This day had been building for months, a year out of the water and I was finally going to be diving back in. As the first dive on base, we all had to go on a check dive just to see what level of competency we were at and how good our air consumption was. Basically a fun dive running over skills picked up in the PADI Open Water and Advanced Open Water courses.
Having done all morning duties and eaten breakfast, the first group of divers had gone out. Each day we tried to get four waves out depending on weather conditions and how quickly we could turn around each group. Being in the third group I had an opportunity to get stuck in with some of the daily life on base which keeps it running. Obviously every diver knows you need full tanks of air and compressors to fill them and every boat captain knows you need radios to communicate from boat to shore. I started with radio duty and of course studying my Latin coral identification names. Most communication was when the boats were going out and the divers getting into the water, to them surfacing again and the boats coming back from their dives. So in between we had a little time to progress in memorising our corals.
Ten minutes in a minor swarm of horse flies otherwise known as “bastard flies” attacked us. The latter name more for the reaction you give when they sneak up on you. So Mike and I took our initiative and a fly swat and put them together. That’s right, in the radio room we took war on the flies! Swatting them down one by one as they attacked us we started noticing a new infestation. Giant ants started taking the horseflies as trophies in troops of 4 to 6 and walking them along the wall back to their queen. After much distraction and fascination mixed in to the reaction of the ants, the radio called in and the boats were on their way back. Wave one complete, two ready to go.
Having given radio a go, staff members offered to show us how the compressors worked. Therefore after kitting up and getting everything ready for wave three I jumped straight into the next activity. Checking everything was good to go, we started the compressors and started filling tanks, quite a lengthy and noisy process with our relentless compressors Bill and Ben, (yeah they had names!) Then before long, it was time for wave three.
We have geared up did our pre dive checks and are walking to towards the boats, passing our kit to our respective captains. Then as a group of six, 3 each side we pull ourselves up into the boat. Off we jet through the waves to the dive site and as we approach we kit up again ready for a back role entry odd the side of the boat into the sea on the count of three. We all gather around each other before doing our check to go down, what a sensational feeling again, and breathing under water again. As we head further down, the reef wall comes into view. Mind blowing views of colourful arrays of corals and tropical fish beam before me, just minutes into my first Mexico dive and I know that what the next 6 months has in store is going to stay in my life forever.
Moving onto a sandy spot we all knelt down paying attention to the instructor as they demonstrated a few skills. Mask removal was a mental block with me, struggling on my open water in the UK this is a skill I had to master and properly overcome. Luckily keeping calm this didn’t take long and we moved on. This time doing a few buoyancy skills, swimming through a hoop, knocking an object over with your nose under control from the bottom. Lastly before doing a swim around, we did a mini race. This required us taking our fins off and running along the sand to a finish line. Quickly wising up to the challenge, I emptied all the air from my BCD (buoyancy control device or a waist coat with air) to give me elevation pushing off the sea floor. Much to my delight I crossed the line and replaced my fins before we went for a mosey around the reef. Florescent reds, bright yellows and blues as a minimum on the reef wall flourishing with sponges and corals, time just disappeared. Before it felt like we had seen anything, it was time to surface again. Slowly working our way to our three minute safety stop at five metres, my eyes stayed fixated towards the sea floor. Someone suddenly started pointing and gave the signal like they were flying. A sting ray, once burrowed in the sand drifted away in its elegant posture. Every dive can have a surprise even right towards the end. Once surfaced we signalled to the boat and firstly passed our weight belts to the captain before the rest of our dive gear and again on the count of three jumping back on the boat. The way back I just sat in silence smiling thinking about what an incredible experience I have just had and how lucky I am to know so many more are on its way.