Sea turtle among the Coral Reef
Learning to dive in Belize is easy and safe. For me, it was also quick; the first day involved an intensive PADI video training and on the second day I was ready to go on my first dive! The same can’t be said for everyone learning to dive as it all depends on how quick you pick it up. The good news is that from my entire class, no one took longer than a week. And take into account that most people choose to take a day off during the course to relax or go on a tour.
My first dive in Belize went somewhat like this:
The loud motors of the dive boat slowed from their high-pitched whine to a baritone hum as we approached our dive sight near Ambergris Caye. The boat drifted towards a buoy, “I’ve got it!” shouted one of the dive masters. He then proceeded to tie the boat down as we eagerly geared up for our first dive.
Divers at Hol Chan Marine Reserve, located near Ambergris Caye.
“Ok students, we’re here,” said our diving instructor. A petite man, no more than five feet tall and nearly forty years old, who had a Belizean accent that always seems to differ from one Belizean to the next, based on their locale. I had a few questions on the tip of my tongue; but, he answered them before I could speak. I looked towards the horizon and saw nothing but ocean stretching out like a rolling mirror until it merged seamlessly with the horizon and the cloudless sky. “Belize is beautiful,” I gasped.
I grabbed my gear and shuffled toward the boat’s stern. I watched as the students before me preformed a back roll entry. They blindly plunged off the boat’s edge with expressions behind their masks that revealed both excitement and anxiety. They hit the water with clumsy splashes signaling my turn.
Following the instructions, I leaned backward falling the four feet into the water. Momentarily, after hitting the water, I could not recognize up from down. Remembering my training, I inflated my BCD so that I bobbed easily on the surface. The instructor promptly entered the water and signaled us to start our dive. I released the air from my BCD and began my decent.
At five feet, I felt a sharp pain in my ears. My mind raced, oh no! I can’t do this! Realizing my panic the instructor asked if I was ok. I responded with an ok signal and equalized my ears and sinuses as I had been trained the day before.
Diving in Belize
As my fear subsided, my eyes began to feast upon the kaleidoscope of colors that were the reef. The living coral that surrounded me was vibrant with colors I had never seen before in the natural world. First, I was struck by colonies of brain corals. Next, I noticed the sea fans swaying back and forth with the current in a dance of purple, pink and orange. Finally, I saw parrotfish that rivaled the colors of their flying counterparts swimming playfully back and forth between crevices and shadows of coral.
My instructor banged his tank to get our attention. He signaled us to follow him. We swam deeper. As we swam, the landscape changed. The corals gave way to canyons separated by sand stretching out into the deep. The formations looked like giant fingers resting flat on the sandy surface. We went to a depth of about fifty feet before the instructor decided to turn back.
As we returned near the boat the instructor signaled thumbs up to cue the ascent. At the surface, I removed my mask and inhaled the warm salt air. As I waited for the boat to pick me up, I had begun craving more of what would become a lifetime passion. Not just an adventure, not just an entirely different world, diving inspires me. Scuba diving is freedom.
by Ilya Rosado