leggings. My friends Nick and Sophia, who have been housing me for the past few days since my apartment lease ran out, approved. I strutted down the street from my new temporary home at BICD to UDC. Strangely to my mind, I got more cat calls and comments walking down the street than normal (which is none), even though I was wearing more clothes than a normal bathing suit. “Wonder woman!” “I like your new style!” “What you wearin’, girl?!” *whistle* At UDC, Deckland said once I dove that all the parrotfish would flock to me, calling “Mommy!!!!”.


I rocked up to UDC at 12:45pm, timely enough for my 1pm dive. That’s when I was told I was the ONLY ONE signed up for the fancy dress dive. WHAT?! Seriously people? Where is the sense of fun!? We were switched from the Old Tom to a small motor boat, Reefer Madness, that only accommodates six tanks. My guide congratulated me and told me I had won the dive. My prize? An unheard of golden egg: I got to pick my dive site. Any site on the south side of the island. All other dive boat go to someplace the captain picks; divers have no say unless it’s a special site suitable for a course. Picking your own dive site is a big deal.

Me jumping for joy aboard the Reefer Madness.

I chose Labyrinth. As the name implies, the site is a maze of channels and semi-enclosed passageways through the reef just big enough for a diver to explore. One thing I had not done in Utila or ever before was a swim through, and I desperately wanted to. Now was my chance. My guide was keen: “Let’s go see some cool shit!” and we set off.

Taking a little superhero-inspired pose as we approach Labyrinth.

I ticked off another first on the way into the water: the James Bond roll. Entry from all other UDC boats I’ve been on is a giant stride off the back of the boat, but not possible on our little enclosed motorboat. I sat on the rail, held my mask and reg, and threw myself backward off the boat with such force that I did a complete backflip under water. Always going for style points! Pretty awesome way to kick off what would be a totally badass dive.

This dive had it all. The swim throughs were indeed all that. I love needing to tightly control buoyancy and navigating your body through a puzzle course. Neither my guide nor I had dove earlier in the day, so we decided to throw in a little deep dive for kicks and made it all the way to my max depth, 29.5 meters. We ascended along the gravelly bottom; I pretended I was one of the cavern students and did my very best Zoni-inspired hover just above the seabed. Back in the reef, we saw two Hacksbill turtles taking shelter in the reef; one we discovered immediately to our right by only a few feet at the top of a vertical swim through. The visibility was clear, the sun was bright, and sea life was abundant. We also saw a golden spotted eel, a King Crab, and I noticed flamingo tongues (I’ll always think back to my first fun dive when CJ put one of these in my hand).

We came up exhilarated. Wicked dive, probably my favorite fun dive yet. All in all, best $15 I ever spent.


P.S. So… contrary to the title of the post and what I thought at the time, the fancy dive actually turned out to be my second to last dive. The final dive actually happened the next day: a fun dive with Sophia, Nick, and Ross. With newly-minted Advanced and Open Water credentials, Nick and Sophia were on their first fun dives in Utila after their coursework and ready to just go have fun on the last day. A few dock pics capture that post-dive glow.

Aww… couldn’t ask for better people to take me in off the streets. Photo courtesy of Nick Cooper.
The team. Wahooo! Photo courtesy of Nick Cooper.

I *heart* Nico, and the tale of the hundredth dive day

When I first met Nico back in my Advanced course and then at the Mango Inn over a month ago, I talked about my blog probably a little too much and he said back then that he was *determined* to make the blog. Well hon, here you go:

Nico and I have been excellent buddies since the beginning and throughout my time in Utila: Advanced, EFR, Rescue, roommates when he moved on to DMT without me, snorkel buddies, and then final dive buddies. The final dive also just happened to be Nico’s 100th dive. Absolutely perfect. He’s been tearing it up and maxing out on dives this whole time, getting in 90 dives here on the island in addition to all his course work over five weeks. Any day he didn’t have classwork or skills in confined water, he was consistently out doing 4-5 dives a day. Tradition dictates the 100th dive must be performed naked. Like hell I was going to miss that! I signed up for the morning boat as a fun diver, he got special approval to be an extra plus one on the full boat, and we planned on going on one last buddy dive together.
…but then I stayed up way too late at the IDC party the night before, celebrating our friend Doug’s graduation to Instructor status. At 7:30am, I woke to the sound of Nico calling me from outside the apartment. He had gone to the shop, set up the boat, sorted out all sorts of glitches, put together my kit, but when he realized I wasn’t there had come to fetch me via a borrowed bike (Rich’s old bike that we had taken to the bottom of the sea, then stolen by Jeff after his departure) with no brakes… he ditched into a barber shop when making the 90-degree turn into my house in an effort to stop! Upon hearing my name through the window, I frantically threw myself together and ran to the boat just in time. He continued to take care of me as my reg wasn’t working properly and I needed a replacement O-ring.
We schemed on how to execute the naked dive. The UDC staff understood the importance of the ritual, but weren’t super keen. Tough luck! An unexpected hurdle: for the first time, even given the dozens of boats Nico had been on, there were children on this one doing their first Open Water dive. Yikes, awkward… Our fun dive group entered the water first, before the kids, and Nico’s swim trunks were suddenly on his head. Let the naked dive commence.
Before the 100th dive. I solomly swear I am up to no good…
Yeah, this happened. Photo courtesy of Robbie Labanowski (thanks for keeping it “artistic”!).

Sans mask, reg, and shorts, Nico dove in the ultimate au natural. After taking this picture, his first instinct was to put the shorts back on first, but then realized–whoops!–air is probably a better top priority. 😛 It was a super amusing dive. We saw a turtle and Nico’s favorite: the bucktooth parrotfish, played along the reef, and had fun posing for the camera as our snorkeling photographer friend Robbie free dove from the surface and would suddenly appear next to us at depth for a photo. A good chunk of my air was consumed by giggling.

Rockin’ the safety stop. Mischief managed! Photo courtesy of Robbie Labanowski.
No way I would have rather spent my final dive in Utila!
Signing my log book, checking both the boxes “DM” and “buddy”. Woot!!

After the dive, I crashed back to bed. When I awoke my eye was killing me. I started crying, and rushed to the doctor. On the way I found Nico at our friends’ Tom and Ryan’s house. He didn’t hesitate to drop everything, escort me to the clinic, translate on my behalf, guide me through the streets when I couldn’t open my eyes, care for me all afternoon as I lay on the couch in the fetal position sobbing in pain, get me tomatoes to freeze and put on my eyeballs, make me a comfort food dinner of mac ‘n cheese, keep me company all evening, and watch the Heat beat the Spurs in game 7 with me. He literally took care of me from start to finish of my day, in multiple contexts, when I needed it most. Never leave a buddy behind. True dat, and thank you.

Babe, you know I adore you, and that you give me hope for nineteen-year-olds. I’m so happy to have become friends and it has been a delight to live with you this past month. Even though you’re a rolling-stone lone wolf, you’ll always be my Utila BFF. I dearly hope our paths cross again for another adventure elsewhere in the world sometime in our lives. You kick ass! ❤

You’re invited to a tea party under the sea

It was a fun idea: a crazy underwater photoshoot. Take over a boat, bring cool people, bring a bunch of funny props to the bottom of the ocean, and go a little nuts with the camera. Rich and Jamie masterminding the operation, with this as Rich’s first(ish almost, despite the snorkel test; damn that dive map!) official divemaster lead. They spent a day casing town for props, talked the dive shop into getting us a special boat, and made it happen.

The day before our dive, there was a tragedy that closed the dive shop and canceled all dives. We weren’t certain the dive would continue for the next morning at 8am, but things went as scheduled. After weeks of perfectly sunny and clear days, we got the beginning of a tropical depression and the coldest weather I’ve seen since being on Utila. Nevertheless, we were all still psyched.

Not the most ideal light and conditions for an underwater photo shoot.

We loaded the boat with gear and props, then we waited for our captain to arrive. Wet and cold, we waited. Discussions quickly turned to our dive briefing, photo ideas, and underwater logistics. None of us had done a dive like this before.

Who knew the prop umbrellas would come in so useful?
No captain, no problem! Ben’s on the case.
One hour delay waiting for a captain = baleadas and coffee all around.
A skeptical, wet, and cold Erin. We going to make it?

But the rain lessened and the captain arrived, one hour late. Our planned dive site was scrapped in favor of a closer spot due to the weather.

The rain clearing up just in time for our departure. A delightful Vero, as usual.
Me, ready in pink and purple for an under the sea tea party.
We should have known we were in trouble with this dude in charge… 😛
Finally on our way!
We arrived at Moonhole quickly, the closest dive site to the boat house. First up, buddy checks–yep, we’re all lookin’ good! Next order of business: getting all our props down: a table, chairs, bike, costumes, umbrellas, tea set, kettle, cards, beer, rum, shot glasses, sunglasses, a mango, and more. We were all purposefully overweighted to bring everything down. We all cracked up as Ross rode the bike off the back of the boat; other nearby boats must have thought we were mental. Well, maybe we are a little.
The insanity began:
Rich’s bike made it down to the bottom of the sea and back, totally building character (and rust) as well as improving its resale value.
I broke out the stilletos. Who needs fins?
Perfect neutrally bouyant mango.

The mastermind brothers. Cheers!
Dueling Mary Poppins.
Mad man, free-balling it sans all equipment!
Our sea floor dining room. That’s my landlord’s backyard table.
Brian poppin’ a wheelie…
Vero and Kyle, keeping it cool.
Brian’s dreads always look so BADASS underwater!!
Being a lady, I do love a good cuppa.

It was an odd madness under there. As is normal for diving, it is mostly silent and things move in slow motion. Yet this dive, even though it was still slow and silent, had a frantic and random energy as everyone executed ideas of their own. There was a little bit of scrambling towards the end as air began to run low and communication broke down, but all made it up ok.
We learned a lot of lessons. First, we were brought to a deeper site than planned–18m instead of 5m–so this impacted our air usage, ascents, and prop management. Shallower would have been much better; 18m was too deep to be messing around like this. Second, especially with the silt (even worse than sandy!) bottom we were dealing with we all needed to be more careful about our contact with the bottom and instead try to hover to keep visibility as clear as possible. Third, we spent too much time all in the same location, mucking up the visability and each other’s photos. It would have been better to set up two scenes (table and bike) a little further from each other and take turns. A little extra planning on this would have gone a long way. Next time. But for a first, crazy shot it was pretty freakin’ awesome. 🙂

Rescue Diver: It’s a beautiful day to save lives

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One step closer to being an underwater NINJA!

I loved my Advanced Open Water course. So much so that during our final briefing I started asking questions because I didn’t want to stop. Turned out that my instructor Maya was starting a Rescue Diver course the next day, as was my buddy Nico, and she encouraged me to take it. There are many practical reasons to take Rescue; you can never have too many rescue divers in the water. Basic first aid, diving-specific rescue techniques, simple tactics to recognize and prevent problems, self protection, and skills to lead or ably assist in an emergency. Plus, everyone who takes it raves about how much fun the course is. I signed right up.

Rescue day -1 & 0: Emergency First Responder
Before you can start the Rescue course, you must fulfill the prerequisite of Emergency First Responder training. I began the two-day EFR crash course with our five-person Rescue crew: we were a serious bunch with a doctor, a nurse, two DMTs, and me. Everyone else had some prior first aid training, but we went over the basics, including lots of catch phrases: Stop think act! Activate EMS! Hello, my name is Erin, I’m an Emergency Responder, may I help you? We practiced CPR, and I treated for shock by tucking people in under a blanket, offering cake, and saying “there-there” lots. Shock treatment is kind of my bag. With basic skills under our belts, we moved into the water.

Rescue Day 1: confined water, off the UDC dock
Our Rescue course started in earnest as we were all getting kitted up on the UDC dock: about halfway dressed, all of a sudden multiple panicked divers were in the water calling for help. Even simulated, it is easy to freeze before you remember what to do. Two of the guys had their gear on already and jumped in with floats. I tossed a BCD and tank in, splitting my fingers open in the process, then hopped in to deliver it as makeshift flotation to one of the faux-drowning victims. Whew, just in time! SAVED. We missed a few points, were a little slow, but not bad for a first time out.

BCDs are the inflatable vest divers wear attached to their tank and are always plentifully on hand on a dive boat. It’s their purpose to float, so they make a great impromptu rescue buoy! Source: Google Images

Once we properly got into the water, our instructors Maya and Matt demonstrated some basic skills: techniques on how to approach and resolve a tired diver, unresponsive diver, and panicked diver both below water and at the surface. (They made them look so easy!) I learned how to fend off someone who wants to steal my air with my left arm while preparing my backup air source to give them. Simple, yet effective. Calm down, I got you. The tactics for approaching panicked divers at the surface are particularly interesting: give a strong push to spin them around or go underwater beneath them to reach their back, then mount their tank holding it in between your legs, and inflate their BCD to get them buoyant, which usually helps resolve the panic.

For unresponsive non-breathing divers at the surface, we practiced simultaneously giving rescue breaths, removing equipment, towing, and exiting the water on each other. I gave Nico more air than necessary by actually giving rescue breaths through the pocket mask and he hauled me out of the water in a dramatic Baywatch style; we had the whole dock laughing.

This day was intense. We learned so much in a short period of time. I had heard rumors things were only going to get more so when we moved to open water the next day. Bring it on.

Tool of the trade: pocket masks keep water out of the face of victims and easily attach to emergency oxygen pumps.
Source: Google Images

Rescue Day 2: open water, Black Coral Wall
We reached the dive site via boat and as we were putting on our gear, suddenly there were people thrashing in the water. Again. Rings were tossed overboard, rescue divers entered the water. I was partially in my wetsuit already, so grabbed my fins and a life jacket and jumped in. Only after my victim was under control did I hear the laughter from the boat and realize something was off: I still had my sunglasses on instead of a proper mask and snorkel. Whoops… Saving in style! It’s the way I roll.

After performing some skills on sandy bottom—buddy breathing, helping someone scared about their flooded mask—we buddied up, hero and victim-to-be, and went for a dive. I was paired with Devin, who played the part of an overconfident yet under-experienced diver. Apart from our rescue training, we saw a school of colorful reef squid, which are my favorite to watch as they flutter and hover. Every time I turned around, our instructor Matt was totally messing with Nico, at one time grabbing at his regulator while flipped completely upside down. Devin gave me a run for my money, getting himself into trouble and panicking often. At the surface, he freaked again, but I got him under control. “Erin, I almost died!!! You saved my life!” After all the exertion, I gave him a tired diver tow back to the boat. SAVED! Your mother can send me a thank you note.

Nico, ON IT!

The boys, Nico and Devin, looking buff during our surface interval.
Crashed out on the boat roof. Fake dying and fake saving people is hard work!

Rescue Day 3: open water, Pretty Bush
Chaos struck as soon as we arrived at the dive shop in the morning. Devin was ready to “dive dive dive!”, had beer in hand on the boat, and we had to “throw him off” the dive for drinking and diving. A medical “emergency” (ketsup was everywhere!) broke out on the dock and first aid had to be administered. During our predive evaluation we discovered that our boat was improperly stocked with safety gear and had to properly prep it.

Again each of us was paired up with an “inept” buddy with little experience: the buddy checks were a mess as each person had something wrong with them. I remembered my first dive after Open Water where I was buddied with a rescue diver; I realize now he was trained specifically to counteract/prevent mistakes I could have made and that he must have been on the lookout for all sorts of stuff to be wrong with me!

At the dive site, we started off again with victims in the water immediately. Our actions in response and timing were markedly improved from the day before. I went after a thrashing Elle, who rejected the float I offered her and attempted to climb on top of me. I fended her off repeatedly, managing finally to have the float be her only option and getting her to safety without me also drowning in the process.

Into the ocean we went for real and began the dive. After about 10 minutes we reached a sand patch and the “OW” buddies went apeshit. A group of ten, we were in close quarters, and we were treated to thrashing and panicking of every flavor. It was a clusterfuck.

Devin going a little mad, Jonathan coming in from behind to save the day.
Cramp removal in the background, and Alex on the watch.
Being ever vigilant in all directions, keeping an eye out for crazies.

My buddy Elle acted like a three-year-old, causing mischief by grabbing at gear, ascending when she shouldn’t, and playing unsafely. In the video below at about 0:10 you can see me trying to channel her energy into something silly yet not dangerous. The rest of the divers swim around us, in varying degrees of craziness. This was not a normal dive.

Even with all the rescuing, there was still a little bit of time for a little sight-seeing!

At the end of the dive, of course people were missing and we spread out to search. Unresponsive divers were found quickly underwater but not far from the boat and pulled to relative safety aboard the boat. SAVED!

Once back on the boat, ready to head home, all of our ears perked up when we heard a *splash*. For once, it was just people headed into the ocean to pee. But I think from now on each of us won’t hear a splash the same way again. It’s always worth a look to be sure.

At final roll call though, bad news: Maya was missing from the bow. We quickly located her in the water, but she was unresponsive. Jonathan and Alex got her safely into the boat and started her on emergency oxygen. The boys rotated simulated chest compressions in two minute intervals as I performed rescue breaths and gave reassurance in her ear the whole fifteen minutes back to shore. As we approached the dock, we hashed out our next steps to get her to emergency services. In Utila, there is no 911 equivalent; you just yell and then try to locate the doctor in one of the bars. We didn’t need to execute our plan, but man were we ready to!

In the aftermath of saving Maya, all the way back to UDC. Pocket mask and shades, that’s how I roll, biyotch!

I left the course feeling a strong sense of confidence, strength, and excitement. Even though I may not hit every single step perfectly, I am far better equipped to handle an emergency, help someone in need, and protect myself. I am a better diver and person. I am capable. I am a RESCUE DIVER!!

Since the conclusion of my Rescue course, I have been on multiple dive boats where other Rescue courses are being taught. I have to say, we got thrown a LOT more shit that these other courses, partly because we were a bigger group. Every time we started suiting up, someone was in trouble. These other groups don’t get nearly the amount of madness we did and they take a hell of a long time to respond. When you are in the middle of an “emergency”, it can feel like you’re not performing as well as you should, but turns out we were actually a pretty kick ass group. PADI-punch!

All photos courtesy of Arnaud.