Thursday, May 30, 2013

scuba diving

For my birthday this year, Mike got us scuba certification lessons during our camping trip on St. John.

Diving is so intriguing! The ocean is the last mostly unexplored place on earth and I like the idea of visiting a somewhat hidden world... there is so much lurking way below the limit of swimming and snorkeling. I was excited but also a little hesitant because of how much I thought there would be to learn, nervous about messing up underwater, and irrationally scared that I'd be pushed into a sea urchin. Ha... I know.

Each morning we left our campsite at Cinnamon Bay and took a 20 minute truck ride into Cruz Bay. We got our certification through Low Key Watersports, a very laid back dive shop right on the harbor. I won't name any names, but someone didn't read his email thoroughly and we showed up the first day without having done any of the 150+ pages of reading we needed to even start the class... oops. Luckily it worked out and we did most of our academics on the beach, smoothies-in-hand.

"See? I told you it would work out. Always does." 
- Mike, in this situation and most others

There's a surprising amount to learn regarding blood nitrogen, oxygen levels, equipment and safety before we got in the water. Our instructor, who immediately won me over with his giant badass shoulder tattoo of Jim Morrison's face, gauged our abilities and led us on five awesome dives over the next three days. Most of our dives were to 55-60 feet, much deeper than my tiny underwater camera could go, but I got a few from our shallow dive along the reef edge.

These photos don't do justice to the incredible colors and swarms of fish everywhere. At a few points we swam through tunnels in the reef, with coral, sea fans, urchins and fish surrounding us. My fears of being pushed into something (like during snorkeling) were unfounded, as there is no current at all deep underwater. It feels like floating in mid-air, unaware of the 30 pound dive tank strapped on your back, easily controlled by flippers and the amount of air you hold in your lungs.*

Most of the best things we saw were too deep to photograph - a 3 foot lobster, a shipwreck, nurse sharks, moray eels, turtles, giant conchs, stingrays and puffer fish - but my favorite animal was this giant spotted eagle ray that swam between us, gently flapping wings and trailing his 10 foot tail. That seemed to be the theme of every dive: peaceful, dreamy interactions with animals that seemed mostly indifferent to our curiosity.

Overall it was a fantastic birthday present... experiences always seem to trump material things. We got our dive certification cards in the mail last week and I can't wait to go back. Have you ever been? Where was your favorite dive? Or do you prefer water activities a little closer to the surface?

*Um, I may have had serious issues with controlling my buoyancy and spent the first dive drifting about 10 feet above everyone else. Luckily the ocean is a judgement free zone, right?


  1. I can't even begin to tell you the envy I feel right now! What a fantastic, special experience you had, one I've dreamt of. One of my favourite things to do in this world is to take the drive down to the Costa Brava in Northern Spain for the fantastic snorkelling. Like being in a flotation tank, it just takes me out of myself into a wonderful space. They have scuba diving schools there that go out on the boats and I promise myself, one day!

  2. Wow!! wonderful pictures! Thank you for sharing them with us!

  3. Although I'm a newbie to scuba diving and don't have much to contribute,
    as of yet, I still want to thank you for this
    helpful information. Every thing helps at this point in the learning curve.
    Keep up the good work, thank you.