It seems that this year is one of those where “the first time” happens often. 😊 And if we tried to surf the first time in Puerto Escondido, it was also time to try for the first time another activity that has already been on my bucket list for a long time – diving.
Bojan was actually never too enthusiastic about the idea of diving, but I really wanted that now, during our “lifetrip”, I finally go deeper under the water. That’s why I had strategically arranged a “discover” diving with our friends (who dive) before the trip. 😛 So we went to Croatia in the middle of October for the weekend, but because the weather was not superb, we dived only one morning (well, I did not at all :D). Bojan’s impressions: “Yes, it’s okay. But I will not buy the equipment and make it a hobby.” My goal for that moment was reached. 😊
Since it was already a while, Bojan again began to be unsure about it, and when he explained to me what you have to pay attention to underwater, at some point even I started to doubt that this is something for me. But in the end, the fact that I really wanted to try it out prevailed, and I knew that I would regret if I did not. That is why I booked a few days during Christmas on the island of Cozumel, which is famous for the most beautiful coral reefs in Mexico. Well, the idea proved to be a good one because the beaches on Cozumel are not exactly the most beautiful in the world (they are sandy, but they do not have the “wow effect” of Asian ones) and there is not much to do next to diving here – so Bojan did not have much of a choice: D
Btw, fun fact: Cozumel is one of the most famous “cruise stops” in the Caribbean, and over 3 million tourists visit it every year (huge cruise ships are parked in the bay all the time). What do they do on Cozumel? They walk from the ship through the pier to the shopping center, only to find hundreds of stalls with souvenirs and restaurants with abnormally high prices at the exit. So – they’re spending money. 😊
So let’s go back to diving. We visited several diving centers (there are more than 100 of them on the island) and prices ranged around 350-400 euros for the course. In the end, on the recommendation of the hostel, we contacted Benjamin, a German diving instructor who has been living on the island for two years and teaches diving (previously he taught at Playa del Carmen in Mexico and at Utila in Honduras for several years). Benji explained us via WhatsApp how the course is gonna look like and since he seemed like a cool guy to us (and the price was just a bit over € 300), we decided to go for it. 😊
HOW DID THE COURSE LOOK LIKE?
Benji left us a book for the PADI Open Water Diver Certification in the hostel, and on the first day we had to read a few chapters on our own. The book consists of 5 chapters and unfortunately nobody can escape some theory beforehand 😊
The next day, we finally met Benji at one of the diving centers which he collaborates with. He is indeed a very easygoing and cool guy, who certainly does not correspond to the idea that we usually have about the Germans (strict and all that :P). I assume living in Latin America for a long time may have something to do with it ? 😀 But do not be fooled by this – despite Benji being super funny and relaxed, his approach is extremely professional and he will not let you out of his hands until you master everything you need to know.
First of all, we gathered our diving equipment and put it in so-called “scuba taco” (because in Mexico everything is related to tacos 😊). Then we took a taxi to one of the centers on the beach. We talked about first two chapters of the theory and then began to prepare and check the equipment. When we managed to put ourselves in the neoprene and loaded those 15kg of equipment on our backs, it was time for our first dive from the beach.
Benji always explains in advance what will be going on during the dive (with hand gestures included so that you are not completely confused in the water when he is waving something at you :D). Also under the water he first showed a certain thing, and then we had to repeat it afterwards , until he showed the sign for “OK”. Despite the pile of new information, the first dive was relatively successful one and we even saw a huge eagle ray (similar to manta, with cute dots 😊)
Oh, did I mention that we basically had a private teacher? As far as I’m concerned, this is much better than some groups where I’ve seen 6 or more divers.
The third day of the course we went back to the beach, where we went through the remaining 3 chapters of the theory and put them into practice in scope of two dives. In particular, this part covers many examples of “what if”. So, what if something goes wrong – if you are left without a mask, your BDC can’t inflate, if the regulator does not work or if you stay out of the air (and – stupidly – too much away from the dive buddy 🙁 ) .. .
On the last day of the course, two more dives from the ship waited for us. While I am a more theoretical type, Bojan’s is much better in practice. He was visibly relaxed and could hardly wait to jump into the water while I quietly sat on the ship and watched the other divers, who seemed to me like total professionals. “Are you nervous, huh?” he said. “I can tell that because you are quiet and pale like a wall.” Yes, thanks sweety, this is excatly pep talk I needed 😀 Benji then explained where we will dive and how the dive will be like and he added: “Do not worry, it’s gonna be aaa -mazing.”
Well, he was absolutely right. I overcame fear and made that awkward “step forward” from the boat to the water (with the help of a sailor on a boat, who gently pushed me into the water when I was hesitating on the deck a bit too long :D). From that moment on, everything was great.
Regulator in your mouth, squeezing the air out of the vest and sinking below the surface. With the first “yoga breath” (during the dive is important to breathe slowly and deeply – basically like yoga 😊), everything becomes incredibly calm and it’s like seeing everything in a slow motion. The coral reefs are really incredible and form structures that may be even more interesting than the animals living there. Nevertheless, it’s still pretty cool when you see turtles that cheerfully chew their lunch and eagle rays, which appear to fly like birds in the air (in a slow motion of course 😊). Unfortunately we haven’t see any reef sharks – perhaps next time 😊
It seems that the time under water runs differently and 50min lasted (what it seems to us) like 20min. 😊 With ¼ of the air in the cylinder we had to slowly return to the surface. Both dives were really great and when we drove back to the coast, Bojan said: “This was really awesome. Thank you for convincing me to do the course.” 😀 (I knew he’d love it, but nevertheless – mini victory for me :P).
At the end of the course, there was a test that you must complete to obtain a certificate. With the latter, you can dive to the depth of 18m anywhere in the world. Benji also explained us the next level of the course, where you have to complete one dive up to 50m during the course, and you can also choose between specific dives – such as diving at night, diving in the ship wreckage, etc. I looked at Bojan, and I saw how his eyes started to sparkle. Here it is, I thought to myself, another sold soul. 😊
Unexpectedly (or not? 😊) we found a new hobby, and it’s probably only a matter of time before Bojan comes up with the idea of buying diving equipment (his basement is suffocating under the amount of equipment for all possible sports).
Benji, thanks for everything, it was aaa-mazing! 😊
So, if you are headed to Mexico for vacation (there are cheap flights to Cancun from USA or Europe and from there you can either fly to Cozumel or take a short bus trip to Playa del Carmen where there are ferries to Cozumel) and if you are thinking about diving, Benji is your guy! 🙂 (you can find him as Benji Divers on FB or Instagram)
(And no, we haven’t been payed a cent to say so, we just loved the experience 😉 )