On a rain soaked morning in Saint Maarten, I found myself bobbing on a boat in the Atlantic Ocean, preparing for my final dive to get open water certified as a PADI scuba diver. Mask, snorkel and fins – check. Tanks, BCD and regulator – check. Only problem was the chewable seasickness tablets were not kicking in soon enough. Waves smashing against the side of our boat, lifting us up and down again and again. Cold sweats in the hot Caribbean sun followed by bigger and bigger amounts of saliva building up in my mouth meant bad news. I shuffled my rubber feet towards the end of the boat. Slowly. This wasn’t going to end well. All I needed was to get in the water, descend down and enjoy the calm under the waves. It did not happen soon enough.
One upheaval into the sea quickly followed by another. The fish were getting treated to a good meal. I had no choice but to jump. Problem was the nausea did not stop there. What a sight it must have been as my dive instructor looked on, the captain of the boat offering advice as I was trying to tell jokes in between retching. This all lasted less than 30 seconds. Feeling calm and much better after emptying my guts, I released the air out of my BCD vest and slowly descended down in to the depths.
This was the latter part of my PADI Open Water Dive certification course that I began on the Adventure of the Seas back in March. I began my course through the dive shop on board with the two in-house dive instructors – shout out to the team! After self-study, classroom instruction and pool sessions I hit the open water with two fellow colleagues with Royal Caribbean. We had our first open water dives with Underwater Safaris in St. Thomas. So, as I was now diving solo due to my friends finishing their contracts, Scuba Fun was helping me complete my Open Water certification.
The first dive in Saint Maarten with my dive instructor, Austin, and the rest of the divers went swimmingly. In fact, five minutes into it, as this particular dive sight was known to feature this, I found myself eye to eye with a 6-foot nurse shark! It came from behind us and along my right side. I could have reached out and touched her if my body was not frozen and rigid, following every move with a calm precision. Strangely I did feel a wave of tranquility as I encountered this creature for the first time. It was magnificent.
In addition to this first sighting, we again found ourselves in the heart of a trifecta of nurse and reef sharks on the second dive. The same goes for stingray, lobster, barracuda and a wealth of beautiful fish swimming at 60 feet. Despite the uneasy feeling of bobbing like a lure in the Atlantic Ocean to begin the day, there is no feeling like breathing underwater, surrounded by marine life, of which I had only dreamed of swimming with for years. This was the entire reason for getting PADI certified so quickly after beginning work with Royal Caribbean. Next up is a change in itinerary with stops in Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao!
For more information about recommended PADI Certified dive shops in the Caribbean, please check out the following and be sure to follow them on Facebook. Tell them Julian Austin, the face behind Man Travels the World, and the student diver spewing chunks into the sea sent ya!
Professional Association of Diving Instructors
9715 Estate Thomas PMB 143, 00802, Charlotte Amalie, U.S. Virgin Islands
Phone: +1 340-774-3737
Scuba Fun Dive Center
Great Bay Marina, Dock Maarten, Pointe Blanche, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
Phone: +1 (721) 542-3966/Cell: +1 (721) 586-2822
Other Recommended Dive Shops