One of the nice things about Miami is that there is always someone you know who either owns a boat or has access to one. I just so happen to be friends with some pretty serious divers who not only have a boat, but have their own equipment and tanks too. So when they asked if I wanted to tag along on a diver’s trip to the Bahamas and possibly learn how to scuba dive, of course I had to say yes!
Leaving Miami at sunrise.
We set off from Miami early in the morning on our 3-day adventure and stopped somewhere off of Cat Cay a little while later. We anchored in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight. Water was in any direction you looked and we seemed to be the only boat in the area.
Just me and the ocean.
The guys immediately pulled on some diving gear and disappeared under the water. I have to admit, I was a little nervous to learn how to scuba dive since I’m not PADI certified so I was a little relieved when I wasn’t included right away. Instead, I spent the afternoon working on my tan and wobbling around on a paddleboard in the middle of the ocean while wondering if there were any sharks circling below me.
Trying to conquer the paddle board with very poor balance!
Towards the evening, after the guys had come back from their afternoon excursion, I received the run down on diving equipment: my first lesson. Next, I was handed some pink flippers and a snorkel and was told to practice breathing underwater. I’ve never been that fond of snorkels because I always end up getting water in the end of the tube. I also seemed to have lost my coordination in flippers but they were pink, so that made it all right.
It’s not easy to smile in a snorkel mask…
The sunset was beautiful that night and there’s nothing like going to sleep out on the ocean and waking up to an endless view of moving water.
The second day was when my real training began. I went over some rules and protocols before suiting up to take my first dive. I jumped in the water to have help getting my tank on because, well, some of the members of our group foresaw me potentially falling over due to the weight of it. And they probably would have been right. I had no idea that those things were as heavy as they are!
I started breathing through my mouthpiece and slowly sank below the surface of the water. The feeling of relying entirely upon the equipment on your back is a little terrifying of a thought but I tried to remain calm and focus on regulating my breathing.
Once under water, I followed my diving partner around and tried to find little reefs to explore. We stayed at around 30 feet for my first dive but were able to see some fish swimming around the reefs and we were in an area where the ocean floor was quite shallow. It took me awhile to get used to my newfound freedom. Though I could move my body in any which way, I still felt confined somehow. We kept our time underwater relatively short and made our way back slowly to the surface.
My friends hauled my tank out of the water for me and checked the gauge. Apparently first time divers tend to use up a lot more oxygen in attempts to get used to breathing, but I had surprised them all by keeping my oxygen usage fairly low. I wasn’t really surprised by this since a significant amount of my time underwater was occupied with thoughts on how my survival depended on remaining calm.
Later that afternoon, my friends decided that they wanted to take me on a more ambitious dive that would take us pretty far under water. They told me it was no different from being 30 feet under and that the process would be the same. This time, we sank below the surface and steadily lowered ourselves to the ocean floor, which was at 75 feet.
A 75-foot dive on my second attempt!
It was pretty surreal being that far under the water. The guys had spear guns with them so I felt pretty safe and spent my time working on my coordination by doing flips and underwater acrobatics. I swam along the reefs spotting barracudas and lobsters. I was starting to feel quite comfortable with my underwater self when one of my friends tapped me on the shoulder to look behind me. Sure enough, there was a shark, maybe 6-8 feet long, swimming just yards away from us. For whatever reason, I didn’t feel an ounce of panic as we swam away.
I did panic when one of my friends speared a lobster and handed it to me to carry back. I wasn’t fond of the idea and clearly the “dead” lobster wasn’t either because as soon as I started to swim with it, it came alive and freaked out in my hand. All of its 100 legs were scrambling about trying to escape and the sudden awakening from it’s supposed death was enough to make me freak out as well and drop the thing. I was relieved to be fired from that job real quick.
As we made our way back to the surface, I couldn’t help but think about how many other sharks were in the area that we just couldn’t see. The scariest part of scuba diving for me is the visibility. You can only see about 20 feet in front of you and never know what you are going to swim up to until it is right in front of you.
It felt good to be back on the boat but I was thrilled to check scuba diving off my bucket list, especially because I also got to check off another one:
Swim with sharks!