How Did We Scuba Dive for the First Time in Jamaica?

By: Tom Malone

Arrival to the Jamaican Beach

When we arrived at our hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica, we immediately checked the list of watersports that were included at the hotel property for free. We had done all of them before (wakeboarding, paddleboarding, snorkeling, etc.). As we looked down the list, we saw “Scuba Diving” as a complementary water activity, so, of course, we grew excited to try this new water adventure.

Then, we saw the asterisk, which informed us that only certified scuba divers could participate. We were not scuba certified.

So, we double-checked with the hotel’s dive shop. The scuba instructor informed us that we could participate in the dives as long as we were going through their certification course, which would cost 300 dollars per person. After speaking with a British couple experienced in scuba diving adventures, we realized that PADI scuba certification is good for life, and this hotel’s training course was high-quality.

Though it wasn’t in our travel budget per se, we decided to go through their PADI Open Water Diver certification program anyway.

After watching a short film about the dangers and joys of diving, we jumped in the pool with our instructor and a few other prospective divers. Our instructor taught us the basic parts of the “octopus” breathing apparatuses and how to overcome the most likely underwater obstacles (like running out of air underwater).

The First Open Water Dive

Then, we walked onto the dive boat. Nervousness coursed through us. After a ten-minute ride out to sea, our instructors told us to suit up. Then, it was time to jump in the water for our first real dive. I took one big step off of the back of the boat. My vision went blank.

When I opened my eyes, the waves chopped at my face. I followed our instructor’s directions and descended slowly, making sure to equalize the pressure on my ears as I dropped below the surface. As I descended, I grew astonished at the fact that I could actually breathe regularly while underwater. A modern miracle.

I saw other members of our crew assembled 40 feet down on the ocean floor, so I joined them. After I figured out my underwater buoyancy, our group swam off into the ocean.

Coral reefs emerged into sight. Big blue fish swam in schools all around us. A jellyfish sat on the ocean floor upside down and fed on something. Then, we approached a break in the coral reef; looking left and right, it seemed like an underwater highway for sea life.

I began to cross into the through traffic of fish schools, when I saw a shadow float toward me. As it came closer, I realized that the massive sting ray was using the highway to reach its next destination. I wasn’t going to be a barrier. It glided peacefully past me.

The Ascent

After 30 minutes underwater, we ascended and emerged near the back of the boat. I climbed onto the boat, tore off my gear, and blabbered in amazement at the new adventure that we had just undertaken.

Over the next four days, we continued to dive through more reefs, caverns, and underwater habitats. The process of becoming scuba certified left us with a desire to progress as underwater adventurers and continue our exploration of the world’s oceans.

*Photo By: Tom Malone
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