|Stephanie, Kara, Nicole, Diane & Lynda|
When asked by Lawrie’s niece and great-niece to join them I immediately agreed to give it a try.
Nicole and her teenage daughter Kara had scheduled a lesson at Paradise Diving, which is part of the Marina Paraiso Hotel complex, here on Isla.
We assembled at the big pool at the hotel with Diving Instructor Stephanie Hammond de Boboli. She instructed us on safety, signals, equipment and rules. Wethen took a few minutes to organize swim flippers, wet suit, the vest (Buoyancy Control Device), weight belt, mask, snorkel, and of course the full air tank. Okay that’s about forty or more pounds of equipment to pack around. Three of us were newbies, and the fourth Diane, was doing a refresher course on diving. Stephanie patiently ran us through several drills in the pool, getting us comfortable with the equipment, and a few emergency scenarios than a break for lunch. “Remember, no alcohol with lunch,” she reminded us with a grin, “you can celebrate after-wards.”
|Diving Instructor Stephanie Hammond de Boboli in centre|
And then it was time to head out to our two open water dives; the first one at the underway museum MUSA, and the second one at a nearby reef. We trouped down to the dive boat, and set off on our adventure. The day had started off calm and sunny, but while we were running through safety drills in the pool a south-west wind had strengthened, creating five to six foot swells.
|Our Captain Josue Aranda Ponce! Great job!|
I love boating and a bit of bouncing around in the boat was not uncomfortable.
It did surprise me though on how many snorkeling tour boats were moored in and around the underwater museum; the 700 plus statues are thirty feet underwater, and the big waves would have made it almost impossible to see anything from the surface. Not my idea of good snorkeling conditions.
|Other boats moored for snorkeling and divers|
On board our dive boat we zipped up our wet suits, donned the weight belts, flippers, masks, BCD vest and the air tank.
Ugh, it’s very difficult to move around on the boat while encumbered with all this equipment.
|Kara – getting ready to do the backward-roll|
So how do we get into the water? Stephanie expertly demonstrated the backward-roll technique that is necessary to exit the boat safely. Anyone who has seen Jacques Cousteau films or any movie involving scuba divers will be familiar with the procedure – however, my brain queried me tensely: “Are you sure, really sure? That looks dangerous.” Well heck, here goes. One hand on my regulator, one hand on my diving mask strap, cross my flippers and lean back. Not bad! Much easier than it looks. And then I was swamped by a big wave. Fortunately I had my regulator in my mouth and didn’t ingest any of the seawater.
|My heros! Kara and her mom Nicole – naturals!|
Once the four of us were in the water we pulled ourselves hand-over-hand through the waves along the mooring line to the buoy and then to the descend line, as it is called in diving lingo, that would assist us in a slow and smooth decent. Kara disappeared. Nicole disappeared. Diane was having issues with her weight belt, and while trying to sort that out got a big mouthful of water. Eventually she disappeared down the line.
|Stephanie – relaxed and slowly rising to surface|
Me, I got down about 7 feet, and discovered that I was breathing too hard, over-inflating my lungs. My weight belt and assorted gear couldn’t counteract my body’s natural inclination to bounce back up to the surface. I tried a second time, couldn’t equalize my ears, fussed with my mask and BCD valves, and finally decided – not today. Stephanie was very understanding when I said I was heading back to the boat. I did take a quick look around while I was under the waves, and watched in complete envy as Nicole and Kara swam along the bottom, gracefully as two lithe dolphins. Darn! That could have been me!
|One of Kara’s beautiful underwater photos.|
Diane was still having challenges with her weight belt and Stephanie decided to cut the first dive short to give everyone time to get sorted out. Once everyone reconvened on the boat, we moved over a few feet to a beautiful reef. This time only Nicole and Kara went with Stephanie on the dive. Both Diane and I decided to wait this one out on the boat.
Am I disappointed that I wasn’t brave enough to finish the experience? A little.
But, there is always another day, another time to try again.
There is a beautiful hidden paradise beneath the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. Eventually I’ll get to experience it.