Tales from the Deep: My First Scuba Dives
[I am currently taking a year off from the daily grind and traveling the world. This is the first in a series of articles about my travels. For today’s article, I detail my first deep sea dive in Belize.]
After getting scuba certified with Frenchie’s, a dive shop 1/2 block from our cabana, I scheduled a dive to the Blue Hole, which is recommended only for divers that have done 10-12 dives after their certification. I ignored this safety measure, assured my wife it was going to be just fine, and booked myself on the very next trip. The main reason that I felt this safety measure does not apply to me is because I have discovered during my certification dives that I’m not prone to anxiety that would cause me to ascend at unsafe rates. This is what panicked divers tend to do. I also don’t feel any of the effects of Nitrogen Narcosis (unfortunately?!?) which can cause “foolish behavior” and highs similar to “whip-its” and laughing gas due to your body absorbing the dense nitrogen from the depth-pressurized breathing air at 130ft. The dive masters have said they have seen many a case of Nitrogen Narcosis where the diver takes the regulator (breathing apparatus) out of their mouth and attempts to give it to the fish in a brief bout of hallucination. Interesting…
The Blue Hole trip was a 3 tank adventure. 3 dives, 3 different sites, 2 hours away. After a rather uncomfortable ride on unpadded boat seats during our 2 hour ride out, we backrolled into the water and immediately descended to 130ft. You have to equalize your ears quickly as you sink to depth, and this is the most challenging part of the dive. You only get 8 minutes at 130ft in a No Decompression dive so you have to get to depth quickly. Once you are there, the fun starts.
The Blue Hole is a limestone sinkhole in the middle of the ocean. Belize and the surrounding areas are land masses atop an ancient cave system which make for interesting geology at depth. When you are descending, the color wheel goes away and blue and dark blue are the only remaining colors, and it gets very quiet. All you can hear is your own Darth-Vader breaths and whatever movie soundtrack your consciousness creates. It has a very eerie feel as you approach GIANT stalactite and stalagmite underwater, 60-100ft in length. You slalom swim around the stalactites and just observe the creepiness of the ancient, underwater surroundings. No fish or coral to see here, just creepy-ass rocks and darkness – it had a very surreal and otherworldly feel to it.
The other two dives were pretty amazing but more traditional. 40-50 meters of visibility near 30-40 feet and the scrolling coral landscape burned images into my retinas that I could see at night on the back of my eyelids when I was trying to fall asleep. Sharks, giant sea turtles, octopuses, crabs, lobsters, color changing fish and more.
All in all, Scuba diving has been an amazing experience, one that I look forward to continuing on my trip.