SCUBA DIVING WITH AQUA WINDIES
This was a day we had really been looking forward to. We were going scuba diving! My daughter is a PADI Seal certified diver and she dives here at home every month completing “Aquamissions” that are different each month. Once she gets all of her aquamissions completed (she only has 2 of them to go), she will become a Junior PADI Seal.
So, since she loves to scuba dive (and does better than us…we are not certified), we now try to scuba dive at least once on vacation. Our first time was last November in St Thomas at Coki Beach. The second time was in Curacao back in April. She went down about 30 feet and hung out over the wall and just about gave me a heart attack. However, I was so proud of her and her skills. I was able to get some amazing photo’s of diving both times.
So, this will be dive #3 for all of us in the ocean. The hubby and I do a Discover Scuba and the daughter does a Bubble Maker. In Curacao, they let her dive right along side of us. They would also do that here in Aruba!
After contacting places suggested here on the boards, I liked the communication and information I received from a shop called AquaWindies. We were told that we would dive either Mangel Halto or Malmok. Before we left for vacation, they had changed it to Malmok because of my daughter only being 9 and said it would be an easier dive for her and calmer water. They were to pick us up at the resort and take us to their location for “class”, which is only a few blocks down and located beside the hospital.
The day of the dive, I emailed them to see where we were supposed to meet them at and what time. The person I had been talking to online asked if we could catch a cab there and they would pay for the cab due to the dive instructor being out on a boat all morning with divers and he needed to get a bite to eat and this would allow him that time. I informed her that we had our own car and it wouldn’t be a problem to drive, just give me directions (ok, don’t laugh). But when she said the hospital…I knew it couldn’t be too hard to find.
After eating breakfast and my daughter out photographing some pretty awesome up-close shots of the lizards while I cleaned up the dishes, it was time to go. We headed out with our gear and down the road. The directions said to come up the hospital road until it dead ends and they were on the right. Well, leave it to me…the dead end ended up going back onto the main street located in front of our resort. Oops. We U-turned and turned off another street that was beside the hospital (because there are streets on all 4 sides of the hospital) and there’s where we found them. Odd place to be since EVERYTHING around there is health realated (OBGYN, dentist, hospital, ortho, pharmacy and so on). But we had arrived!
We went inside the building and told the lady at the front desk we were here for the DSD. A lady introduced herself and took us upstairs for “class”. There was only 1 other person in the class with us. We watched a video and that was it. Very odd. When we were done, the other guy went out to let her know and she came in with paperwork to fill out. I’m a very prepared person and I also pre-fill out the papers with the information on us and have all of my doctors paperwork signed off on as well. I presented them to her and she pretty much shoved them back and said “No, I need you to fill these out”…they were the SAME THING! I told her that and told her we also had doctor release forms with it. Once again, she said no and made me fill out the same paperwork, but what came out of the book. Sigh. She was sorta rude about it. Then once we were done and just sitting around, she comes back and tells me to fill out a different one for my daughter. Once I filled it out…she told me to hold on to it…and hold I did…and I’m STILL holding it. She never did collect it.
We all went downstairs and just waited around for a while. They did go ahead and collect our money for the dive (first time this has happened prior to the dive instead of after). Then our instructor (or whatever he was…not sure the terminology) told us to come out and he’d get us wet suits to wear. They didn’t have a size to fit my husband so just the daughter and I had wet suits on. They had us wear the “boots”, which this will be the second and probably the last time I’ll ever wear these again. The first time, in Curacao, they were too small. I wear a size 8 ½ and the choices are 8 or 9. They gave me 8 and my feet hurt so bad. This time they gave me a 9 and I ended up with a blister from the bottom part of the back of my foot all the way up past my ankle. I still have this blister and it looks terrible and it’s not healing very well. It hurts! I’m done wearing these things. I’ll just wear my scuba socks I have next time.
I did ask for something to drink when we were waiting and they made some type of contraption from a bottle that you mix with water. It’s probably a good idea when you are out diving and keeping hydrated but she said she wasn’t sure how much to mix with it and it tasted like water with some flavor and wasn’t very good. We were supposed to have drinks and snacks with us for the dive…but we didn’t get that and he mentioned “oops I forgot” but we didn’t get anything when we returned either.
We get there and I get my stuff ready and we “gear up” at the truck. Wait, I have to carry this heavy tank to these steps and then down the steps? I don’t think I can do this. We got to the steps and I was SO scared to try to go down them. This is a lot of weight on top of my weight and trying to go down steps, my knees are going to give out! He said he would help, but he helped from above and was leaning me backwards (I was going down the steps backwards). I was so relieved when I made it to the small sandy area…or was I? The water was TERRIBLE! The waves were high and rough and they were crashing into the rocks and throwing us about.
At various points, I was just waiting to hear him say “This is not safe. Beginners should not do this. We should not be in this water with a child. We should try a different day. Let’s get out.” But, those words never came. We kept being thrown toward the rocks and there were tons of people in the water. We kept trying to move out and away, but the ocean was upset. We proceeded to do our “skills” for him, while moving around like little rag dolls. They had to add more weights to me because I couldn’t stay down. After completing skills we headed off to the right. I was still unsure about this. I was nervous. I was scared. I tried everything I could to calm myself in my head. There was nothing but sand below…then I spotted a starfish. I was happy to see something. He all of a sudden turned around and told us to go back the way we started. Where we going to stop? Was this nightmare over? Nope, we passed up the entrance and went in the direction to the left.
It was very cloudy with times the visibility being maybe less than 5-6 feet. He pointed one time for my husband and my daughter to team up (at least I think that’s what he was trying to say) and me and the other guy to team up. However, my husband is very slow and seems to fall way behind when diving. He also stays more up toward the surface compared to everyone else and my daughter stays at the very bottom most of the time. Then he told me and the hubby to go together and my daughter and the “stranger” to go together. Wait, what? No! This other guy was really all over the place and looked as if this might have been the first time he has ever done this. His form was a little crazy, he was up and down, and he’s one that you should probably look out for because you’re sure to be kicked in the face by his fins with those frantic kicks. No way!
We made it to “The wall” and the water was still raging! The sand was stirred up and visibility still wasn’t the greatest. Better, but not good by any means. In order to see anything, you had to be right up on it. The sun wasn’t really shinning most of the time, but we did have a few bursts of light here and there and I managed to get a few decent pictures.
We swam with a school of fish, which was neat!
The instructor did mention that they see sea horses and scorpion fish a lot there, but he was so far ahead of us most of the time that had he found one, I’m sure we would have missed it. I would say the most we seen that day was schools of fish and rocks with Christmas tree worms on it.
My daughter spotted a snowflake eel, which was the coolest thing we seen that day.
For the most part, the sea bed was stirred up constantly and hard to see much of anything.
The instructor picked up an empty conch shell and gave to my daughter and she carried it around for a while. Then he picked up a very small dead sea urchin for her to hold and took the conch shell back. Then later picked up a dead crab to show everyone. I’m not here for dead animals. That's all he showed us. Really?
We turned around and started heading back. I kept thinking “This is it?” This is the wall? It just wasn’t what I expected. On the way back, we did manage to see a yellow starfish that had 6 legs, but one was missing and was rejuvenating back. We didn’t really see anything else interesting.
I’m sure if the water wasn’t so stirred up and the sun was shining, it would have made for a “better” day. Not a great day because even with better conditions, I can’t imagine this particular area being what I was expecting or looking for in a dive.
At one point when we went around the corner, I could no longer see anyone other than my husband beside me. I was scared. They had left us. Where was my 9 year old daughter?? I was giving hand signals like “where is everyone????” to my husband. He motioned for me to go up. We both went up and could see where we were exactly and where we needed to go to get back. We went back down and he grabbed my hand and lead me. It relaxed me.
We seen a set up steps that led out of the water. I knew from previous searches on this place that there were several entrances and this must have been the other.
We finally made it back and found everyone in the water. He really had the nerve to ask “How did everyone like it?” I honestly did not expect that question nor did I answer it. Maybe if we hadn’t done this before in beautiful places with awesome fish, corals, sunken ships…I might have felt different…but I doubt it honestly. If that would have been my first experience, I probably wouldn’t ever want to do it again.
Now it was time to go back up the stairs. There is absolutely NO way I could do that. No Way! My knees would never allow that and I told him so. He seemed frustrated but I tried a step and couldn’t even get up! He ended up getting behind me and pushing me up. He also pushed my husband up and he ended up cutting his hand. Even with the help of being pushed up, I was worn out from all the swimming against the current and being thrown around. There was no way I was making up to the truck. He finally told me to take the tank off and he’d get it. I understand his frustration but my goodness.
We piled back in the truck and I snapped a few pictures of the parking lot and then we were off again.
We headed back with more conversations in a different language off and on. I waited around for him to unload the truck and the hubby had asked him to fill out our dive logs in our books. He responded by saying we could fill them out and he would sign them. Wait, what?? I went back over and sat at the table and waited. We can’t fill these out…we don’t know the information…only the instructor would know. The original lady came over (that wouldn’t take my forms or doctor statements) and asked what we needed. I told her we needed our dive logs filled out. I have never seen someone so confused about this. I showed her our other dive logs and how they filled it out and they just seemed dumbfounded. She told us the same as the instructor “You fill it out and we can stamp it”. Are you serious??? I don’t know how deep we were, how long we dove, how many weights and everything else it says on there. That’s something the INSTRUCTOR KNOWS. I seriously argued with them about this and said, “Have you never filled this out before?” The lady said normally people don’t ask for that to be filled out. Really? It’s in the book YOU gave to us. Why would we not want a record of it??? I also needed my daughters PADI book filled out with her dive as well for her records and for her instructor back home. This was just not going well at all. I showed them where they had been filled out previously by other places, I basically told her where to put what and she messed it up a few times confusing me and my husband in each others book. At first she said "Which is your book and which is your husbands book?" I told her it didn't matter since there's nothing wrote in either book yet and she could not grasp the concept of this and kept asking. So finally I just pointed at a book and said make this mine and that his. Finally, the instructor came over, snatched the pens, filled it out and signed his name and walked away saying that he needed to get everything cleaned because he had a date to get to. Well excuse me.
This seriously was not a good experience at all…from start to finish. From the lady not wanting my paperwork and pushing it away from me until the very end of not wanting to fill out our paperwork. Quite honestly, I would never use this particular establishment again. Ever! I felt they were rude.