COKI BEACH: SCUBA DIVING
I want to take a moment to explain why we were so excited about St Thomas and what we had planned on doing.
Sakari, my dear precious, late arrival-compared to my other kids, child. She is so different and unique compared to, not only my other daughter Kendra, but to most children. She's not your typical "girlie-girl". Kendra was a gymnast and a cheerleader. We're not talking about just kid football games or high school gymnast or cheerleader, we are talking about competition gymnast/cheerleading. She started at a very young age (gymnastics) and competed in other states. She won tropies and medals and was quite good. Then she broke her arm and hit a growth spurt and had major problems with her hip and foot. She moved on to competition cheerleading and competed in various states as well.
I tried to get Sakari into dance and gymnastics...it didn't last long. A lot of money spent on 3 classes a week and uniforms for shows...she decided it wasn't for her. Learning to do a cartwheel was her only goal and "freestyle" dancing was her only goal. She didn't want to follow a routine to music, she just wanted to do her own thing. So, as much as I wanted her to be like her older sister, it wasn't going to happen. I wasn't about to push her...I just want her to be happy with what she does.
She's only happy if 1) She's drawing, 2) if there's animals involved or 3). it involves water. THAT'S IT!
So...our last cruise she watched several scuba divers go out in the water below us in St Lucia. It's all she could talk about. "I want to breathe under water like they do!"
A friend on the cruise boards told me about the PADI Seal program for "littles" and I just knew I had to check it out. I contacted my local dive shop and then went in to talk to them about having Sakari take diving lessons. For those that don't know, the PADI Seal program is for children 8-10 years old. It introduces them to scuba diving, the equipment, and how to do certain things. You do the classes and the dives and then you are a certified PADI Seal. After that, they have monthly dives that are considered "specialty dives" that incorporate a different category each time: night dive, photography, navigation, diving a "ship wreck", creature ID...and so on. You do this once a month until you turn 10 years old and can be certified to scuba dive in the open water. PERFECT!
I signed her up and she was super excited and it's all she talked about for a month.
I have to admit, she was making me a little jealous watching her in the water with her gear on. The hubby and I were debating if we would like to do this some day as well and she was doing a great job convincing me that it was a lot of fun. So after completing her scuba class, she became a certified PADI Seal diver. She dives monthly and learns a new skill each time.
So once that was over, she couldn't wait for the next specialty dive the following month. HOWEVER, there was a problem...the next specialty dive was going to be while we were on this cruise.
So...once again, these fine people on the boards suggested that I contact Coki Dive Center in St Thomas and see about getting her to do the PADI Bubble maker class that they offer. So...that's exactly what I did. The website said that the parents could join if they wanted to, but of course we are not certified, so decided to do the "Discover Scuba Diving". I figured that would give us a little taste of scuba and see if we would like to pursue this in the future for when Sakari is 10 and can be certified. We know that we would never want her to do this without us being there by her side, so someone has to do it (which is something the hubby has always talked about).
I contacted Coki, explained she was a PADI Seal already, and set her up to do the class. HOWEVER, Kendra decided to also sign up Brayden. He was going to try it out with her as well. The hubby and I signed up for the Discover Scuba and Kendra and Kolin decided they would too. Billy rarely gets in the water and to be around fish...no way. Courtney was scared and is not a very good swimmer to begin with and the thought of it freaked her out, so she declined.
So this was either going to be the most exciting day of the cruise or I was going to freak out and things not go well. But we were about to find out.
We booked with Coki Dive Center.
We pulled out of the port, in our private taxi at 8:20am. We arrived at 8:41am. 21 minutes and we were there. HOWEVER, right before we got there, our driver pulls over on the side of the road and ask if we wanted any ice cold drinks. There were two guys sitting on the side of the road and had coolers full of drinks. They told us $1 each!!!!! HECK YEA! SCORE! Time to get my diet pop on!
We all stocked up and the guy was very grateful... and so were we. I thanked the driver for allowing us to stop there and get such a great deal. She let us know that he was an old friend of hers that also use to drive one of the open aired buses and could no longer drive them. So, she likes to help him out when she can. I really appreciated it and she had actually helped us out as well by getting us such a great deal.
So, it was a 21 minute drive that INCLUDED a short stop to get pop. Not bad at all.
We pulled up to Coki and I immediately remembered this place.
Water on one side of the street and beach on the other.
We let our driver know what time we needed to leave by and she gave us her card and said she would return at that time. Since we now had to be back on the ship at 2pm, factoring in driving time and possible traffic, I believe we told her to return some time around 12:30-1pm. That should give us plenty of time to get ourselves together and the ride back with hopefully a little shopping if needed.
I knew that Coral World was to the right (if facing toward the beach) and that the Coki Dive Center was over that way. So we headed off in that direction.
As we came around the corner, you could see the small dive shop.
We went and checked in with the dive shop and they got us started on signing papers and gave us an instruction booklet with all the information in there and tons of pages to sign. I felt like I was signing my life away. Yikes! I presented a paper from my physician saying I was "fit" (LOL, using that term loosely) to dive and another paper from Sakari's physician saying she was ok to dive (because of her ears).
We were signing and signing and signing...and at that point, I was just so excited that I really have no idea what I was signing. Once we were done, we went over to give them the remainder of our payments...then Courtney decided she just couldn't miss out on this opportunity. She wanted to do it as well. They said they could add her, but they would need a third instructor and caught a guy, as he was leaving for the day, and ask if he would mind staying and going out with our group of now 5 adults. The kids had a different instructor, but would be with us for a small portion of the dive. The guy agreed and I joked with him about it only being 9am in the morning and he was already leaving for work. He said he would be returning that evening for a night dive. (So honestly, I have no idea what happened to this guy because he never did go out with us and I don't recall seeing him after this. You could tell he really didn't want to).
The dive shop sits up on a hill with stairs that lead down to the beach. The kids somehow wondered off and I found them down by the water (Billy was already down there setting up our spot for the day). I really hate when Sakari acts like this. She would have never wondered off if Brayden wasn't there. She needs to learn to be a leader and not a follower at times.
Then they would have us put our beach bags and things into lockers they had there inside the shop and lock them up. I had brought all of our snorkeling/scuba gear, but they encouraged us to use theirs instead. They really didn't seem to care for my "shortened fins", but after this was all done and over with, I feel that I would have preferred to have had my fins on. But, I did use my own mask. I was concerned about it being new and it fogging up, even though I had done the toothpaste to remove the "newness" film. It still did not have much water time yet. They assured me that they would "fix it up" for me and I wouldn't/shouldn't have any issues.
Off we would go to "class"...where Luke said that Sakari would be teaching class to us, since she was the pro and all. The "classroom" was over at Coral World. I liked this. I had pictured an actual room, like when Sakari did hers, but this was even better! We had 2 other people in our class. This couple was actually staying on the island and was leaving, I believe, the following day to go home. They were in our class, but they would not be diving with us and would have their own instructor.
In class...we learned about all the equipment and what they did and Sakari of course named everything for everyone. We were told from the beginning (and reminded several times) that we needed to hold all questions until the end because somewhere along the class the answer would probably come up. Brayden, put you hand down. No questions yet.
I had wondered what type of BCD vest we would wear because I had seen pictures that looked as if you didn't have one on. I guess it's a little different than what I have seen Sakari wear, but still does the same job. HOWEVER, we were told NOT to mess with the BCD (buoyancy control device which makes you go up of down in the water...basically inflating and deflating your vest) and that only the instructor would be controlling this device. Ugh! More on that later.
Brayden, put your hand down. No questions yet.
They explained how the BCD worked (and that we wouldn't be working it), how to clear your regulator (the part that goes in your mouth and is your life support machine, only without intubation), they told us how we would remove the regulator from our mouths under water and then learn to put it back in and clear the line (Brayden, put your hand down), and then how we would also throw it over our backs and how to retrieve it if it was lost. Then they tell us about...something that I was really dreading, but had been practicing in the pool on the Epic a few days ago...clearing your mask...only in the salt water. Eeeekkk! That was a scary thing for me. Salt water in eyes if you screw up and it just freaked me out.
Brayden put your hand down. No questions yet. "I was just stretching" he says
Along came our personal photographer. He's the guy that goes scuba diving with us and takes pictures. He will take pictures of all of us and put them on their website and you can purchase pictures from there. Now I normally don't purchase pictures taken by others at events like this, HOWEVER... they only charge $35 for ALL the pictures you want. You can have one or 100, it's all the same price. (I would end up purchasing 44 I believe). Now I don't know about you, but I think this is a wonderful deal and hopefully they will keep it at this amount. Much more than that and I think they would lose business. So, I had intended on purchasing them all no matter what.
When he came around to our class and was taking pictures, I was taking pictures of him too and told him he needed to be in on the fun. He laughed and made a face for me.
At the end of class...anyone have any questions? .....cue the silence..... Brayden had nothing. LOL
So now we were to take a mini test over the things we learned (from the book and class) and turn those in. Yes, we went over the test, just in case there were any questions or misunderstandings. It was pretty simple and almost common knowledge.
Oh look...squirrel, no wait, that's an iguana. I caught him out of the corner of my eye. I didn't mean to disrupt the class, but hey, at least I didn't have a question or my arm up in the air right?
Ok, so class was officially over and I ran over to see Iggy...
We headed back to the Coki Dive Center shack to give them our sizes (of shoe we wear) and try out our new equipment we would be using.
Of course Kendra thought it was a fashion show:
Brayden felt the need to rinse his feet...even though he hadn't done anything yet.
I had told Luke about my concern of using my goggles and fogging, since they were new, and earlier he had assured me that they wouldn't fog once he put the baby shampoo in it. He doctored them up and we would later rinse this out. IT WOULD WORK PERFECT! Never once did I fog up. I couldn't believe it. I'm throwing out my stupid "anti-fog" stuff I purchased in the past online and just mixing me up some baby shampoo!
After getting our gear, we headed down the steps to the beach and at an area that they had all the other equipment.
Then all of a sudden it started to sprinkle. We seen that Billy had set up the chair right next to the scuba area, so he was close by. Once it started to sprinkle, he jumped up to move the chair back under the tree.
Their photographer took a few pictures of us...
I was the last to get geared up. I have to say that I found it weird that they put the tanks and stuff on us up here. I have always seen and been told that they usually take them out to the water to put on, where they can float and you don't have to carry them? I know Sakari's scuba place does this as well.
Ok...time to roll...Stand up! Oh My Goodness! These things are heavy!!! Wow, I guess I never thought they would be that heavy. Now you want us to do what??? WALK? As in with our feet and legs? To where? All the way down there to the water like 10 feet away? Seriously?
Ok, I felt like I was in boot camp now. But we were having some fun with it. Kolin's like "What? I got this" and I'm like "I think I need a walker to help me...just something to hang on to before I tilt over please"
If we, as adults, are having difficulty carrying our tanks, how do you think the "littles" are doing?
Well, they are doing just fine because they have a helper who carried the tanks on their backs for them. LOL
I would like to mention that I WAS able to take my camera with me. I was so happy they allowed this because I assumed (and was told by others) that they probably would not allow this for safety reasons and that I should be focusing on my breathing and skills. But, they had no problem with it and others had their camera's too (like the other couple in class with us had their go-pro and even the selfie stick.
Ok, moment of truth...we head out to the water, from the beach, and I get instant relief on my back and legs now that the water has managed to help me carry the air tank. Whew.
But now is the moment of truth. How am I going to do with this? I'll admit, I was super nervous. I knew I would be ok as long as we were in shallow water that I could stand up if needed or if I freaked out suddenly. But I just wasn't sure how this was going to play out. I love to snorkel, but I mainly love to snorkel from the shore. I usually don't go too far out or too deep out because there's just something about the water getting colder and bluer that scares me. Of course there's my fear of sharks. Real sharks. Like sharks with mean teeth and red eyes. Sharks that are hungry. Yes, we did an excursion swimming with sharks, but those were nurse sharks and they looked like a ishy squishy cutie rubbery shark that wouldn't hurt a fly. If a shark came within my sight, I would surely have a heart attack on the spot.
We were told that our dive would go down 40 feet. Almost everyone in my party said..."oh no, I don't really want to go down further than about 15 feet". What happens if I freak out when I'm down that low? The instructor was pretty good in calming me (us) and said that 99.9% of the people that signal to him that something's wrong, while down in the water, when he ask what's wrong...they don't know and have no explanation. Just a moment of "freak". Then they calm down and keep going. I just knew I was going to be this person. Sigh! Well, honestly, I just knew Courtney was going to be this person that probably had issues with anxiety, swimming, using the equipment and then panicking. But I would be a close second for sure.
Everyone went under and I have THIS starring at me telling me everything was good. How could I give up with her doing so well? I mean for heavens sake, she's 8 years old and can do it. I should be able to right?
Our instructor was letting us all get used to breathing underwater with our ventilators...because at this point, that's what it was for me. I felt like I had been transported to another world and was dreaming or possibly in a coma. I wasn't sure. He would go around and check to see if we were doing ok. Kendra pops up out of the water real quick soon after this picture was taken. Ok, not sure what that was about.
Kolin was doing fine, Kendra is standing up in the water multiple times as shown in this pic. The hubby is...I don't know, admiring his hand?
I was so worried about being in the water with the kids (when I had originally booked) because we wanted to do this as a family and keep it as a group for so far out in the water (the kids were supposed to go about 10 feet deep)...however, most of the time I completely forgot about them and was focusing on myself and trying to get used to breathing like this. I will admit, it was a little hard and freaky and I honestly wasn't sure I could do this. No really....
The instructor for the "littles" seem to always be hanging on to them. I found this odd and not sure why she was always doing this.
There would be times that Sakari would break away from her grips and come over beside us and demonstrate her abilities. She just amazes me. It would actually help calm me and I would no longer be thinking about myself, but just watching her as if I was just sitting down watching tv.
So far, so good with Courtney. I tried to make myself feel better and act as if this was as simple as eating cake, only my cake was crumbling quickly and with one bite sometimes the icing no longer holds the cake together...yea, that was me=cake crumbling and falling apart....anyhow, I was checking on Courtney as often as possible to make sure she was doing ok and holding it together. I mean after all, I didn't want her to embarrass us by chickening out and not being able to do the scuba dive (when in reality, I was afraid I was going to be that person and I was just trying to convince myself otherwise).
Ok hubby, come take a selfie with me so that I can prove that I did indeed do this...at least some of this. Why the heck do I look SO RED in this photo? Another thing I want to bring to your attention is my beard. Seriously it was so funny when I first seen this picture. I thought it was some guy with my hubby. My entire lower face was full of bubbles, which created a shadow on my face, which resembled a beard. I swear to you, I did shave that morning and it's not a beard.
Kendra was really struggling over there. You see the instructor telling her to look at him? Is she freaking out? Can she not do it? I never in a million years thought Kendra would be the one having the problem. This is supposed to be Courtney that this is happening to. I seen Kendra out of the water more than in the water.
So the instructor in the picture above, he would be the one that went out with the scuba divers as a second guide, not the original "morning I'm off work now" guy.
I'm really struggling myself. I am keeping it under the water, unlike Kendra, but my tank kept falling to the left and pulling me down to the ocean floor. I kept trying to straighten up, but it was super hard to get back up or turned over. I'm a helpless turtle who has been flipped on her back. I've fallen and I can't get up. It had the best of me several times. Then finally something came over me and I got pissed and grabbed my BCD and gave it one heck of a yank from the front and jerked my body and it straightened me up. I was able to get back to my knees and when I felt myself going back to the left, I would yank it again and it worked for me.
Then there's the breathing and the taste of my mouth and the dryness of my throat...yea, I'm pretty sure I'm dying at this point. The dry air coupled with the saltwater taste was almost unbearable. It made me not want to even inhale. The number one rule of scuba diving???? DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH. I had went over that with Sakari so many times in her class that it was drilled in my head...but it was a hard thing to practice.
Then you could hear yourself breathing...which sounded kinda scary to me like some Darth Vader was hovering over me. I kept thinking I was breathing too hard or too fast. I would attempt to adjust my breathing rate and slow it down some, hoping to calm down. Then I would really breathe in, exhale forever, breathe in deep...wait, does this mean I'm using too much air and would run out too quickly? AAAKKKKK! I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm freaking out. I need a breath mint to get this nasty taste out of my mouth. I'm going to end up with a sore throat from this dryness and salt in my mouth. Oh gosh, I can't do this. It's just too much....
Then the instructor comes around for us to do our "skills" starting with taking the regulator out of our mouth and putting it back in. Wait, this means even more salt in my mouth because I have to open my mouth back up to put it back in. Darnit! They lined us up for the skills. I was last.
I watched everyone complete theirs and get a thumbs up. It was now my turn. I inhaled, no wait, I wasn't ready. I needed a bigger breath of dry air...ok, deep inhale...ok....go. I removed the regulator, blew my air bubbles from my mouth, then opened my mouth and put it back in and went "achoo" (which is how they taught us in class instead of purging the regulator with air). Ok....I DID IT.
Then we had to throw our regulator over our shoulder/out of our site and retrieve it. Ok breath in, no wait, I'm not ready. Try again, no wait...stop, hold up. I need a deeper breath because this might take a little longer to do and wasn't as simple as just removing the regular with it still in your hand. Deep breath, hold breath, no wait, DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH! Ok, I got this. I did it, I retrieved it, I was still alive.
(Notice Kendra is still over there struggling and now working with the other instructor with her issues). He has a hold of her arm...are things really that bad? Is she over there panicking? How could I possibly be over here worried about myself when my daughter is over there struggling? But I feel frozen. I can't move. Someone pinch me and make sure I'm still breathing and haven't passed out. Wait, I have to be breathing because there's a huge amount of air bubbles in my face from my regulator.
Kolin was over there praying to the gods, with hand gestures, that we don't die or see a shark or go below 15 feet of water, when really he should have been praying for his mother to survive this...since it was my idea and I had gotten them into it.
Next up was the water-out-of-the-mask task. Now before we went in the water, I showed the instructor my mask and ask him exactly how do I clear this particular mask since it has a purge valve built into it. He said you normally tilt your head up, hold the top of the mask, then blow out of your nose to clear your mask...however, with mine, I do the opposite. I would tilt my head down, hold the mask and blow and any water would go out of the purge valve. Hmmm. Ok, that can't be too hard right? I did it with ease and it was by far the easiest thing to do. However, I didn't have water in my mask at the time so I wasn't actually sure that it was done right (other than the bubbles coming from the mask, or was that just my regulator?).
Kendra was still struggling and getting more one on one instruction, but staying under water a little longer this time. The "littles" were just bouncing around without a care in the world. Kolin and Courtney were good so far.
I had been so nervous and concentrating on my breathing and salty dry throat that I hadn't even noticed all the fish around us. That was the main reason for doing all of this. I was looking at them in an entirely different atmosphere now. It brought some peace to me.
Since I had suddenly become aware of my surroundings and not my breathing, dry throat, and salty mouth, things got a little better and more peaceful.
Once we were done with our skills, we were all just kinda hanging out. I wasn't sure why (my guess it waiting on Kendra).
They gave everyone some dog bones for the fish and I think it helped ease everyone's mind. I did not get any, but I was busy taking pictures.
Then all of a sudden I see Kendra and I rush to her, well it was rushing in my book but looked more like I was in a slow time warp. She was fine, but holding her mask and nose at times. I wasn't sure what this meant and communicating under water was really not our forté. It was like trying to do sign language to someone who was blind. So foreign to us. But I ask the "ok?" sign and she replied "ok" so I guess whatever issues she had, she was better now and I would have to get the details later because this dive was about to happen! Eeek
I noticed that during this feeding, they were easing us out a little. Look at this picture and you will see that at this point, we are well over our heads and simply couldn't pop up to the surface if we wanted.
I remember being the guy in the orange shirt in one of my pictures once. I was the person at the top of the water, looking down at the scuba divers, and wondering what it was like.
Then I look around and see that the instructor is a little further out there and he's motioning us to "come here" and pointing at something. Ok, if this is a trick I swear....
We went over to a big piece of coral and found this lurking...a trumpet fish. It was a nice sized trumpet fish (not as big as the ones I would see back in St Lucia, but a good sized).
Ok, he managed to coax us out this far and all is good. Courtney was doing amazing.
Our instructor kept telling us to come and come we did. We were exploring and looking at the fish all around us. There wasn't much coral to see and mostly a sandy bottom, but there were your normal fish you see on the shore line.
Ok, still all is good and I'm not even thinking about the breathing part now.
Kendra is superwoman. Dun dun dun.
All of a sudden I sunk. To the sea floor. I couldn't go up. I struggled. What the heck. The instructor was way ahead and swimming and here I was. We were told not to mess with the BCD...I didn't want to disobey. But I wanted up and I wanted up now. How was I going to get his attention? I look up as Courtney is passing over me waving.
No wait...don't leave me down here. I need hel........pppppp....wait, why did I just go up? Oh, the other instructor was behind me and adjusted my BCD. LOL Weeeeeee
I think Courtney rarely left my side because I ended up with so many pictures of her beside me. Every time I looked around to snap a picture, she was there. (She does this when we are snorkeling too and if she gets in to trouble, she hangs on to me).
Then all of a sudden Courtney sunk. LOL HAHAHAHA to you. Now you get to wait for help to arrive.
Hey while you are down there, there's a parrot fish to look at.
Now we were getting deeper and the water was getting bluer, but for some reason, it didn't bother me. We were starting to see more things and it was more than just a sandy bottom.
Since I was the one with the camera, that meant that there would be no pictures of me scuba diving. I decided to take a selfie to prove I was there.
There's that devil fire coral...stay away. I will tell you that several times it really scared me down there, when I was going along the bottom and getting pictures as close as I could, and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get away from touching it a few times.
Now this was getting extremely hard. Like REALLY hard. My legs were wearing out. We were going against the current and I felt like I was kicking to save my life and wasn't getting anywhere. I was wearing down. Panic was starting to come over me. I wasn't sure if I could make it. I wanted to flag down the instructor and tell him "wait a minute, I need to rest", but he was way ahead of me. I seriously felt like I wasn't moving AT ALL. I did not like these fins. I felt like my wide fins would have done a much better job. Oh help me!
At one point I stopped for a minute to try to rest. I look up and I see the hubby above me. He is holding onto the "safety rope" that one of the instructors is pulling through the water to let those above us know we are down here. I see my husband hanging onto the rope and the instructor is trying to pull him. He's not moving his legs at all. Just hanging on. Wait, I want a free ride too! I could tell this wasn't good. The instructor finally stopped pulling the rope and went up to him. I see him take his leg and extend it out and up to stretch it. I see him rubbing the top of his leg. Did he have a muscle cramp? Charlie horse? What was going on? He gave me this "look" and I knew he was tired and his legs were hurting. I just knew in my heart that he probably would not go on.
He stayed with the other instructor and I had hoped that he would rest and continue on. But it did not happen. He had to go back to shore. Afterwards I would find out that he was just too worn out, swimming against the current, and with his weight gain over the years (just like me), he just couldn't do it. I felt so bad. He's been a skater all of his life (except for the last few years) and he's always had strong legs. But they failed him this time around. He told me that he would end up laying on his back and the instructor pulling him back to shore. Really? That bad???
I hear this "click click click" like someone is taping on something. The instructor had something to get our attention and it worked. He motioned us to come over. I gathered up what strength I still had and swam over and eventually caught up with them.
Does a fist symbol on the air signify that you have found something?
Well lookie what we found. A brittle starfish.
Ever since I first came to Coki a few years ago, it has been one of my favorite places to snorkel. I was simply amazed at the bright purple coral that I had seen there and no other place before. But I wasn't seeing that same coral this time. Maybe because I was so far out? BUT...what I did see what some awesome blue colored coral and later some other type of beautiful purple coral.
Kendra was still going strong with no other issues.
We weren't struggling to swim now and everyone was doing good. My legs weren't aching anymore and it was much easier to swim. We had made it around the corner, there was no longer a current, and life was good.
I was busy off in my own little world and I noticed everyone was gathered around the instructor. I went over to investigate.
A Yellowline Arrow Crab. Hims so tute (cute, but said in Kendra voice) with his little blue-purple pinchers. He was very active and crawling all over.
Luke showed me how to turn my camera flash on and off with the flick of a button. I would experiment with it at times. I learned (and he also said) that if you have the flash on, sometimes it will pick up all the particles in the water. With some experimenting, I would find that if you are shooting straight down with the flash, it did pretty good. It only did bad when you tried to shoot straight across the water.
The variety of colors in one small tiny area were just so magnificent and bright and there's just so much to see. Without my camera, I think I would have missed a lot of it. It was hard to focus on so much.
Then all of a sudden we were motioned over....a shark had been spotted........................
NO NO NO I don't want to see a shark. Someone take me back. Hide me. I'm going to die.............
He points down....
Ok, you got me. You think you're cute Luke! I guess this is a previous statue they had over at coral world. When they decided to get rid of it, the divers (or something) took it out in the water and dumped it for other divers to have something to see. LOL
The coral here was ABSOLUTELY AMAZING and colorful.
Some how I managed to get turned around and thought we were still heading out. Courtney and I was getting a little worried at this point. Our air tanks started out with 3000 on them. We were told that we wouldn't get into the "yellow" caution area and we had plenty of air. We were instructed on how to read them, but also informed that our instructor would be checking them while we were diving and we wouldn't need to worry about it. He had said that sometimes people excessively check them over and over and it kind of ruins the experience of diving when you are freaking out about the air. So, don't worry about it and they would keep an eye on it. The one thing that I can say is, he never once checked my air gauge. I did check it several times. Well, I can't really say "he didn't check it". I probably should say he never picked it up and looked at it or ask me for the number like Sakari's instructor does. He's an instructor, so I'm sure he's trained to eyeball it from a distance or when we are around him...inconspicuously.
We were in the yellow, which if I remember correctly, that was below 1000. So, caution. Courtney and I both noticed this and I kinda looked at him and raised my gauge up to him, but he was a good 20 -30 feet away, so obviously he couldn't read it, but yet didn't seem concerned about it.
Ok, once again, Courtney and I are getting a little worried. We are starting to look at our gauges a little more frequent and we are watching the air gauge go down. We are mid way into the yellow and still trying to signal the instructor.
But...before long, we started seeing sand. Lot's of sand. Ok, um at what point did we get turned around and start heading back to the beach? Obviously we were both panicking for nothing and of course our instructor knew what he was doing. We just had no idea ourselves what was going on...other than an air tank that was running low. We thought we were still going out further. I was just envisioning us having to swim at the top of the water, with a heavy air tank on our back, and kick or float all the way back to shore.
Oops, now Kolin sunk to the bottom. Someone rescue him.
I think coming back up into more shallow water is throwing us off a little.
We could now see other snorkelers around us and knew we had to be close to the beach. I can't believe I DID IT! I actually got to scuba dive. Man what an experience.
Off in the distance were some ballyhoo I believe...and of course our "hello we're down here" floating red bag/device.
Luke got our attention and signaled us to grab on to this pole that was sticking out of the sand floor. He signaled for me to give him my camera and he took multiple pictures of all of us together. (Nice finger Luke).
Rock on dude!
Then we turned around and headed back up to the shore. I obviously didn't want to come out of the water because I was still down there and it wasn't deep at all. LOL
Now, I'm also taking this opportunity to discuss more camera talk.
Coki Dive Center also uses the same camera that I do for all their pictures they take of people doing the scuba dive? Well, I didn't identify exactly WHICH model they use, but they said it was the Olympus Tough and he knew how to do the settings and showed me a few tricks as well. So, I guess I just assumed they had the exact same TG4 camera as me. But, for the most part, most of them are about the same with the buttons on the outside.
Now...I spent a big portion of my time prior to the cruise and trying to decide if I wanted to book the Discover Scuba with Coki or if I wanted to go with somewhere else that was mentioned. When I was researching, I found that they had all of their pictures online that they take of people diving. (If anyone read some of my other postings, I believe during our discussion on my Fascination cruise at the end, my concern was that the pictures I was seeing on there didn't really look like there was much coral or that they were actually going all the way out to the reef. Well, this is because the photographer only goes out so far and then turns around and leaves. They are not taking pictures of you out there in the deep with all the coral and such...from what I can tell). Anyhow, the point is, I looked at TONS of these pictures they took of everyone and their scuba dive. I was excited about buying ours.
So, I got home and purchased all of our pictures (once again $35 for as many as you want). But, when I looked at them I was like "Hey, wait a minute, these don't even begin to resemble what I had seen on there before."
So here's a few of their pictures, from our day, of us.
Does anyone notice anything? Like the COLOR? Why are they like this? Did they totally forget to put the setting on underwater? I'm so confused!! (And disappointed).
I'm going to see if I can possibly do anything with them to correct them, but man...I just wasn't expecting this at all after seeing everyone's pictures from before.
I did go on and look at the rest of that days pictures, and they were all good, with the exception of 1 other dive, which turned out green as well.
I purchased 44 green pictures...just saying.
Now one might ask...why did you buy them then? Or didn't you get to see them before purchasing them? Well, the simple answer is...yes, I did see them before purchasing them and the reason I did buy them is because they would be the only pictures that would be captured with me in them (since I have the camera and take all the pictures) and I wanted that memory. It's as simple as that. I have emailed the Dive Shop to let them know my concern and ask exactly what happened, but no response yet. I'm not wanting my money back, I'm just wanting an explanation as to what might have went wrong and to make them aware of the situation (or possibly not putting the camera on the right setting or something) so that they might be a little more careful in the future. These are "memory" pictures and very special pictures to some (it could have been a honeymoon for the other couple...you never know).
We had just come up out of the water and wow, what an amazing experience. Our instructor tells us that they would fill out our scuba books and that we were under there (the deep part) for 37 minutes. Um what? That's it? I didn't believe him at all. I swear it felt like about 1 1/2 hours. All of us agreed that it felt like a really long time. Their website states that you get a 40 minute dive and I kept thinking, that's really not a long time, but I'm here to tell ya, it was a perfect amount of time for our first dive.
We came up out of the water and gravity kicked back in. It was hard to walk with the tanks on and the first thing I locked my eyes on when I came up out of the water was my husband, sitting in a chair, with a cold beer raised to his mouth. LOL I guess he was celebrating making it back to the beach alive.
They signed our books and I'm not sure if I'm supposed to take this book with me on future dives? Do they continue to sign the same book or you get a different each time?
We were to go down to 40 feet and remember how nervous we all were about it and said we really didn't want to go more than 15 feet? Well, we made it down to 37 feet!!! I swear you couldn't even tell or notice it. I did not get nervous once about being down that deep. All that fear for nothing.
For the "Littles" they got a 30 minute dive up to 10 feet. Sakari told me that they went up and down the coral at the edge, I believe is what she was describing to me. This is where we snorkeled last time and there's plenty there to see, only this time she would be under the water and up close and personal. Since their dive didn't last as long as ours, she was already out of the water, equipment off, and had morphed into a mermaid on the beach.
I brought her PADI seal book along with her so that they could sign it for her as another logged dive since she would be missing this months scuba specialty dive at our dive center back home.
She also got a dive certificate for doing the PADI bubblemaker dive to add to her scuba "file".
This would be the end of or Discover Scuba Dive with the Coki Dive Center. It was great...but we still had a little bit of time left at the beach and we decided to make the most of it and do some snorkeling.
Since I knew we didn't have a lot of time left here, with an early departure time on the Epic, I wasn't about to waste any time. I.must.go.back.to.the.water! Honestly, I just can't get enough of the beach and water...even after this tiring dive, I was yearning for more. So...back out I went to snorkel. I got Sakari to come with me. The sun was finally out and shining and I was excited for more pictures...of course.
We were only able to go along the right side of the beach because that is all time permitted.
Oh, one other thing I wanted to mention is that with this fish-eye lens...I kept thinking that water was getting between the camera lens and the fish-eye lens because you could see it and it would rise up or go back and forth between the lens. I knew that the lens is waterproof, so I wasn't too worried, but would sometimes catch that water line going up the lens and have to pause to let it rise so that I could take the picture. However, sometimes I was too quick on the shutter (as you will see in some of the pictures). I did read somewhere (and can't find it now) about some type of fluid being in the lens and it would do this in the water, so I knew it was "ok".
Some of my favorite things to find are the Christmas tree worms. They are so pretty and they come in so many colors. There were a lot of parrot fish there too and very brightly colored.
I didn't even realize that Kendra had followed us out and was behind me. She loves the water too. I've created 2 water monsters.
Since I had spent almost the entire time in the water while we were here, I remembered that I hadn't even had a chance to take pictures of the beach...so I snapped a picture real quick. If you want more pictures of the beach and area, you'll have to look at my previous pictures of our trip to Coki in my other review.
I noticed lockers there, but I have no idea if they actually work or how you go about renting them. They looked a little "worn".
We started to gather our things up because it was 12:15 and our shuttle would be here soon. We had a good day in St Thomas and scuba diving for the first time and I was glad we were able to accomplish this in such a short stop here.
There's an area they have that you can rinse your feet off in by the building and out front.
Our shuttle was waiting for us at 12:30 sharp and we all reluctantly piled in...not wanting this day to be over.
It was a good day and this little refrigerator magnet would be my souvenir to remember what we had done here.
I was so apprehensive about doing this and went back and forth with many people on here assuring me it would be ok.
I'm COMPLETELY satisfied with my decision to go ahead and give it a try. We had a BLAST! After getting over the dry air in the mouth/throat and salt water mouth and controlling my breathing, it was fine. I just needed to get past that and out there with the coral and fish and I completely forgot about it.
I would HIGHLY recommend using Coki Dive Center. They were great from beginning to end. We all gathered a big tip from everyone and presented him with it. (At least I hope it was considered a decent tip) What do people usually tip dive instructors??? If I ever went back to Coki, this is exactly what we would do again. However, you know me, I like to experience new things, so I would probably try out Aqua Action Dive Center at Secret Harbour next time, just for a new experience and place. They are a little more expensive though. SH is $90 pp no matter what age or what program (Bubble makers or Discover). Coki was $85 per adult and $65 for child.
I am kinda sad that we didn't see more "extras" while we were under there. I have seen so many pictures of huge Angelfish, stingrays, turtles, eels, octopus, puffer fish and so on. So many things out there to see and I felt like we basically seen the "normal" fish you see when you are snorkeling. But, the coral was amazing. Of course this is no fault of the dive center...they can't control those type of things.
I'm really sad that my hubby didn't make it out there with us. We both really need to get into shape so that we can do more things. Although I'm very active when cruising, at home, fagetaboutit. I stay busy all the time, just not "active busy".
I have decided that when we cruise, I will definitely be searching for places to do the Discover Scuba Dives. I really loved it. We have not decided on getting certified for several reasons.
So...on to the issues/reasons/problems.
Of course, Sakari would have to do what she did this time and not be able to go out with us due to her age AND her ears. She must learn to clear them or she won't progress with this...whether it be learning about it or just an age thing.
Next...Kolin did not tell me until the other day that his ears were hurting really bad when he went down deep. Obviously he did not equalize them and didn't bother to tell anyone or the instructor. Geesh. So, since he has been home, he says one ear feels like it's blocked and "mumbly" and he bought ear drops the other day and used them and there haven't been anymore complaints from him.
Next...the hubby. Yes, he had a previous ear injury when he was young. Had an ear infection since his teens that he didn't take care of until about 4-5 years ago. I "believe", but can't remember, that the specialist said he didn't have an eardrum? I honestly can't remember and he didn't explain it well. But they cleared up in the infection and constant drainage and he has never had a problem since and they said he was "good to go" and he never returned for anything. So, since this dive, one of his ears has been hurting. If you put drops in them (which contain alcohol) it drops him to his knees in pain and the tears flow. That's how bad it is when he does ear drops. So...he may need to head to the specialist again. He believes if he could just have put ear plugs in, he would have been fine in that ear. However, of course I had read that you can't wear earplugs when diving because then you can't "pop" your ears. His reply is "I don't have an eardrum, so what am I going to pop?" He can do this really weird thing with his ears and if he holds his nose and blows (like you are popping them) then his ears whistle. I believe that's just the perforated/ruptured eardrum, but it seems like his tympanic membrane hole is permanent (which is why the doctor said no eardrum????). He did NOT go down deep and stayed closer to the surface. Will he ever be able to dive if his ear is permanently like this? This is why I'm thinking he may not be able to get certified no matter what.
Me, on the other hand, I never once did anything other than swallow-due to the dry air and salt water, and my ears equalized. I had no issues at all and never once had to hold my nose and blow. I don't think I even realized they were popping the entire time because I was always swallowing from the salty taste. I guess I would be a perfect candidate for scuba then.
There is one thing that I forgot to mention. When we were done with scuba and came back to the beach, I would learn that during Sakari's class, she was biting the regulator so hard that it created a hole. They had to get her a new one. Yikes! I have no idea why she was doing this. She never had any problems before in class. Maybe she thought the harder she bit down the less salty taste getting into her mouth. LOL
So will we ever get certified? Time will tell. It will probably be entirely up to Sakari in the future. I wouldn't want her to get certified and us not be there with her. It was the hubby's dream to get certified (way before Sakari started talking about it) and he honestly might not ever be able to. That would just leave me to be the one to get certified and dive with Sakari, therefore...leaving the hubby behind, which is something I'm not sure we should do. But, we'll see.