Longest – roughest bus route to Las Terrenas, Domincan Republic. It is a 10+ hour trip from the other end of the country to a beach to learn how to scuba dive. Honestly, initially I was not totally thrilled about the scuba camp probably because I was stuck on a hot, packed bus ride that seemed endless. However, I did not know that what I was going to experience on the other end was going to blow my world wide open!
I arrived to The Dive Academy to meet a group of PCVs, and Paul our instructor. Paul cuts a special deal for volunteers because he likes what we do and knows we get paid nothing. Great office and the staff is very helpful. Also the housing accommodations are workable (anything is workable for volunteers). Paul taught us all the book work and showed us the videos. He answered all the questions and gave us very real situations of how the knowledge we covered is important and applicable.
*Diving is about being safe. Not stupid.
After all of the chatter, we got to play with the gear. I learned all these new terms and at first-sight the equipment looked complicated. But every single thing had a use and very important purpose. Then we got loaded up the truck and headed to the sea to get our fins wet. Paul and his team were patient and thorough. I absolutely had some freak-out moments when we had to tryout our newly trained skills but Paul helped us stay calm. After that I just had to stay calm and enjoy the swim. Paul took us out to see a couple of ship wrecks, and coral. We also had a chance to dive in the Lago Dudu and that was a nice experience to dive in fresh water with clear visibility. Each dive I was different from the last and it was exciting. What will I see next?!
*Every dive will be different. And every dive you will learn something or see something new.
So after scuba camp in Las Terrenas, I am officially open-water certified which means I can go 60 feet below the surface. But wait there’s more…
Now I can go deeper… My friend Jennifer and her boyfriend Mark invited me to join them on a scuba diving trip in Mexico. Mark also happens to be a Dive Instructor and offers to lead me through my advance training. Win!
*I advise that divers take their open water and their advance training from different instructors. It is like undergrad and grad programs. A different school – different style of teaching. It will make you more aware and receive diverse, insightful tips.
It is a week-long boat diving trip starting off in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico and navigating across the Sea of Cortez. This is actually a big scuba trip. I am one of the more junior divers on the boat which means I had plenty of wisdom to feed from. The 20 divers and a crew of 10 is all the company we needed on the yacht. By the end of the week I became a trained, and certified Padi Advance Diver – permitted to dive to a maximum depth of 100 feet!
My days on the boat started at 6am for breakfast then our first dive at 7am. Most days we were able to squeeze in 4 dives and I didn’t pass up any opportunity to get off the boat. My favorite was my first night dive and I will share with you a little bit of that magical experience.
The Night Dive
We gear up as the sun is setting and back roll into the deep dark waters. This is the first time I have a hefty lantern attached to my BCD jacket. I can only see what is captured within the scope of my lantern. At night the ocean comes alive! We get to 40 feet deep and the ocean floor is moving with manta rays, a nurse shark, octopus, seahorse, eels, and tons of colorful fish! I hovered above huge boulder and swam by a sleeping sea turtle. I think he was just as startled by my presence, as I was by his size (He was at least as big as me). Mr. Sea Turtle gracefully drifted up and away from his nook. It was so magnificent!
I followed the rest of my dive team and noticed some glitter in the water. It wasn’t glitter – it was bioluminescent plankton. When I turned off my lantern and moved my hands through the water the water lit up! It was like pixie dust! Magical! I was dancing in the ocean and it was a light show! So much fun!
Eventually we had to go back up, but I didn’t want it to end. As I surfaced and waited the boat to come around to pick me up, I had the most spectacular view of the stars. That night, the stars were shining down on me and I was shining back – making the waters blink with each kick. The boat finally came around and we all climbed in. I was completely mesmerized. I watched the boat trail glow as the motor blew the waters back. I dipped my fingers into the sea just to get my last sensation before I had to call it a night. Was I dreaming? I didn’t want to wake up.
The Shark Attack
Our trip included a special visit to Bahia de Los Angles to see the whale sharks. With help from local guides we sighted the massive sharks from above water then jumped in to swim along-side them. So I wasn’t so brave to actually get too close but at one point I think a shark sensed my fear and knocked it out of me literally.
So I was snorkeling, minding my own business then for a moment, I brought my head out of the water to hear people on the boat shouting, “WATCH OUT.” Then it hit me from behind. A huge 30 foot whale shark ran into my back and swam off. Shocked and a little scared (I am sure the shark was too), I swam out of the way and climbed back onto the boat. When I realized I had no major injury, I jumped back into the water a few minutes later.
I am a survivor of a shark attack.
*Fun fact: Whale sharks are the largest fish on the planet.
I would like to share with you a video made by my new friend Ken Riddick. He was able to capture all the beautiful sea creatures we were lucky to spot during our dives. The frisky whale shark is at the end. Watch it Here On FB!
The Dive Academy in Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic. Check It Out Here
Rocio del Mar Livaboard on the Sea of Cortez, Mexico Review it Here
Mark Moran, Dive Instructor, Phoenix, Arizona. Message me for his contact information
You can ask about an intro-diving class at Destination Scuba (located in PHX) to see if scuba diving is a hobby for you to invest in. Sea-riously consider it. 🙂
Photos below taken by friends Jenn and Mark and kids