I had in mind to write more about Mexico first (the places, the food, the beers…ah yes, I’m making it a “Latin American beer tour” and will post about all the beers I’ve tried so far!) but today, something pretty cool happened and I wanted to share it with you.
Today, I completed my PADI Open Water certification!! For those of you who don’t scuba dive, the PADI Open Water is kind of the first level of diving certification. It includes some theory (5 sections with questionnaires and tests), 5 confined water dives to follow the theory (that can be done either in a pool or in shallow waters, in my case shallow water in a bay) and 4 open water dives (in the sea/ocean). I powered through it in 2,5 days and I am now allowed to dive to up to 18m/60ft underwater (or down to). Pretty cool…I know!
Why Roatan, Honduras? Because it’s meant to be THE best place in the world to learn, for 2 reasons: 1) it’s the cheapest place to do it 2) their reef is now the second biggest in the world, just behind Australia – and theirs is not bleaching…(to read about the terrible bleaching of the Australian AND New Caledonian reefs, click here). Also, looking at these photos, the question really should be, why not?
Why Roatan Divers? I wanted a “boutique” club that had a family feel. I just looked on Google and found them. But there are SO many centres in West End only… I checked at least 10, read hundreds of reviews, shortlisted 4, messaged them all, got more confused…When Saaya, one of the owners, responded so quickly and very helpfully, I had a good feeling about them. After calculating and recalculating budgets, I went for it mainly because with them, it’s 4 students per instructor MAX, and if there’s just you, then you get a 1-1 for the same price, which is a luxury I had (and she’s great!!). If you are interested in tips on what to look for when choosing a diving centre, you can have a look at my short page about it.
A bit about my journey through the course…
- Theory is pretty easy. Only a couple of notions weren’t very natural for me, but once explained, it’s logical and some of it is also common sense. First thoughts: Humm..yeah I can do this.
- I ‘wizzed’ through my confined water dives in one go (there are 5, corresponding to the 5 theory sections). I was in the water for 1h or so, did some exercises there, max dept was 3m. First impressions: Let’s see how the rest goes…I’m not sure about this breathing underwater malarky!
- Because I was so amazing in the confined water sessions (ha! just kidding), I got to go “in the open” on day 1.5. Two dives – am & pm – and did some skills practice underwater and on the surface (swimming 200m without mask or fins – and choppy waters) and already quite a bit of exploring and I got the hang of my buoyancy. First sightings: 1 tiny black flounder, 2 Hawksbill turtles, lots of colourful fishes, a Flamingo Tongue, lots of ‘Xmas trees‘, little crabs, 2 barracudas, lots of groupers, little shrimps, 1 squid, a couple of lobsters – and interesting corals & sponges.
- I now have a log book! That’s where I write all the information about my dives. Times, depth, weights, bar/PSI, impressions, what I saw and any important notes. I’ve also finished the tests for theory sections 1, 2 & 3. First hopes and doubts: So I clearly can do this. Wait, no. I’m scared. Did I really enjoy it? Yes, no. Maybe. Yes I want to do this! Humm, do I?!
- Day 2.5. This is the day I get to complete the course (IF all goes well…see the ‘Lowlights’ for more). I nailed the final theory test (49/50 questions). Two more open water dives. Just a few more skills exercises to get through. This afternoon dive was unbelievable. The top 10 of things I saw: 5 stingrays, 2 green moray, another beautiful tiny Flamingo Tongue, 3 big Queen triggerfish a few ‘Dori’s’ – Surgeon fish, a big Nassau grouper, lots of Jawfish, a conch’s egg case. Hovering – Buddha pose, means you’re floating mid-water without moving, just breathing in & out – is pretty amazing! First accomplishment and goal reached: I’m a PADI Open Water certified diver!
- Last big highlight is that it’s amazing to see how the island is trying to protect its beautiful resources. The Roatan Marine Park is working hard for it and Roatan Divers (I can’t speak for the others) are very supportive and always reminding you of ways you can can help protecting the environment and the marine life – for example, avoid eating lobster when not in season, don’t buy or pick-up shells, “each time you forget to turn the lights off, an angelfish dies” – and angelfishes are precious!
The lowlights (that’s when my L&D background kicks in…)
- I disliked immensely the ‘fill your mask with salt water’ exercises: half-full of water, full of water, completely take the mask off and put it back, completely take the mask off AND swim 30 seconds before putting it back. Not cool and you have to do it at each dive (x4 – i.e underwater), to learn how to clear it if water gets in.
- After my first day of Open Water dives, I’m scared. I can’t equalise my ears properly and it takes me forever to go down. I also can’t do my CESA (Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent) – that means coming up all the way just exhaling, you need to be able to exhale through your regulator for about 30s.
- I need a prescription mask as I CAN see, better than without glasses on land, BUT it’s not that clear and it’s a shame to miss out on seeing stuff because you’re half blind!
- Today, first dive, first (mild) panic attack.I struggled to do my CESA (but did it, just, in the end)…and it made me very nervous. I started breathing rapidly and panicked even more when had to do another mask exercise. If you’d asked me if I wanted to ever dive again at that point I would have screamed NO WAY JOSE.
In summary, I’m so happy I carried on and faced my fears. It’s ok to panic, what matters is how you get through it. Rays (any type of rays) are just gorgeous, majestic, graceful animals. I am hoping to see some Eagle rays while here. Ah, and also, I’ve signed up for the PADI Advanced course ;-). I start on Thursday (in 2 days), with a bang: a Night dive! Other specialties I’ve picked (you have 5 dives to do to get to Advanced level): Peak Performance Buoyancy dive (this is to get better at balancing and controlling your body in the water), Deep dive (this happens to also be a wreck dive!) to 30m, Navigation dive (to learn how to navigate underwater with a compass) and an Underwater Naturalist, which means I’ll get to see more beautiful little (and maybe big) things in the water. First realisation: I feel privileged to be in a world that isn’t my natural habitat and share it with the beautiful creatures that live down there. They merely accepted me in there and it made me feel small and special at once. The pleasure of diving relies on how we all look after our planet and oceans… Beyond that it makes it so obvious why it’s so important to do so. So please think about it next time you buy plastic or throw something out the window..
To finish, I found this in my take-away bag from Wraps & Art – I feel it’s quite relevant right now!