Days 15, 16

I completed the work for the advanced open water certification today! Next step: rescue!

Yesterday we spent the morning in the pool doing skills with Christina and Andrew, the two who have been here the longest and are nearly complete with their divemaser training. So part of their training is to demonstrate that they can review skills with divers, and us newbies were the divers who they got to teach. The skills I am talking about, if you are familiar with diving, are removing your mask underwater and then putting it back on and purging the water out, loosing your regulator and recovering it, fin pivots, and hovering. We were each assigned a problem with doing these tasks to see how Christina and Andrew would respond. It was all pretty funny, because we all had a legitimate problem with hovering when all of our mistakes were just supposed to be pretend.

The afternoon we spent doing the first of our five "adventure dives" required for the advanced certification. There are about 20 "adventure dives" to choose from, two of them have to be 'deep' and 'navigation,' and the other three can be whichever ones float your boat. The first required one was a deep dive, which according to PADI standards is any dive exceeding 60 feet. Nothing too exciting to report on that one, just that we descended down to 100 feet below the surface of the ocean.

The second dive was a night dive, so after the day was done we hung around til 5:30 when the boat left. We departed at dusk, equipped with flashlights and descended into the ocean on the most terrifying adventure I have yet to encounter. I don't get scared very easily, in fact we were having this discussion the other day that nothing really scares me unless it is something that is just downright stupid because of the risk factor. So there I was, diving 60 feet under the ocean and everything around me turns positively black... It's been a very long time since I've been that terrified. I couldn't see my own nose, and while everyone else was gleefully shining their lights around looking for nocturnal marine live, I was just desperately trying to follow the lights and stick as close to my buddy as possible. I guess the excitement of the idea of a night dive made me forget that I really, really don't like the dark. So there you have it: I do get scared after all, and it takes being submerged 60 feet underwater in the pitch black to get there.

This morning we showed up at the shop with the sun shining bright, and took an hour long boat ride out to a wreck. I have to say, this was by far the coolest dive I have done here. We descended 110 feet down to the wreck, which was pretty damn cool, but the highlight was the wall next to the wreck. First of all, there were groupers the size of me everywhere! And then winding its way along the reef like a furious ribbon was this massive moray eel. I've never even seen one out of its cave before. This thing was swimming around like mad, winding its way in and out of various bits or rock and coral. Then, there was this huge grouper, and it looked like they were about to have a major standoff. I floated there watching them and trying to record them until the action got a little too close for comfort. Neither creature ever attacked; just just danced around like they were about to. There was also this little cave going through the reef, that our divemaster had discovered a little while earlier. There was barely enough space to squeeze through but we wound our way through a few dozen yards until it came out a little farther down the reef.

On our way to the second dive site of the morning, we were riding along on the boat when suddenly a pod of ten or so baby dolphins started chasing us. We slowed down, waiting for them to catch up, but they kept their distance.

The second dive was a drift dive which was pretty sweet as it was a series of trenches that we swam through.

We completed the last dive in the afternoon then, by returning to White Hole to practice our navigation skills. I must say, navigating around a giant circle of sand with a compass isn't exactly the greatest challenge in the world.