Diving in 2014

As we say goodbye to 2013, which was a great year, it is with some sadness because we were unable to do a dive trip.  However, we are thinking about a dive trip in April or May 2014.  I have a friend who is one of our dive buddies who loves dreaming big… we all do, but he does it with such conviction that it’s contagious.  He dreams of us doing a live-aboard in Belize!   Oh, wouldn’t that be fabulous!  The six of us on a boat, away from the crazy tourism, sailing to the best dive spots and amazing diving.,….. definitely a dream vacation.

After a few days of dreaming, we come back to reality and recognize that a live-aboard is probably not in the cards for us this year.  If not that, then what?   Well, we are looking at a couple of options.  I love Cozumel!  I would love to stay at the same all inclusive we stayed at in 2012 that had the best dive shop right on site.  My friends would like to try something different, so we are researching different all-inclusive resorts and possibly renting a villa in Cozumel.  All of us are looking for the best value for our money at this point.  Someday, we’ll go all out…. sparing no expense, but for now…. we need value.

The all-inclusives do provide a great value though you may sacrifice food quality and/or variety, though you can always supplement your all-inclusive experience by trying out other food options in town a couple of times.  A villa is a great option for keeping things low-key, buying and cooking your own meals.  For some, myself included, vacation is when I don’t want to worry about things I typically do like buying groceries, cooking and cleaning the kitchen.  However, I did rent a villa in Solomon Bay just north of Tulum, which was a great vacation.  It was pretty affordable for my family of 5, though that was before we were diving.  The best snorkeling right off our private beach!!

So, which way do we go??  What has been your experience for a great vacation at not a great expense?

Diving – any time in life!

I think one of the most surprising things for me after I got certified in 2010 and then went on my first dive trip to Cozumel later that year was meeting so many divers who had been diving for many years.  This one gentleman I met was a retired doctor, I believe, and had been diving for most of his life…. about 50 years.  That was so amazing to me.  Imagine the advances technology has made since he started, but yet I’m sure there are some things that don’t change.  Regulators can be quite fancy these days, but the reality is the basic design probably hasn’t changed all that much.  It is still amazing to think of people diving 50 years ago.  What did their gear look like, what did it cost?  I also found it interesting to hear about people who have retired suddenly having the time, the money and the desire to get certified at 65.  How wonderful!  I can’t imagine a better way to spend your twilight years than exploring the deep blue sea at your leisure without the time constraints of a job, the financial constraints of raising a family.

When I started diving, I was not a young adult…. I was an almost empty-nester, finally being able to plan vacations that didn’t include bringing 3 kids along.  I loved vacationing with my kids, but financially, it was a much bigger challenge.  Now, that I’m certified, I have encouraged my grown children to get certified and two of the three would love to do it, but have obstacles.  My daughter’s long term boyfriend is not a water person, so it is hard for her to imagine his being supportive of her spending the time and money to become certified and then what would their vacations looks like…he’s laying on the beach while she’s diving?  Might sound good at first, everyone gets what they want, but really, in our minds, vacationing with your loved one(s) means doing things together.  My son, who is very adventurous and naturally gifted in all sports that involve nature and the outdoors, would be perfectly suited for this endeavor, however, he told me that he can’t afford another expensive “hobby.”   Currently, his time and money is spent in the Rocky Mountains either mountain biking, snowboarding, or climbing 14′ers, which we have an abundance of.  He loves the water and some day, I do expect he will want to explore the ocean as his dad and I are starting to do.  I look forward to that day.

My biggest regret about becoming certified is not discovering it earlier in life, but that is how things go.   I don’t dwell on the regret, but rather savor and look forward to  my years of diving ahead of me.  I look forward to meeting more divers who are experienced and eager to share their adventures which I eagerly drink in.  The diving community is so friendly and open to everyone.  Sharing the wonder and excitement of the amazing sights beneath the ocean is one of my favorite things about diving, which is why I started this blog.

Share with us what you love best about diving and a favorite adventure.

Caribbean Dreaming

Just looking at pictures of white beaches and turquoise water lowers my blood pressure, imaging what it would feel like at that precise moment to be diving.  A friend of mine said that when he dives, it’s so calming, and after trying it myself, I understood what he meant.

There is so much about diving that can be so calming and rejuvenating at the same time.  For me, just seeing all that blue water around me is enough.  Blue is a naturally calming color, but for me, it also means I’m on vacation and escaping from the stresses of everyday living.  I love looking out across the Caribbean Ocean as we head toward our dive destination… the different colors of blue, the crystal clear water and for me, always scanning for marine wildlife, specifically dolphins and turtles.  Such amazing creatures and seeing them in the wild is such a fantastic experience.

Once in the water, there are so many things that really put me in my special place….  The reassuring noise of my breathing, the quiet of the ocean, the effortless floating along amazing coral formations, large schools of colorful fish.  While I’m certainly maintaining eye contact and staying aware of my dive buddy and the dive master, I still feel alone in my thoughts.  I focus on moving as efficiently as I can, careful to not disturb the sand or touch coral, but trying to take in all the wonderful sights there in the deep blue sea.

Ah diving in the Caribbean Ocean…. for me, there is no better way to spend your vacation.  A thrilling experience that is affordable.  It’s relatively easy to get there, even from a landlocked state in the US.  In 4 hours, you’re touching down in a tropical paradise.  The next day, you’re swimming with the fishes… but in a good way.  haha

How does diving make  you feel?  When is your next dive trip planned?  Do you find yourself daydreaming about blue water, white beaches and colorful marinelife?


SCUBA Diving Fears

Divers and diver-wanna-bes,

If you’re like many people, you may have a fear or even a phobia that prevents you from trying new things.  A fear of heights may prevent you from trying skydiving; claustrophobia might stop you from spelunking.  There are lots of phobias that could prevent your from trying SCUBA diving.  Fear of water, fear of deep water, not liking your face to get wet, poor swimming skills, near drowning accident, claustrophobia, fear of sharks, etc. could stop you from considering getting certified. Not to mention that It can be kind of freaky to think about the basic concept of SCUBA — breathing under water!   Humans weren’t naturally designed to breath under water, but imagine what we’d miss if some innovative, brave souls didn’t overcome their basic fears to venture into the deep blue sea.

I remember when I started considering SCUBA being concerned about being underwater and gazing up to see something above me (boat, reef, other people, or just the depth).  I had had a scare as a child in a swimming pool when I was diving for pennies and coming up, not realizing there was someone on a raft just above me, preventing me from surfacing.  Another fear was would I feel panicked and need to go to the surface immediately.  This again stems from summers spent at the pool.  This time I was giving my sister a boost on my shoulders as we played chicken…. I ended up slipping down the steep slope into the deep end.  As I frantically tried to get my sister off so I could surface, she thought I was giving her a fun ride.  Yikes…. those terrifying experiences, even if they really weren’t life or death, they may feel like that and haunt you forever.

My daughter, when we discuss her getting SCUBA certified, often voices her fear of sharks because she watched the movie “Jaws” frequently.  How many people, even adults, thought “I am never going back into the ocean” because of that movie?   Our fears/phobias may or may not be grounded in reality, but it doesn’t make them any less real to us.  Some fears are seriously debilitating.

So, while we may recognize we have these fears, do we want to avoid doing something as amazing as diving along gorgeous coral reefs, in clear water teeming with marine wildlife?  While it can seem quite intimidating to even contemplate the sport in light of these fears and phobias — some people are literally paralyzed by fear in certain situations (not something you want to do 60 feet deep) — the certification process can be a great place to address those fears and work through them in a safe environment with experienced instructors who want nothing more than to make you feel comfortable, safe and secure in your SCUBA diving adventures.  Starting in the pool and working through the exercises and practicing your skills all help you get comfortable with the wonderful sport of breathing underwater.

Even after you’re certified, you may feel apprehension before you dive, especially if you have wait a period of time between dive trips as many of us have to do.  A great way to alleviate that feeling is to take advantage of refresher courses which are offered at all PADI dive shops at the resorts where you’ll be staying or even many landlocked dive shops offer “pool time” to keep you in the water and familiar with your gear on a regular basis.

I don’t know if I will be able to get my daughter over her fear of sharks to get certified, but I will continue to show her the pictures of our dives and share the fantastic experience of diving the deep blue sea.

What fears or phobias did you have to overcome?

Wetsuits — what do I need?

Hello divers,

Whenever we think about that planning that next great dive trip, whether we’re going all out, sparing no expense or trying to save money, we always need to consider the dive conditions to ensure our exploration of that beautiful deep blue sea is the experience we dream of.  Conditions include many things including what kind of dives we’re going to do, how deep, what’s the terrain (ship wrecks, reefs), is there current, and what is the water temperature.  My dive instructor always used to say “Plan your dive and dive your plan,”  meaning, know what to expect, plan for it and then stick to your plan for safety and enjoyment.

To truly enjoy your experience, your gear needs to be suited to your conditions.  There are several things to consider but one thing that is variable and important to your experience is your comfort under water.  If you’re cold, you’ll be miserable; if you’re too hot, you could compromise your health, so its important to wear the right kind of wetsuit and/or skin for the water temperatures, not to mention to protect yourself from accidental brushes with coral and other dangers.

Wetsuits (also known as exposure protection) come in a huge variety of colors, shapes and thickness.  You have full wetsuits with long sleeves and long legs; shorties with short sleeves or even sleeveless and short legs; and you can even find ones that are sleeveless with long legs.  The thickness is what you want to think about when addressing water temperature variances.  They come as thin as 1 “mil” and generally go up to 5 mil.  Some are combo’s with a different thickness for the legs than the torso as your legs may not get as cold as your core.  So when considering your water temperature, also think about how you adapt to temperature changes in general.  Are you someone who gets cold easily or suffers from a condition that makes you even more susceptible to temperature changes?  Do you tend to overheat easily, especially during exercise?  Diving may look like you’re just floating around and you certainly strive to keep your energy expenditure at a minimum, but your body is working hard nevertheless.

When shopping for a wetsuit consider that it needs to fit snugly, but you have to be able to get into it easily.  Good websites will give you a sizing chart to help you determine your size.  Don’t let ego get in the way…. no one knows what size you’re wearing.   It is also really good to read the reviews of other people who have bought the suit to see what they say in regards to fit and comfort.  Another thing to think about that can help you get into your suit more easily is a skin.  A dive skin is a thin lycra/nylon suit that you put on first to slide into your wetsuit without getting wet.  It can also double as your sole exposure protection in warm waters.  That’s all I wear when I go to Cozumel and I never suffer from the cold.  I love the lightness of it. You don’t feel like you have to get it off immediately upon getting out of the water because you’re dying of heat in the 80 degree weather on top.  It can also be paired with a shorty wetsuit for a little more warmth without the whole suit, but still give your legs protection from scrapes.

Now, if you’re going to be diving in colder water (less than 70 degrees) you may want to think about a dry suit.  More on that later.

Be comfortable so that you’re not distracted from your amazing dive wherever you may be.  Feeling too cold or too hot will compromise your dive, distract you from what you’re seeing, and could even affect your breathing which will ultimately determine how long you stay down.

Ah, just thinking about drifting at neutral buoyancy among tall coral castles, seeing colorful fish darting around, larger fish lazily drifting with you, it just calms my nerves to imagine it.

Diving Isla Mujeres

Well, my dear friends, one of the couples we frequently hang out with and go diving with just booked a diving trip in April to Isla Mujeres, which is just off the coast of Cancun.  They will fly to Cancun and then take a taxi to the boat that will take them to Isla Mujeres, which means Island of the Women.  It is a very small island and pretty isolated, which means things are nice and quiet.  You can scooter to anywhere you need to go on the island.  Their hotel is right on the beach and includes a kitchenette and minimal breakfast is included.   They are paying $700 per person including air, but its not all inclusive.  They expect to eat breakfast and lunch at their room and eat dinners out.

The dives at Isla Mujeres are shallow, most not more than 30 feet, but the amount of marine life that you can see there is incredible.  The deep blue waters are teeming with schools of brightly colored fish, turtles and yes, nurse sharks.  The coral formations may not be plentiful, but you will not be disappointed.  My friends were fortunate to swim with Whale Sharks the last time they were there.  It was truly an amazing experience.  The water is warm, so you don’t need much protection from the cold.  I like to wear just a dive skin, while others enjoy using a 3m wetsuit or a combo 3/2 combo wetsuit.  You do need to beware of jellyfish, though, in April.  I’ve heard they can be a problem.

I wish I were going with them, but personal events are preventing my next dive trip until probably September.  We will probably be going with them and another couple at that time.  We’re thinking Belize??  Ah, I can just imagine the tranquility of drifting along gorgeous coral reefs and formations, feeling weightless and taking in all the breathtaking views under the sea.  I hear you can see seahorses in Belize.  Now that would be awesome!

Where are you going?   Why did you choose there?

Diving the Caribbean.. oh I can’t wait

The good and bad thing about getting certified and taking that first amazing dive in the deep blue is that now you’re constantly thinking about getting your next fix… when will you book that next vacation?  Not to mention thinking about where.  There are so many great places to go.  I get those dive magazines which always have such great information about where to dive, what to expect when you go there and also great information about gear, such as comparisons, ratings and advice.  These magazines are a wonderful resource.  It can be a bit overwhelming when you think about how much it can cost, but there are ways to dive that are affordable.

One of my favorite places to go is Cozumel.  Not only is it often rated as one of the best places to dive, it can be very affordable to get there and stay there.  My favorite option is an all-inclusive resort that is not in town.  One of my diving buddies doesn’t love all-inclusive like I do, but he does have to admit it’s very affordable.  What I really love is that everything is included in the price except your diving, so once you book and pay, all you pay for when you get there is the fun.  The last time we went, we were even able to contact the PADI dive shop located right on the resort property and pre-book our dives, ensuring our spots and again, taking care of everything ahead of time so once we got there, it was all about the fun.  We also had one of our party do his open water testing there and it worked out perfectly with our dives.  The dive shop there was phenomenal.

Some of the places I’m hoping to dive soon include Belize, Cozumel and Isla Mujeres.  In the slightly further future, Hawaii and Bonaire.  My dream dive is Bora Bora.  I’ve heard that Palau is also an amazing dive and I have friends who live in the Florida Keys who say there are lots of amazing wrecks to dive right there.  Another place I need to get, too.  I love asking the divers who I meet, especially the ones who have been diving for many years, where their favorite place is and why.  I have family who have been going to Bonaire every September for over 10 years… obviously, it’s one of their favorite places.

That is another really wonderful thing about this sport… meeting other divers.  In my short time diving, I have met so many interesting and personable people.  It seems like if you have diving in common, you’re part of this world-wide community.   Cultural differences melt away when you’re all enjoying the fantastic sights under the ocean together.  Language doesn’t matter; status doesn’t matter.

Where is your next or first dive going to be?

How do I get certified?

Have you ever wondered what it takes to get certified?  Are you worried that it takes lots of time and/or money?  Are you apprehensive about your swimming skills or comfort in the water?

Every diver has had those same worries, but becoming certified is well worth it.  In fact, it is the most amazing thing ever!  Yes, there is a lot to learn, both mentally and physically — you learn how to breathe underwater!!  It opens up an fantastic, magical world under the water.  Once you take your first dive, you will be hooked as so many people are.  Words I’ve heard people use to describe diving include awe inspiring, spiritual, calming, exhilarating, and for many of us, words just can’t describe the feeling of being underwater exploring.

There are a couple of organizations that you can get certified through, but PADI certification is what you’ll find most often and it’s how everyone I know got certified.  If you were certified through the other organizations, please share with us your experiences.

For PADI Open Water Certification, which is your basic recreational certification that you need to dive, there are 3 phases.   1) Knowledge development (classroom instruction); 2) contained water training (in a pool); and 3) open water testing.   You can do this at your local scuba shop or at a resort where they have a PADI dive shop.

The knowledge development can be done in several ways – homestudy, online or through a PADI dive shop.  Some shops will have you go once a week, in the evenings, splitting classroom instruction time with pool time, finishing the first 2 phases simultaneously over the course of 6 to 8 weeks.  Others will do all the classroom training and pool work in one weekend, spending 2 1/2 days.  You can even do it at a resort at your favorite vacation spot (mine is Cozumel right now).  The knowledge development will consist of watching videos, (usually on your own time as homework), reading, and completing quizzes with classroom lecture and discussion.  At the end of your time, you’ll take a written test.  Be prepared, the knowledge you’ll be learning is very important and can be challenging.  Dive tables are really something!  Most everyone I’ve met agree that the dive table are the most challenging part of the knowledge development.  They will make your head hurt, but you feel so smart once you’ve mastered it.

So the fun part is being in the pool.  At first, they test your swimming skills and get you started with snorkeling and wearing a mask.  You’ll learn mask clearing techniques, etc.  Next, you’ll don your scuba gear, which can be overwhelming, but know in time, it will seem like second nature.  You’ll learn important techniques that will literally save your life, but don’t let that scare you.  You get time to practice and learn so that you become comfortable with your gear and how to use it.

Once you’ve mastered the contained water skills and you’ve passed the written test, you are ready for the final piece of your certification….. the open water testing.  In the open water testing, you’ll be in a large body of water, the ocean, a lake, a rock quarry, or even some scuba shops have pools that are deep enough for you to complete your testing.  You have many choices about where to do your open water testing.  Many scuba shops have regular trips to places like Homestead Lake in Utah or the Blue Hole in New Mexico.  You also have the option to complete your open water testing during a vacation trip.  With a dive master, you’ll demonstrate your underwater skills at varying depths, up to 30 feet.

Next time, we’ll talk about whether it’s preferable to get certified locally or at your favorite vacation spot.

Hello divers!

Welcome to Deep Blue SEAcrets!

I am not an expert diver, but rather I am a recently certified diver who is looking to share my limited experience with those who are considering becoming certified, those who have recently started diving and I’m inviting experienced divers to share their expertise with us.

I only discovered diving in 2009 during a trip to Cozumel.  We had been snorkeling for year, but were intrigued by what we might see below.  We did a “discovery” dive at the resort, which gave us a crash course in how to use the equipment in the pool and then we did a shallow dive of 15 feet just off the beach.  We saw some cool things like a huge starfish and other fish, but mostly, it taught me I could do this!  I struggled a little with equalizing on that dive, but it wasn’t going to deter me.

We returned to Colorado and signed up to get certified at a quaint scuba shop.  The owners of the shop were great at making us feel at ease and really made it clear that the most important thing to them was that we felt comfortable and confident in our diving skills.  We passed the contained water portion of the test and did our open water portion of the certification at the Blue Hole in New Mexico.  It was a very challenging place to get tested and personally, I had suffered a tragedy the very morning we left which did impact my dive, but I did it…. I got certified.

We continued practicing in the pool once a month and we even went back to  the Blue Hole one more time just for the experience.

Next we’ll talk about what it takes to get certified.