It was time, the hard work had paid off and the excitement was mounting, I was going to Mexico. After dropping my bags off at check in and whilst absorbing the buzz and high energy of Heathrow, it hit me. A sense of reflection on the last few years and the overwhelming feeling of moving into a completely new life changing adventure over the next six months, but one thing for sure I had a grin like a Cheshire cat on my face and I was going to make the most of this amazing opportunity.
Landing at Cancun the adventure was really just about to begin. Task one: collect bags, task two: queue up and clear security, Task three: find transport to my youth hostel. Having worked out a shuttle bus for my journey to Playa Del Carmen, someone immediately grabbed my bags and directed me exactly where I needed to go. Whilst everyone else was getting dropped off in phenomenal resorts where they would remain for the majority of a week-long break, I was on my way to the Colorado Hostel, right in the heart of Playa. First thoughts; get rid of my bags, second thoughts; let’s take a walk around town and get my first taste of Mexico.
Walking down the strip you hear so many noises, classic Mexican music and a range of cuisine, some of the finest I have ever seen. Whilst you walk along everyone is trying to sell someone something, a fast paced exciting atmosphere that contradicts Mexico’s normal go slow policy. Having met a few people that would be on my internship, we collaborated on going for dinner. My first take of the Caribbean Sea front and true native Mexican food was whist sitting on deck type chairs in the sand laying back with a cold beer, Corona of course, being the only cerveza I knew at this point in Mexico!
The next morning we met everyone on the internship in the hostel reception. 24 new faces spanning eight different nationalities. Before long we walked to the bus station moving away from civilisation into a secluded location, Punta Gruesa right near the southern tip of Mexico. Surrounded by mangrove one side of the track and a picturesque stretch of beach the other, this was our base for ten weeks.
Sleeping arrangements comprised of small wooden huts with bunk beds shared between six and eight people. Mixed amongst sand all belongings had to be kept in plastic boxes otherwise our belongings would we shared with resident beach mice! There were three concrete buildings surrounding base. The office, palapa and dive store. Now to the more exciting stuff, palm trees with hammocks, a small wooden outside bar, a shoreline so beautiful it would take anyone’s breath away and a volleyball court. Paradise and the dream life is just starting to sink in, this is even before we have started diving!
The rest of the first day we got briefed about all aspects of the next ten weeks which included being split into groups. Groups were then assigned a range of activities needed to keep the base running swiftly. Cooking, toilet cleaning, raking the beach to avoid sand flies, and boat kit up were all the main daily chores all started at 05:30 every morning. I was sensible and got up earlier to join what became the coffee crew. Then after duties and eating breakfast the first dive of the day set out. This primarily was a dive check-up before starting marine monitoring.
Each day was unpredictable, before you even jumped in the water for a dive we would frequently find playful marine mammals swimming with the boats. Pods of dolphins ranging from ten up to one hundred at times would swim around you jumping out the water weaving in and out of each other. For me this was one of the most incredible things, the close interaction they would have with you. Over the ten weeks I saw them on eight separate occasions, each time as incredible as each other. When we gear up we back role into the sea off the side of the boats, we group up before going under water. Each dive site we would slowly sink down and neutralise ourselves in the water just above a reef wall. The reef wall was streaming with biodiversity ranging from coral species and fish species. Our aim over the ten weeks was to train to a sufficient level to collect valuable scientific data of the full range of dive sites. Split into fish ID and coral ID groups, we had to learn a specific range of species and get 100% in ID tests before contributing to the data. For the initial ten weeks the aim was to get a full set of data on each dive site monitored over the phase. After this we had a two week break where we were let loose on our own adventures to explore Mexico before starting dive shop internships.