Certified PADI Open Water Divers!

Utila Travel Blog

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Utila Dive Centre

Hello again!

Sorry that I haven't written in this for a while... Rusty and I have been very busy over the past week doing our diving course, and to be honest, a daily account of it probably wouldn't have been very interesting as we spent a lot of time in the classroom and repeating skills. So here goes for a summary of our very exciting week...

We arrived here last Monday (as you know), and took it pretty easy for the first couple of days. We started our dive course on the Wednesday afternoon. Literally all that we did on the first day was had a chat with our instructor, Rob, and watched the PADI Open Water video number 1! 45 minutes of very thrilling stuff (I wish). The video literally went through our course book word for word, but I think it's so that lazy people don't have to read.

Bhanji and I on top of the dock
It was also good to see everything in 'real life' before we got into the water.

There were 4 of us in our Open Water Class: me and Rusty, Ali (from Australia) and Marie (from Austria). We were so lucky to have such a small group and the ratio of instructors to students is fantastic at UDC (Utila Dive Center). Every time we went in the water we had Rob, our main instructor and then two additional Dive Masters (lovely French guys called Arno and Bertrand), so we had 3 people looking after the 4 of us! So the next morning we all came in bright and early to watch some more of the videos (there were 5 in total) before getting into the water for the first time. At the end of each video we had to do a 'knowledge review' of the chapter (and video) to make sure that we understood everything, and Rob went through anything difficult with us.

Rusty and I doing our checks for our first Open Water dive
I didn't appreciate quite how much work was involved for this. I thought that it would be more of a case of .. 'here's the equipment - let's go!'

Our first 'confined dive' took place just near the UDC dock where they had an area of the sea with a blue tarpaulin on the bottom so that when you're down there for a while you don't get sore knees! We learnt about all of the SCUBA gear and how to assemble it, and then were helped into the water for the first time (the tanks are so heavy before you get in!). We made our way over to the area using our snorkels which was fine. It wasn't until we put our regulators in that I began to get nervous. I just wasn't very trusting that the air would actually sustain me and I was very reluctant to go under the water at all.

Checking the air
It was initially a horrible thought thinking that we'd be under the water for about 45 minutes without going up. In the end, I managed to force myself to go under and stay under although it took a lot of encouraging talking to myself! We got in our positions in twos (each next to our 'buddy', mine being James) facing Rob with one DM (dive master) behind each of the Buddy teams keeping us from floating around too much. The tarpaulin was literally only 1m under the water, which was reassuring, so if we had had any problem, we could have stood up and immediately been out of the water. We then went through each of the 'skills' that Rob (and the video had taught us) such as taking out our regulator, and putting it back in again without swallowing water, flooding our masks and then emptying them of water, pretending to be out of air and having to get air from an alternate source (our buddy's extra regulator) and some other things like that.
Rob was great, demonstrating each skill and making sure that we all got it before asking each of us to show him it. There were a couple that I was really scared about, like the first time I took out my regulator, so I took a while to take it out, but he was really patient and clapped and shook our hands after each task that we did successfully.

I think if that confined dive was all that I did underwater, then I definitely wouldn't be too fussed about SCUBA diving, but luckily there was a lot more to come! That evening, it was UDC's weekly BBQ which was an awesome night with all you could drink (although this probably worked out quite well for them, as most people were diving and didn't want to be feeling too precious the next day) and it was a great way to meet other staff and students!

Our second confined dive took place at the end of the UDC dock at a depth of 3m, and although deeper, was much like the first 'dive'.

We practised some more skills such as 'fin pivots' where we were trying to control our buoyancy. The fun started the next day when we had our first open water dive! We went out on the boat in the afternoon to two different dive sites and swam around for about 45 minutes looking at all the coral. We saw some pretty amazing stuff, including a huge eagle ray which glided over the top of us, lots of angelfish and some awesome fish called bluetangs. I had a bit of a special moment getting into the water. I didn't step off the boat far enough, so as I came down, I knocked my tank on the boat, which inturn knocked the back of my head! I still have a lump there!! I had slight problems when first descending, with equalising, as my ears were really hurting, and I was worried that I'd have to go back up to the surface, but within seconds one of the DM's was there to help me down, going through all the different ways of equalising my ears, and patiently taking me up a little bit until I had equalised and then down a few more feet.
Sophie and Ali

We had our last two dives yesterday morning - we had to be at the dive centre by 7.30am! It was so worth getting up early though, as although rather choppy, it was so nice to be finished so early in the day. And suddenly, that was it, we were qualified, and were filling out forms and having (horrific) photos taken for our PADI dive cards! The great thing about our course was that we got two free fun dives in the package, so it meant that today we were able to go out and do two dives without having to worry about doing any of the skills. These dives were pretty cool and we saw an electrick ray on the bottom, a seahorse and these awesome spotty fish called parrot fish. We logged all of our dives in our logbook (and wrote down all the fish we saw), so we're now ready to dive anywhere in the world!

We've just booked a flight for Wednesday morning to take us from San Pedro Sula, Honduras to San Jose, Costa Rica, so that will hopefully mean that we are able to by-pass all of the problems at the Nicaraguan border.

James and Sophie in all the gear
We're also running out of time (our AA flight back to NYC leaves from Panama City in two weeks time), so we decided that we're just going to have to miss out Nicaragua, which is annoying, but means that we'll have plenty to do if we come back again!!

Sorry about the lack of photos - I forgot my card reader. I will post them next time I'm on the net (probably in Costa Rica somewhere). Hope you're all really well xx

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Utila Dive Centre
Utila Dive Centre
Bhanji and I on top of the dock
Bhanji and I on top of the dock
Rusty and I doing our checks for o…
Rusty and I doing our checks for …
Checking the air
Checking the air
Sophie and Ali
Sophie and Ali
James and Sophie in all the gear
James and Sophie in all the gear
Utila
photo by: Yoshu