Scuba Diving in Blue Cave and Urchin Reef, Roatán

Large droplets fell as cold rain sprayed onto the boat, but we needed to complete two more dives in order to make our certification for the shark dive the following day.  Michelle and Shay wanted that dive too so we all doned our wetsuits again — Andrew, this time getting into his with ease.  For this trip, several certified divers we had not met yet joined us.

As the boat roared out to the Blue Cave, we hunkered down but found no reprieve from the rain.  Droplets felt like ice pelting against our skin so much so that it got to a point where I was comparing it to water torture.  Not only that, but the waves were angry and increasing in size, making the boat rock up before slapping down.  The combination of boat movement and my shivering made me feel seasick so I had to battle the urge to vomit in front of all on board.  It was a miserable ride out.  Miserable.  And these two pictures sum that up wonderfully.

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Anja quickly gathered the four of us in a huddle and explained what final techniques we needed to prove underwater.  Andrew and I had a total of four techniques left, which seemed simple enough . . . except for the fact that nothing was simple in the cold . . . in the rain . . . while nauseous.

“Andy, L — You will get in and put on our BCD and weights in the water.”  That was Anja who told us the welcomed news of essentially getting into the water as quickly as possible.  This decreased the hazard of slipping on the boat in the rain, and it also meant the water was much warmer so I was all for getting in faster.  “Once that is on, you’ll practice compass navigation first on top of the water.  Then you will do the drill again under the water.  Now is the time to focus,” she ended, warning that floating at the surface was dangerous and where we needed to be was underwater as soon as possible for protection.

“Right,” we said in unison before stepping into the water — no hesitation — with our compasses.

“L, I want you to go ten kicks to 120 degrees.  Andy, you will go ten kicks to 240 degrees.”  Off we went.  Anja had showed us how to use the compasses on land earlier so I felt confident in my skills.  Putting our snorkels in our mouths then placing our heads and compasses underwater, we began.

Okay, okay, I silently told myself.  You can do this.  Take it slow.  What I had learned earlier was to not rush compass navigation — one slight inaccurate degree could morph into a problem, mainly when diving for an extended time in unknown territory.  Keeping the compass as level as possible, I moved the lubber line, found North, set my compass, and began counting my kicks.  One, two, three until finally I reached ten.  Keeping my head underwater, I fixed my attention on my compass before rotating and kicking again, counting as I went.  . . . eight, nine, ten.  There, I should be at the boat! I told myself, proud I had seamlessly completed my first solo compass navigation . . . except when I looked up, the boat was a good twenty kicks away and I was at a strange diagonal off the bow.  Basically, I was not where I started and not where I should have been.  Great, just great, I told myself, angry that I failed and failed so visibly.  Meanwhile, Andrew was waiting at the boat ladder.

“How do you think you did?” Anja yelled against the rain and distance.

How was I supposed to answer that?  Clearly I messed up.  “Well.”  I hesitated unsure of how to answer.  “I mean, I’m not remotely where I should be.”

“Come back,” she shouted.  “Try again.”

Damn, damn, damn, I said to myself with each kick of my fin until I reached Anja.

“Now try twelve kicks to 220 degrees” and I was off a second time, hearing the divers hollering at me to hurry as they were about to freeze to death. But I made it — not perfectly back to the same spot but within a kick or two. 

“That was good enough.  Maybe not exact but that could be because of the waves and the boat moving,” Anja said before turning to Shay and Michelle and directing them into the water with us.

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“Once everyone gets into their gear, gives the all-clear, and I am in the water, we will go under.  Do not wait on the surface for an extended time.  We are above a clearing where it is just sand below so if you reach the bottom before me, stay there and do not move.”  Anja’s voice was stern so we were quick to follow her directions.

Deflating my BCD, I sank with the others into the turquoise water.

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Settling on the sand, I looked around.  We were about forty feet under and, while our visibility wasn’t as clear as our other dives (it was about fifty-five percent due to the storm churning the water), all was still stunning.  Looking up, the rain  splattered on the surface of the water creating this sound of little pings.  One aspect I love about diving is how quiet life is — All you hear is your breathing, deep and calm, but what I found I loved more was hearing the rain underwater.  I could have stayed in that one spot for hours.

We had to move on though so Andrew and I navigated with a compass again (this time, we aced it) then we had to fully flood our masks — or, better worded, we had to take our masks off to emulate them accidentally coming off underwater.   This drill was the one we least looked forward to as it required mind-games with yourself, convincing yourself that you are okay and can still breathe even though you can feel water around your eyes and under your nose.

Next, Shay (on the left) and Michelle (on the right) completed their Dive One and Two techniques.

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With these out of the way, the four of us relaxed and swam after Anja, enjoying our dive.

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It appears darker in many of these pictures due to the fact that the sun was nowhere to be seen.
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Whether it was because we were underwater longer (completing the last two separate dives) or because we saw numerous sea animals, this dive was incredible.  There were various fish . . .

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There are three blues in the middle.  Fun fact: Objects underwater not only appear closer than they really are, but they also lose their color.  The colors get lost, disappear in the same order they appear in the color spectrum with red going first.

a shrimp seeking protection inside a coral . . .

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a large crab, a moray eel, and more lion fish.  (Lion fish are not native to the area and are considered an invasive species because they have no predators.  Because of this, some locations [such as Honduras] hold lion fish competitions certain times of the year.  The competitions span from largest lion fish to smallest ones and so on.)

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As we continued, the reef suddenly stopped — as if on the edge of a cliff — before plummeting into deep blue. Anja motioned us on, despite the fact that — if we could talk — Andrew and I both would have probably preferred a pep talk before swimming over the edge of the reef and into deep, dark water.  However, onward we went, moving both beside a reef and nothingness.

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Too soon though it was time to pass over the reef again and return to our sandy bit to finish showcasing the last of Andrew’s and my techniques . . .

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Our last techniques were the surface marker buoy deployment — or inflating a buoy underwater so that your boat can locate you if you end up farther than planned.  We also had to do our Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent — essentially where we pretend we no longer have air, no longer have a buddy to use his or her air, and have to get to the top of the water on one breath where we then have to inflate our BCDs manually to stay afloat at the surface).  I was excited about the last drill due to the fact that when we practiced in the pool, I aced it; Andrew used the air in his tank to inflate his BCD, causing Anja to immediately pull a release valve to let out all the air and yell at him about how he forgot the purpose of the drill was to show what he would do in a no-air situation.

Back to this dive: Andrew went first, inflating his vibrant buoy manually before releasing it to the surface.  It shot up into the air, making both him and I feel he had puffed enough air into it for the sucker to look like this Googled image below and basically stand erect and noticeable.

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Then came his Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent.  Shay, Michelle, and I were told to wait underwater until Anja returned so I watched him go up with one breath of air, releasing little bubbles the entire way, and I thought, Amazing job!  You’re doing great! only now to learn, bless his heart, he didn’t do so well.

Me: “Hey, Andrew.  Was your buoy fully inflated when you reached the surface?”

Him: “Nope.  It was limp — flaccid.  I had a poorly erected buoy.”  What he means is that while his buoy shot out of the water, once it reached the surface, its air disappeared and it lay flat, floating on the water.

Me: “Andrew, did you remember to manually inflate your BCD when you got to the top?”

Him: “You know I didn’t — You fucking know I didn’t.”  Clearly, he’s still a little upset with himself and his errors.  Yet, he survived — Anja pulled a release valve (again), letting out his BCD’s air (again), leaving him to manually blow it up (again).

Regardless, Andy’s last certification training was done!  Amazing job, Andrew, and so he relaxed at the surface!

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Then it was my turn . . .

Sad to say, I made the same daggon mistakes Andy did.  I started strong — puffing a massive amount of air into the surface marker buoy . . . only to have it fizzle out and be airless on the surface.

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Then I screwed up the number one drill I was so happy at acing earlier — I forgot my no-air situation and inflated my BCD using the air from my tank.

“Nope,” Anja said, immediately releasing the air, causing me to sink again before realizing I needed to manually inflate it.  “Good,” she told me before setting back under the water for Shay and Michelle.

In the end though, we finally made it — Through the churning waters, through the rough weather, through our dive training!  That means Andy and I are new fully certified divers!

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With our remarkable dive master, Anja

Full of excitement, Andrew and I went out for drinks and food to celebrate over lunch . . .

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Then, feeling beyond drained, we returned to our cabana as light rain fell once more.  There, we squeezed into our hammock, letting the warm breeze brush against our skin until we were both asleep.

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Once we woke, we discussed the anticipated shark dive, scheduled for the next day,  and — in an anti-climactic decision realized we were exhausted from diving almost every day of our vacation . . so we changed our minds.  Just like that — No sharks, no reason to get certified, no reason to have worked tirelessly our entire trip.

“Are you sure you don’t want to go?” Andrew kept asking me, concern evident on his face.  I think he was worried I would regret our decision.

In the end though, it felt right.  True, I would have loved for us to have dived with sharks; that was the plan after all.  However, I feel we did something larger — We went on our first trip together somewhere new.  We not only learned how to scuba dive but also became certified divers.  That’s why — to us — missing this shark dive meant one thing: an opportunity for us to dive with sharks in a new location in the future.

“Every trip we go on, let’s do something big,” I told him.  “Something challenging and new that is unique to the area.  Let’s do it together, each time, something new.”

So that’s what we plan on doing and, in a massively more relaxed state of mind, we settled back on the hammock and closed our eyes again.

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Author: Soul of a Seeker

We are one American girl and one English bloke who seek an escape in nature. We chase a different life, one not dictated by society. With our pup-kit-cat and rare 1965 Clark Cortez motorhome, we have one soul of a seeker.

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