Our guest Dave took advantage of one of the free travel activities, available to us as part of #FollowMeAtSea, and went scuba diving in Cozumel. To my surprise, he came back to the cabin declaring that his dive experience in Cozumel had been his “best dive ever.” Here’s his story… -Rich
Nervously awaiting the dive boat, I made small talk with the various other divers in queue. I mentioned to a few folks in line that I had made the mistake of watching the film Open Water. The film is about a couple on a boat dive who were left out to sea. Tragically, it was based on a true story. A mother and son team assured me they would not let me get left behind. We boarded the dive boat, all ten of us, and left the calm waters adjacent to the massive behemoth of a vessel known as the SS Crown Princess. Dive tanks lined the backs of benches and a 4 person crew quickly evaluated who needed gear, then distributed the various dive essentials to those in need.
Our captain Freddy (not your typical Mexican name) was on the platform 10 feet above above us navigating the 22 foot boat past the cruise ships into the bluest water I have ever seen. My nerves were shaky as it had been five years since my last dive and that had been a tranquil shore dive. With the sea swells being five to ten feet, it felt like we were about to leap into disaster. Victorino and Lorena were our dive masters. Both spoke choppy English, so their instructions were slightly hard to follow, but they made us feel at ease with their spryness and professionalism. After 30 minutes or so of following the coast, we reached our destination; a calm area of rock ledge… a sea wall where the depth shot from 80 feet to several thousand. We donned our equipment while the ship pitched in the turbulent surf and one by one we were gingerly escorted to the stern of the craft where we leapt into the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea.
We descended to 80 feet, roughly the maximum of what pros consider sport diving. There was a strong current which made our dive a “drift dive” and Lorena held a line to a buoy which she raised to the surface. Our captain (Freddy) followed this line and the bubbles from our regulators. The sea was teeming with exotic life. Large, colorful fish surrounded us amid schools of metallic, curious and evasive varieties. Our other guide Victor sent an audible signal by tapping his air tank with a rope climbing latch and pointed to a six to eight foot green eel. The tapered creature was both defensively hiding amidst the vivid coral and displaying how wide he or she could open its mouth. Needless to say, all of us stayed a healthy distance away. Four foot groupers passed by and three foot sea turtles paddled slowly towards the surface. One diligent green sea turtle was on the sandy bottom dining on a sea sponge while thieving parrot fish camped alongside and gobbled the shards that the turtle worked to liberate. Metallic bubbles from the divers below enveloped me in radiant, colorful orbs as they ascended to the silvery, shimmering mirror eighty feet above. After forty or so minutes, we gathered and ascended to 30 feet where we made our “safety stop” to ensure safety against potential embolisms and decompression sickness (a.k.a. the bends). Eventually reaching the choppy surface, we bobbed helplessly as our boat circled closer and tossed a line for all of us to grab. We made our way to the boat, one by one, and were helped aboard by the staff as the ship was tossed about by the giant waves. We gathered our strength and remarked on the beauty we had just witnessed.
Our second dive was in 40 feet of water, closer to shore and towards the familiar waters of the tour ships. There was no current as we made our way down to the shallow bottom. A beautiful fish the size of a dinner plate, unbeknownst to my guide, gobbled at his bubbles just above his head hoping for a snack. We saw countless moray and spotted eels as we casually made our way around pockets of coral. Some of my fellow divers were playfully swimming in an underwater frolic while others diligently explored the nooks and crannies of the endless eye candy of coral. Once our time was running short, we were being lead towards the surface for our ascent when we heard the familiar alarm of our guide trying to get our attention. We turned to see her place her hand on top of her head mimicking a fin… the universal sign for shark. We looked below to see a four foot nurse shark cruising the ocean floor. To my dismay, I had no fear. This was not a villainous creature of the depths, but was instead a working member of its watery society simply doing its own thing and uninterested in us diving, spectator interlopers.