Getting Scuba Certified in Bonaire
I let out a deep exhale and felt my body float softly towards the bottom of the ocean. A deep inhale then lifted me up again as if I was a yoyo attached to an energetic child.
“Just breathe normally.”
My instructor’s words danced around in my mind as I watched a flat, white bottom feeder scurry below me, with eyes as wide as mine. The toughest part about diving — besides getting past my fear of dying — was controlling my buoyancy.
You might think someone like me would feel at ease in the ocean, being a regular surfer and spending a considerable amount of time in oceans around the world. Well, that’s not the case for me. I’m pretty terrified of the ocean, yet strangely attracted to it. The thought of breathing underwater scares the crap out of me. Over the years, every time I announced that I wanted to get my scuba certification, eventually lead to putting it off — just a little bit longer.
I arrived at Buddy Dive Resort in Bonaire with a new group of friends who all had previous diving experience. I was the newbie and I secretly wished for another non-certified marine enthusiast in my group. The last thing I wanted was to get thrown into something I wasn’t ready for.
There was talk of me joining the rest of the group for a boat dive (on my first certification dive) and that sent my anxiety into overdrive. I was so nervous I thought I might throw up. I was already imagining the worst: I wouldn’t be able to get to the surface in time, I would run out of air and panic, or my lungs would explode because I forgot to breathe. I know, I’m dramatic.
The pool exercises made me feel much more comfortable about handling things if something did go wrong underwater. Each exercise — like filling up my mask with water and switching regulators under the water — seemed relatively easy. Granted, I was only in four feet of water with no distractions, but it gave me the assurance I needed before my first shore dive the next day.
The sea creatures kept my mind so busy that I didn’t even realize I was diving at nearly fifty feet.I’ve heard horror stories from other divers about their first experience in the water — where instructors left them to figure things out on their own or put them in situations only for advanced divers. I’m so thankful I had the opposite experience. I felt extremely relaxed and confident in my instructor’s abilities.
I dove again that afternoon and twice the next day to finish my certification. On my fourth day in Bonaire, I geared up for my first two-tank boat dive near Klein Bonaire. The reef near this island is said to be some of the best in Bonaire.
While all of my dives were unique — I saw plenty of puffer fish, lion fish, tarpons, and several eels — my favorite experience under the water in Bonaire was getting up close to these four Caribbean reef squid.
Bonaire will always hold a special place in my heart and I can’t wait to head back for another dive trip!