Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated by life under the sea. Perhaps it had something to do with my fondness for Disney’s The Little Mermaid – which by 5 years old, I had watched no less than 100 times. Or perhaps it had something to do with the many hours spent in fish stores that specialized in selling beautiful saltwater fish – clownfish, angel fish, lionfish – to people with massive aquariums in their houses. Regardless as to what it was that encouraged me towards discovering the beautiful underwater world, I just knew that I wanted to experience it. As I got older, that meant accomplishing one thing – getting my PADI Open Water Diver Certification. Pretty simple? That’s what you may think. But for me, achieving this bucket list item -getting certified to scuba dive- has been a very long process– seven years in the making.
You’re probably thinking, “SEVEN YEARS?!”
Yes. You read that correctly. Seven long years.
Let me take you back to the beginning…
I’d arrived in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico in August 2006 with my family, set to spend the next seven days in paradise, relaxing at an all-inclusive resort. After a long flight, I figured the best way to spend my afternoon was up at the pool bar taking shot after shot after shot of tequila. I was a very smart 20-year old. Somewhere between my eighth shot and fourth strawberry daiquiri in a short span of time, I felt the need to go get some lunch – since I hadn’t eaten anything since the plane ride earlier that morning. My then-fourteen year old sister accompanied a very unsteady version of myself to the buffet and continued to supervise me as I shoveled in a plateful of French fries. Drunkenly, I made it back to the lounge chairs that we had left our stuff on and decided it would be a nice time to take a nap – or pass out, whichever one seems more plausible. Now I wont say whether my mother had had a few alcoholic beverages or not – you can be the judge of that – but she decided that it would be wise to literally yank me up from my slumber and tell me to go back to the room to start getting ready for dinner. That’s about time the combination of jetlag, rum, French fries and tequila all decided to combine together and rear their ugly head… I covered my mouth with my hands and ran over to the nearest garbage can and spewed. I don’t remember much, but from what I was told, my sister had to essentially carry me back to the room.
Great start to the family vacation.
So what does this have to do with getting my PADI Open Water Diver certification? I’m getting there…
Waking up the next morning with the stench of alcohol coming out of every pore, I knew that I would be having a sober rest of the week. To fill my time I decided to get more information about the PADI Open Water Diver certification that was offered onsite, since scuba diving has always fascinated me.
After a quick chat with the dive instructor, I paid my $500USD and with my textbook in hand retreated to the cool, dark, quiet of my room. I read through the entire 200+ pages in a little over a day and returned down to the dive centre to continue on with the PADI Open Water Diver certification by writing my test. I passed with flying colours.
Next challenge? Hopping into the pool with scuba gear on to learn some essential skills.
I learned all about the BCD, the regulator, the alternate regulator, the weight system. I learned how to take my mask off and put it back on underwater. I learned how to become neutrally buoyant. I flew through learning the required skills in the confined pool dive, and before I knew it we were talking about going out the next morning to complete the first two of my four dives, required for the PADI Open Water Diver certification. We talked about what aquatic life we may see, and I basically started getting really excited.
I had a nice dinner, and went to bed early, with visions of being like Ariel from the Little Mermaid (minus the whole tail thing, of course) – and enjoying life under the sea.
My dreams were cut short when there was a quick bang at my room door. I opened the door to find a piece of paper taped to the door. It was from the tour operator that we had traveled down to Mexico with. A hurricane was coming. It was to be a direct hit. We were being evacuated and we had to be on the bus back to the airport by 9am. No exceptions.
And with that, my hopes and dreams of getting my PADI Open Water Diver certification were shattered.
I begged and pleaded with my parents to stay, but we were told that even if we stayed it wasn’t going to be much of a holiday because we would have to be bunkered down in our rooms until the storm passed.
I did manage to get a partial refund from the dive shop, and was told that I could complete the course by simply performing the open water dives with a licensed dive shop. I left Mexico feeling pretty down.
When I returned to the same resort the following year, I found that the dive shop was no longer there on the property. And since I was in dire need of some relaxation, I didn’t venture off to find another shop to complete my PADI Open Water Diver certification.
It would be a few more years before I donned scuba gear again. And nearly seven before I finally managed to tick off that nagging bucket list item – become a certified scuba diver.
Click here for part two of my quest to become a scuba diver!