We are vacationing in Roatan, Honduras with my family and had the opportunity to scuba dive for the first time. J, my husband, wrote up his experience and has allowed me to share it with you. (This also will be his debut writing post! Hopefully, I can get him to share more of his writing with you!)
Until you get into the water scuba diving is a nerve wracking experience. Diving brings up a feeling of dread when you are heading out to the water, after all you are going out to an environment that you have no control over, where one small mistake might make you lose your oxygen or cause internal injuries.
And when you finally get to the dive spot that feeling gets worse. Now you have to go, now you have to jump in, now you have to be underwater. You strap on the weight belt making sure that it won’t come off. Then the tank and the flippers. Finally you put on the mask.
And then another round of panic sets in. You can’t breathe. You try to grab air in through your nose and nothing comes in. Calming down you slowly adjust and breathe through your mouth.
Being on the surface of the water is difficult. Even with air pumped into the buoyancy control device (BCD) it is still difficult to feel in control. The water is around you and bouncing you up and down with the waves. If you don’t have your regulator in your mouth you get gulpfuls of water in between the gasps of air you can manage. This is the last moment I have before we go down to make sure everything is right.
My mask starts fogging and I try to push through, get through the under water training and move with the group so I don’t hold anyone back. But it’s too much. I can’t see what’s going on so I signal to the instructor that I need to go back the surface-mask problems. Refilling my BCD I get to the top where he instructs me to put a bit of spit in and that clears out the problem.
Diving down we start our journey. But now there is a new problem, water is slowly seeping under my mask, getting in my view and in my eyes. Panicking I remember my training. Push the top of the mask and blow. As we go I alternate between that and pinching my nose to depressurize.
I feel miserable. I want to go back up and leave. Everything is wrong and I cant fix it. Half the time I can barely see and I have trouble staying at the right buoyancy. I have to remove and fill my bcd multiple times. And nothing around is interesting. There is sand and more sand. Some rock formations with coral covered in what looks like a dull brown algae.
Then we see it a small flat fish on the bottom of the sea. Is scurries away as we approach rippling on the sea floor kicking up sand as it goes. After moving a couple of feet away it stops thinking its camouflaged enough to avoid detection. And frankly if I didn’t know it was there I wouldn’t be able to find it. I glance away and back and I have to search hard to distinguish its outline from the sand. We swim a little further with fish around us, swimming disinterestedly, going about their business.
Most of them aren’t all that exciting but as we head back I catch a glimpse of a bright blue fish swimming around what looks like a brain coral. I am surprised when I realize that it’s the same kind of fish that dory in finding Nemo is. No one else sees it, which feels special, something only I got to see.
We head back and sooner than I expected we were back in the seagrass where our boat was docked. Coming up out of the water, i was a little relieved it was over, but also a little sad that we were done too.
I had swapped out my mask for another one and was ready to go out a second time. I was nervous again, worried that my mask would fail a second time.
This time the dive spot was supposed to be a coral reef called the labyrinth. Though it should have been exciting, a chance to see more than what had mostly been sand the last time it mostly made me worried. It sounded like somewhere I would get lost and die.
But I was determined to have more fun. After I had stopped worrying quite as much the last time I had enjoyed myself in the water. Moving weightlessly and swimming with just the sound of the currents had been fun. And I wanted to do it a second time.
We reached the dive site and I got the gear on a second time. I jumped in the water and swam over to the mooring line. This time we were descending by climbing down the line.
Once again my mask was filling with water. I felt annoyed I had tested this mask in the pool it shouldn’t be filling with water! I must be doing something wrong I thought to myself.
The process of going down the line felt like it was painstakingly long. We moved down slowly and deliberately to make sure that the we didn’t damage our ears or lungs, but it seemed to drag on forever.
Finishing climbing down the line, we were at the bottom. We signed to the instructor that we were okay and began to swim. I felt a little nervous as we started to approach the rocky outcroppings and the small channel that went through them.
We needed to be sure not to touch anything, as they were in the process of restoring the damage to the coral reef, so I was nervous as we started to navigate into the reef. What if I hit the sides. What if I broke some of the coral.
Luckily I was never in any danger of that, as I kept a watch for the sides and bottom of the reef and made sure to avoid touching anything. And as I started to go I deeper I started to relax and look at the coral and fish around me.
Everything was absolutely gorgeous. The coral reefs were all around us and we swam through them. There were so many fish that I couldn’t count them. Small fish, big fish, black fish with a neon blue stripe, what I found out later were angel fish.
It was peaceful and I felt relaxed as I went. The water seeping into the mask was annoying (how could I be having the same problems with a mask after changing it out, I wondered), but I knew how to deal with it this time and I was able enjoy myself.
Before I knew it the trip was over and we found ourselves staring at the rope back up. I glanced at my air pressure gauge and saw that it was at the start of the red. It was time to go back to the surface. I tried to motion to the instructor that my oxygen was almost out (apparently doing so in a way that made everyone else think I was panicking), and it took a couple of tries, because his back was to us, but eventually he saw and we started our ascent.
We went back up slowly, even pausing for two minutes near the surface to decompress. Something that was extremely confusing since we hadn’t done it the first time and our instructor was using signals that we hadn’t been taught.
After the two minutes, we climbed the rest of the way up to the surface and got out. I filled the BCD up and swam to the back of the boat as the waves rocked me up and down. I barely grabbed onto the ladder, as the strong currents were pulling me away.
Climbing back up I let the dizziness and disorientation of coming back up fade away, as I thought about what I had seen and experienced. It had been an amazing experience and I couldn’t wait to do it again.
–J. S. Fritzen