I have to admit, after my experience during my Scuba refresher class, I was a little hesitant, oh, hell, a LOT hesitant, to go on an actual dive. Especially since I was going with a small group of strangers, because Jeff wasn’t joining me. In fact, I cancelled the first dive, making up some lame-ass excuse, when in reality I was being a chicken-shit.
After beating myself up (I do that a lot), I gathered the courage to just do it. I met Scuba Steve and the other dive master at the dock at 8:000 am, normally waaaayyyy too early for me to fully function above water, much less submerged. The other
victims participants were a family with 2 pre-teens who were just snorkeling, a 14 year-old and his father who were getting certified, and two very experienced divers. This would be interesting.
When we got to Los Arcos Marine Park, our destination in Puerto Vallarta for two dives, we were broken into groups. The snorkelers were on their own, Scuba Steve would be certifying the Father and son, and Hunky Other Instructor would be with me and the experts. Hmmmmm… not so sure I’m down with this….
Since Scuba encourages the buddy system, the two experienced divers were paired, and I was coupled with the
Hunka-Hunka Burning Love assistant dive master.
After checking all our gear, my group was first in. OK, I’ll tell you right now, I am totally not comfortable with the back-flip off the side of the boat.
Can’t I just ump in? I begged.
No. You’ll be fine. Now hurry, you’re holding up the others.
I shoved myself off backwards, and upon hitting the water, I was completely disoriented. Water flooded my mask, because I forgot that simple but oh-so-crucial procedure of holding your mask tightly to your face upon impact. Which way was up? After what seemed like an eternity, (but in reality was mere seconds) I surfaced, just as my spare reg immediately began slashing about above the water like a jet-propelled water moccasin. Hunky Assistant Instructor (HAI) swam to me and got the astray reg under control. But not before I began to hyper-ventilate. The two experienced divers had already submerged, and I was in the middle of a panic attack.
It was then that I made the life or death decision.
I’m just going to go with the snorkelers, I whined, trying hard not to start crying on the spot.
HAI calmed my fears and took hold of my hand. He pointed two-fingers to his eyes, looked deeply into mine, and crooned It’s OK, Hoolia, I will hold your hand the whole time and make sure you are safe and comfortable. Trust me.
Well, what maiden in distress, or otherwise, doesn’t want to hear those words coming from the full lips of a Bronzed Latin Hunk? He had me. We submerged, slowly, gracefully, deliberately. It was like a sexy dream and for a few minutes, I let myself relax in the security of his presence.
Just as I was getting into a groove with my breathing, occasionally squeezing the protective grip of my
beloved guardian, a dark cloud cast a shadow overhead. HAI squeezed my hand harder and pointed up. Ohhhh, damn! I’m not ready to go up yet. This is so delicious…
I tilted my head back and caught a glimpse of the biggest ray I have ever seen! Now, I’m not sure if I shared with my readers the story of my sting ray encounter, but I was recently stung on the foot by a stingray, and am still gun shy about those creatures. Worst pain I’ve ever experienced!!
My initial reaction was to freak out, but HAI gave me the OK sign, so I just hung suspended, connected by the hand to the one I entrusted my welfare to, and soaked in the brilliance of the moment. The Giant Manta Ray’s tail was a good 3-feet long, and the ray itself dwarfed the two of us. Once again, I feared a painful but quick demise a la Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, but was reassured it was harmless as long as we just observed. The ray was curious, and made several passes above and around us, eventually coming within about 10 feet of me. I struggled to stay still, not wanting to scare it away. The dive masters both later concurred that it probably had a wingspan of 12 feet!
After a brief rest back on the dive boat, we again submerged for our second and final dive. This time I was confident and looking forward to another ray encounter, of which we were treated to not one, but two more sightings, even closer this go around. (Not so confident that I didn’t request the assistance of my knight in shining neoprene again, although he did let go of my hand long enough to shoot these photos.)
The ride back to the dock was buzzing with the excitement of having witnessed nature in all her glory. I felt so honored and grateful that these amazing creatures had chosen to bless us with their presence. I was also gratified that I had allowed myself out of my comfort zone and entrusted my welfare to a previously complete stranger (and a very handsome one, at that).
I look forward to more adventures under the water, bringing the beauty of the natural world into my realm. And a hunky Scuba buddy would be a major bonus.