For someone who has grown up solely around fresh water, the first time in the ocean is truly a memorable experience.
Just a few months ago, I went on my first scuba diving trip. The local dive shop that I frequent arranged it and my uncle graciously agreed to pay for the entire trip (with the exception of my flight). Sounds like a great deal, right? I could hardly contain my excitement.
In preparation, my uncle and I spent entirely too much money on underwater photography equipment. My uncle bought a used camera body and underwater housing from one of our instructors. I body underwater strobes and arms to attach to the housing and a dome port for my fisheye lens. I also bought a flexible arm to mount my GoPro to the top of the housing.
The day arrived and we (a large group of divers and non-divers, including several members of my family–ugh) set out on our adventure. For the purpose of this post, I’ll focus primarily on the underwater aspects of the trip.
We arrived in Cozumel on Saturday. We settled into our rooms, signed in at the dive shop, and familiarized ourselves with the resort. The next afternoon, the fun began.
I was a bit nervous for the first dive. The boat crew had to estimate the weight I would need to descend and still be able to achieve neutral buoyancy at depth. Buoyancy in salt water is much different than in fresh water, in case you didn’t know. We would also be diving much deeper than I had previously. Oh, and did I mention that we would be drift diving (simple explanation: the boat drops you off, you drift along with the current, and the boat picks you up when you surface)? Well that was new for me too. Needless to say, I did not bring my thousands of dollars’ worth of photography equipment with me on the first. I only brought my GoPro.
We were split into two dive groups: one led by Uys and one led by Edgar. I was in Uys’ group. Before each dive, Uys led a pre-dive briefing to explain the dive site we would next visit and the various sea life that we might encounter. The first dive was at Palancar Bricks. If I remember correctly, Uys told us that we would not go any deeper than 60 feet. The deepest I had gone previously was perhaps 40 feet. Eek.
One at a time, we entered the water and the descended as a group. We followed Uys along the reef, attempting to stay with our dive buddies (mine was my uncle for the first few dives). As I swam, I used my GoPro to capture video (or so I thought) of the creatures of the “deep” that I encountered. Only later that evening did I realize (to my dismay) that I had unintentionally changed the GoPro from video mode to still photo mode and essentially got NOTHING from the entire dive. At least I have memories. I saw the biggest lobsters I’ve ever seen in my life. They looked like huge alien insects. I saw a lot of sea turtles too.
Other than the initial GoPro problem, the rest of the dives went mainly without issue. It took me a little while to adapt to the buoyancy difference and some times I smacked the top of my nitrox tank into the reef during swim-throughs (the trials and tribulations of a beginner!), but neither was a very big deal. I changed dive buddies a few times because my uncle consumed his air much more quickly than I did. I did have to abort the final dive of the trip because I was unable to equalize the pressure in one of my ears. That was disappointing, but certainly not the end of the world. Overall, the diving was a really great experience.
Sadly, my expensive photography equipment never left my room at the resort. The current was so strong on the dives that I felt it would not be worthwhile to haul it back and forth. I would not be able to maintain a still position long enough to take quality still photos. I stuck with my GoPro for the entire trip instead. From my videos, I managed to capture a few decent photos. This is one of my favorites:
For a while after the trip, I had no idea who the diver was in the photo. I had to figure out on which day and during which dive I shot the video. Then I had to try to remember which divers were in my group for that particular dive (we switched it up a little bit a few times). It turned out to be Pete from Shipwreck Tours (check it out!) in Munising, Michigan. So nice of Pete to pose for me. 🙂