Go Diving in San Pedro

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 15, No. 18            May 5, 2005

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San Pedro is a diving community and “if you don’t dive” as I’ve heard it said many times, “It’s like going to Aspen and not skiing.”

        If you are visiting San Pedro and would love to try the thrill of being underwater, you might consider diving in a one day Scuba Diving experience. Although to get fully Scuba certified takes approximately four days, you can meet with your instructor at 8:00 a.m. and finish your first dive before lunch.

        Once you have discovered Scuba and it is something you would love to pursue, this one-day experience is also taking a big step towards getting certified. San Pedro has a long list of dive operations and many good diving instructors that can introduce you to scuba diving. Your hotel will offer you an opportunity to connect with one and all you need to do is say that you want to try a “Discover Scuba Diving” course. The prices for this unique and amazing experience ranges from $150 US to $200 US and will include everything you need.

        At the dive shop, you will be shown a short video of what to expect. Your instructor will help you select and try on your gear. Remember: you can always use the same mask and fins you use while snorkeling. Try on different masks until you find one that fits comfortably and probably won’t leak – Tight is bad.

        Your tank of air and regulator will also be provided. The regulator forms a part of a flotation jacket called a BCD (Buoyancy Control Device) – a fancy jacket that holds the tank and fills with air when a button is pushed in order to float you.

        The first dive is in a pool, shallow enough to stand in. Your instructor guides you step by step while you take your first breath underwater. Emphasis is placed on the golden rule of diving, “Never hold your breath.” You and your instructor will go under water and take the regulator out of your mouths and make bubbles together. Instructors call this the “fried egg test,” because when they do this with first time dive students, sometimes behind the faceplate of the mask, the student’s eyes look like two fried eggs.

        Expect to learn a little sign language so you can communicate underwater. Divers use the OK sign for answering a question often. It is not hard to pick up the underwater lingo and be making up your own in minutes.

        After learning to find your regulator if it falls out of your mouth while you are laughing, getting water out of your mask, and practicing breathing from your buddy’s extra regulator, you’ll be going on a dive. When you get on a dive boat with all the certified divers, you are going to want to look as much like a pro as possible, so here is a short list of do’s and don’ts.

        Do make sure you’re budded up with another diver preferably your instructor. Good buddies are always there ready to help out if necessary.

        Don’t ride to the dive site with your fins and mask on, that’s about a 10 on the dive nerd scale. There is plenty of time to on your gear after you arrive at the dive site.

        Don’t wear your mask on your forehead while on the surface of the water. This means distress to the rescue divers and they will tow you back to the boat.

        Do be very careful not to touch the corals, they are delicate and grow extremely slow.

        Do listen to the dive briefing. A dive master will tell you how to get in and out of the boat, how deep the dive will be, how long you’ll be underwater, and what you are likely to see.

        Diving is a trip into another world where we are the visiting aliens. In San Pedro, on  a forty-minute dive, you are likely to see green moray eels, nurse sharks, southern stingrays, spotted eagle rays, barracuda and several types of fishes, coral, sea grass – the sights are endless.

        Usually the boar ride back from the site is chilly, you are wet and the wind makes a light, dry sweatshirt feel good. Back at the dive shop, divers rinse off and sign each other’s log book. Divers keep records of where they were, the depths and times and what they saw.

        The Instructor’s signature in your logbook will credit you for the first of four dives needed for your full open water certification. Rules are, after you have had the “Discover Scuba Diving” experience with your instructor and want to dive again (and you will) you should be buddies with a dive master and not deeper that 40 feet.

        The “Go Dive” book, the instruction manual used, says, “Learning to dive empowers people to meet goals and may lead to high levels of excitement and adventures not intended for those who still rely on their floaties or for channel surfing couch potatoes.”

    (Photos Contributed by Harriette Fisher)

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