Learning How to Scuba Dive
When it comes to water, I have always considered myself half fish. In fact, as a child I thought the longer I stayed in the water, the better my chances of growing my own set of gills. To be able to swim and frolic with my finny friends, without having to surface to gulp down some air, has always been a dream of mine. And, it was while visiting the coastal town of Akumal that I realized I could make my dream come true.
I stopped into the Original Akumal Dive Shop to find a new snorkel when I passed a group of people suiting up to go scuba diving. They looked so excited I felt a surge of jealousy overcome me. I must have been gawking at the tanks and gear, for one of the divers asked me if I, too, was into scuba. “No,” I replied. “I just snorkel. I don’t have the time to do all that training, but I bet it is incredible!”
“Oh man, it’s great! And, it’s easy. Why don’t you do a Discover Scuba course? It’s just a half day, and they teach you enough basics so you can actually go for a dive.” My face must have given away my emotions, for as he turned to head for the boat, he yelled over his shoulder, “I hope to be your dive buddy tomorrow!”
I immediately went to the counter to inquire about this Discover Scuba Course, and in less than 20 minutes, I was learning the “to-do’s” of Scuba. My instructor taught me first on land and then took me into the shallow water of the bay to practice. The pace was very slow and relaxed. I was able to try breathing through my regulator while standing safely in waist-deep water and was shocked at how natural it all felt.
After running through a few skills to increase my comfort level, we swam around for a bit in the shallow water. Though the tank was quite awkward at the beginning, it did not take me too long to forget it was even there. We swam by some coral – one of the same patches I had snorkeled over a few days prior – and saw colorful tropical fish darting about, playing flirtatiously in and out of the nooks and overhangs of the reef. I was finally about to stare at them without having to dash away for air!
Then, we returned to shore, changed our tanks for fresh ones, and hopped on a boat. We were heading out beyond the bay to go on a “real” dive! After rolling off the boat, we grabbed hold of a rope and began to descend below the surface of the water. Slowly we sank, deeper and deeper, until we got to about 25 feet and let go of the rope. My instructor guided me around the reef pointing out fish and other sea creatures. This reef was huge, colorful and chock-full of life; and I was able to swim along and absorb everything.
I was lucky enough to see two sea turtles that shyly swam along the ocean floor, an eagle ray gliding gracefully in the distance, some parrotfish, a grouper, a trumpet fish, and so much more. When we surfaced, I don’t think I stopped talking the whole ride back to shore. My dreams of “growing gills” had come true!
As we arrived back at the shop, the gentleman who originally told me about the “Discover” course was rinsing off his gear. He smiled and asked if I enjoyed myself. I filled his ears with my stories until he casually interrupted by asking me if I would be his dive buddy tomorrow. With a smile that stretched from ear to ear, I responded, “Sign me up!”
I spent the rest of my week diving, resulting in my best vacation ever! And, I was able to apply this course toward a full certification as an Open Water Diver. So, I am here to tell you, if diving has ever been a dream of yours, it’s time to give it a try. I personally had an outstanding experience at the Original Akumal Dive Shop, though I am told the course is offered at almost every area dive shop. In that short half-day of class, a lifetime worth of dreams came true for me…maybe they can for you too!
Photos courtesty of Gonzalo Arcila of the Akumal Dive Shop