Dive in to Cozumel
Sitting in a window seat of a 727, looking out to the ground below, my first glimpse of Cozumel reveals a paradise of crystal blue waters, swaying palm trees and sugar white sand. At fifty feet below sea level, the scenery flourishes with tropical life and coral reef.
This adventure to Mexico actually began with a phone call from a present day pirate, a friend of mine who goes by the name Cap’n Ron. He runs The Scuba Shack in Oklahoma City, and is a Master Dive Instructor with over ten thousand dives to his credit. Cap’n Ron teams up with John and Cindy Green of the Christian Divers of Oklahoma, they put together an aquatic adventure for me and my wife Dena to the island of Cozumel.
One cold February afternoon, Ron called and mentioned that Dena and I should consider getting our certification and joining the rest of his marauders for a trip Cozumel. While Ron was busy informing me that our certification would require watching DVDs, engaging in some classroom study, logging swimming pool time to learn safety techniques and two open-water dives, my mind couldn’t help but wander into a great, unknown, underwater world.
“Sure,” was my immediate reaction, and the adventure was on.
Watching the movies and participating in the classroom studies came easy. Difficulty wasn’t really experienced until we leaped into the pool and were instructed to lie on the bottom for a few minutes. Breathing underwater isn’t natural, yet doing so is a thrill. We managed the training while consuming as little pool water as possible, and soon we were packing our clothes and our diving gear for the real thing.
Landing in Mexico, particularly the Cozumel airport, was an adventure in itself. However, we made it through customs, relinquished our American rights for the duration of the trip and flagged down a taxi heading north.
Diving in Cozumel requires hiring the services of a dive shop. Papa Hog’s is the best on the island. They have any size boat you could possibly need, superior dive masters and a great restaurant (try the beef tacos). On the first morning after arriving, our group of 12 rendezvoused at Papa Hog’s and, over a hearty breakfast of steak and eggs, began organizing our dives.
Soon after breakfast, we began packing wet suits, fins and masks into dive bags. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. Bouncing across the blue waves, racing to the dive site, my nerves were wrestling with my mind to come up with any reason not to dive. Luckily, my mind won.
My first jump into the water wouldn’t have received a 10, but I did manage to get in. Our group huddled together, Dena on one side of me and Resendo, our dive master, on the other. In unison, we emptied all the air out of our lungs and our dive jackets and began descending into a world of vibrant blues and radiant greens.
Sinking deeper and deeper, we quickly came eye to eye with curious tropical wildlife: white fish with blue eyes, rainbow fish with odd facial expressions, and entire schools of orange and blue fish watching us with curiosity. I quickly became swept up in the sights of sea turtles hovering just above the sea floor and an eagle ray cooperatively posing for us on several passes, apparently he knew we had a camera.
We completed our first dive and slowly surfaced for the boat to pick us up. Our group sat on the aboard the “The Good Life” for about an hour eating fresh mango and laughing while recalling what had just taken place. We geared up for the second dive and plunged into the aqua world for another round. On this dive something strange happened.
Every diver must pay close attention to depth, time underwater, and oxygen consumption. This is all ready available on your dive computer or your gages. For the first dive, I was busy worrying about depth and worrying about how much air do I have left and anything else I could find to worry about. Then, on the second dive, it was like a magical wand waved, and poof; I worried no more. I was free to hop into the underwater current and enjoy the ride (just think of the turtles Crush and Squirt in Finding Nemo).
We successfully completed our required dives for certification, and in the process, we learned a couple of things. Scuba takes you to a different world with new colors, shapes, textures and creatures. It connects you with nature and immerses you in new sensations and experiences. I say, “get in touch with Cap’n Ron, get your certification and look into the Christian Divers of Oklahoma. You owe it too yourself.”
After all of the dives, all of the great restaurants, and all of the great service throughout the island, our time in Mexico came to an end; yet we were returning home as scuba divers. Boarding the plane headed back to the states, I entertain the thought that I must be one of the luckiest humans on the planet. Walking up the stairs to the airplane door, I relished the thought that on our last dive, I had spent the finest hour of my life.
Though I didn’t win any gold statues or give a great speech at a suit–and-tie dinner, my finest hour came underwater, hand in hand with my wife, hovering above paradise reef in Cozumel, Mexico.