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COSTA MAYA: Scuba Diving

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So today, we are going diving!! We have never went diving here in Costa Maya before and due to the lack of snorkeling (from the beach) I never really thought it would be a good place to try out. I have seen other people on the boards say that there's excellent diving here, but we are limited to 40' since we are not certified, which means those people that say there's awesome diving there are probably going further out and deeper. So, I was going in with low standards and hoping to be surprised.

I contacted several dive companies but one stood out to me because the communication was awesome and all of my many questions were answered. This was Pepe Dive. I was reassured that we would be able to see plenty of coral reefs and fish and that it was not all a sandy bottom (as I had been looking at online pictures and video's which showed a lot of sandy bottom). 

They told me that we would be diving at Acuario (which I was told meant Aquarium). Good enough for me. We were going to give it a shot and if it didn't work out, we wouldn't dive in Costa Maya again. But at least we can say that we tried it.

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When we arrived, we were greeted by the owner that I had been talking to by email. She was super nice. They had a few pets and that excited the hubs and Sakari right away. Two large Great Danes. One was old and liked to lay around and the other was young and spunky but an albino and deaf. They kept that one inside most of the time and had to lather it up with sunscreen to keep it from burning. They were super friendly. 

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Our dive instructor was going to be Ivan and he was going to do our class.  We would have one other person with us and he was from Cancun. staying along the Malecon. Then we were ready to go to the beach and practice our skills out in the water in front of the dive shop.

We all headed out and they carried my tank for me.

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We went into the water and they told us to go out as far as we could. The Malecon is a lot different than what it used to be the last time we were here. They now have a fence along the water, I assume to try to keep the sargassum seaweed to a minimum since it has been really bad for awhile. So, the deepest area they had here was right beside the fence and let me tell you it was nothing but sand and very very hard to see because it was all stirred up. 

We did all of our skills even though it was very hard to even see our instructor in front of us. We all passed with flying colors and headed back to the dive shop. There they would load up our equipment and told us that we were walking down a short ways to the boat dock. We had put all of our things away and she told us we might want to take our shoes. However, none of us wanted to and figured we'd be ok walking. If the surface got too hot, we'd walk in the sand along the side. 

I walked along with the guy from Cancun and got to know him a little (boat dock was a little further away than I had originally thought) and he was there vacationing with his family. His wife was pregnant and back at the hotel. They were staying at the Malecon 21. He had 2 other kids and the youngest was 7 years old. He said he had never been diving and wanted to try it out before his son was older to know if he'd be taking him on a dive. 

Our feet were fine on the ground however, we didn't realize that once we went off the Malecon path it would turn into gravel. OUCH! We did the best we could, although the hubby was falling behind quickly. He has sensitive feet. 

We finally made it to the boat and our feet thanked us.

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It was a very short boat ride out to where the dive site was. Now everyone knows I get anxiety at times when I go from a boat. I've had good dives and bad dives because of it. The main issue I have is once I'm in the water I have to prepare myself mentally to take that step to start to go down. I do NOT like to be rushed in this process. 

They immediately told me to go in. "Wait, I would rather have them go first" as I pointed at the family. They looked at me strange and kept telling me to go. Nope, let them go first. I honestly wanted the hubby to go in before me so he could be there with me to reassure me once I got in. But instead they had Sakari go first. They had her go over to the opposite side of the back of the boat and there was a rope from the boat to the water in the way. She kept looking at them like "How am I supposed to do this?" They ended up lifting up the rope and having her go under it to jump off. She said it kinda scared her like she was going to hit the rope or somehow get tied up in it.

Then once again they told me to go. Argh! I didn't know how I was supposed to do this. They had me put the tank on and any weight on my foot still makes it hard on me to walk or stand up or anything...especially on a moving boat. I got up and made my way over to the end of the boat. Then told me to take a step off the edge. We had a girl instructor with us and she was going to be with us as well. The guys on the boat kept telling me to go. I finally went but man they were aggravating me about it and rushing me. 

As soon as I hit the water the waves started taking me toward the boat and the propeller, which was moving and I hit it with my leg. The motor wasn't on, but the water was making it spin and it freaked me out. I tried hard to get away from it and over to the line. I was kicking like crazy and grabbed the line. I was having flashbacks of my terrible experience in Cozumel. I started to panic. I wasn't sure how this dive was going to go at this point. I told the girl instructor how dissatisfied I was with the way they were rushing me and making me go before the hubby. I told her "There's one thing I don't like and that's to be rushed. Don't rush me!" She got the point and once the hubby got in she let me go down the line at my own pace.

We made it down and everything was good and we were off on our dive. 

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I had the Gopro, the hubby had a camera and Sakari had a camera. We were all prepared to get the best shots.

So far, there was a lot of sandy area with some reef in patches, just like I had seen in pictures and videos. 

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We seen a Spotted Trunkfish

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As we went along, we started to see more and more coral and I was pleasantly surprised at this point. It wasn't Roatan for sure, but it was definitely going to be good enough.

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The hubby was doing a good job of taking pictures. He usually stays either far up above the reef or too far away on the side to get decent pictures. However, he manage to pull off some good ones this time around.

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I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised at what it looked like down there. The coral was abundant and it really was pretty. However, there really wasn't a lot of fish or schools of fish or what I consider the "odd" fish (anything other than the damsels, squirrels, wrasse, grunts or yellowtail snappers). I like to see the  groupers, schools of surgeons, triggers, puffers, eels, flounders, big angels and butterflies ....anything you don't normally see just snorkeling. But, it was pretty. I did manage to catch a trunkfish when we first started but the hubby didn't get a picture of it and I did see a four-eyed butterfly fish as well. There was a really pretty yellow and black wrasse and I did see what I think was a smaller spotted grouper at one point scurry into a hole. (All in the video). But most of the fish were juvenile fish and not very big.  There were a lot of smaller parrot fish too.

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We did find some pulsating Xenia's. They are so neat to watch. They open and close over and over and I used to have some in my tank. So mesmerizing.

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Sakari and I were way over here exploring. Yes, you can see that there's a lot of sandy area in between some of the coral reefs, but it was ok, with us.  There was still plenty to see alongside it. Most of the fish we would see would be the black and white Chromis. Man there were a lot of them everywhere.

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At some point the hubby and I switched equipment and I took over the camera and he was in control of the Gopro. He usually does a pretty good job with the Gopro and I wanted to make sure that I got some good pictures close up.  Then at the end, we switched again.

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A conch 

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As you can see, it was pretty colorful down there and that made me happy.

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I did manage to see (I think) a spotted grouper that dashed into a hole as I got closer. I wasn't able to get a photo of it because I had the GoPro and I don't think anyone else seen it because they were ahead of me. Here is a picture that I pulled off the video I took of it going into the hole. 

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Sakari, the real photographer, was very busy getting her close ups of everything and was really putting in some work for me. She does such a good good of capturing everything.

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Does anyone else think this looks like this coral is giving you the bird? LOL

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Schoolmaster Snapper

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Royal Gramma Fish

French Grunt, Schoolmaster Snapper and Mahogany Snapper

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Mutton Snapper

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Finally a Rock Beauty Angelfish was spotted! Something different and exciting.

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Then she spotted a Spotfin Butterflyfish!

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Parrot Fish

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Can you see all the baby fish? (below)

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Christmas tree worms

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Stripped Blenny

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Bluestriped Grunt

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We were coming to the end of our dive and all of a sudden we look up in the distance and see a swarm of fish together. There were A LOT! They were swimming together in circles.  Now I have seen pictures and videos that have been captured of fish doing this and it always amazed me. This time would be our time. We have never seen this before and I was in awe!

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They were getting closer and closer to us! They swam around and around and over top of Sakari

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Sakari and I went to the bottom and planted ourselves so that we could get pictures. It was like sitting down at the movies and something we didn't want to miss! We were watching this fabulous show! Pictures can't describe what it felt like.

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But what were we watching unfold before our eyes? Our eyes were on daddy because he was right in the middle of it all as they circled around him and went back in the direction they came from.

This was a large group of Horse eye Jacks!

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So of course we had to get in the action as well and they went right beside us as well. It was so amazing to see them coming right at you! 

Sakari managed to get some awesome pictures of them passing by us and being right in the middle of it all.

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Daddy captured some great photo's too!

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And of course I got them on the GoPro (you'll see at the end of my video)


Then before long, they moved on and the experience was over and what an experience it was!


So why do fish swim in schools like this and circle you might ask? Well there can be several reasons. 

One is for safety: When they are in groups like this it's meant to confuse predators and they appear bigger. It's hard for a predator to single out an individual fish.  Another reason is for feeding: It can make it easier for some fish to find food when there's more eyes on the lookout.  Another reason could be for breeding: When so many sexes are together, it increases the odds of a successful reproduction. Although it could work the opposite way and may be females gathering together to ward off the males harassing them. 

There's no "leader" of the pack and the fish just all come together following each other. When one turns a certain way, the rest will turn and before long, the entire group has turned.  They not only "see" their neighbors turning, but they can also "feel" them turn. 

Well both of the instructors motioned us to go up. The male instructor was swimming up with the guy from Mexico City and we had the girl. She stopped us all of a sudden and gave a signal for us to just stay in place. She looked at her watch. She looked up. She had me and the hubby hold hands. Um, ok. 

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Meanwhile, the other instructor and diver continued swimming up. I'm looking around above and down and not understanding what is happening. Is she making us wait on the boat to retrieve us?  If so, why are the other two already up on the surface? She can't be making us wait for a passing boat to go by. The other two are already at the surface. Why are we sitting here trying to practice our buoyancy?  My leg was getting tired. I just wanted to go up already. I'm so confused. She just kept in front of us and looking at her watch and telling us to stay. Anxiety honestly started to set in with me and I wasn't liking how I was feeling. I was getting kinda scared not knowing what was going on and why we were being held under while the others continued to the top and were just floating.

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It seriously felt like forever and finally she motioned for us to go up.

We made it to the top and she ask how the dive was. My first reply was "WHY WERE WE JUST FLOATING THERE FOR SO LONG????" She said when divers go diving, on the way up, they have to take a "time out" for 3-5 minutes to do a safety stop. I guess this is done at 15 feet/5 meters. Why has this NEVER happened to us during a dive before? It didn't happen to the other diver that was with the male instructor. Why were we made to do this? My leg was super sore at that time for not trying to rest or float along like when we are actually doing the dive. She told us we did great at keeping our buoyancy for not being certified divers, but still...was this necessary? We know the rules of not going up to quick and what it can do to your body and lungs. We weren't sprinting toward the top. It was a slow ascend. Until the abrupt stop when she grabbed us and had us hold hands. I was just glad to be at the top to inflate our bcd and just float and rest.

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We floated on the top for quite some time. She tried to whistle for the boat to come get us. Were they sleeping on the boat or something? They weren't coming. We all just floated for quite some time before they realized we were up at the surface and needing picked up.

The other guy from Mexico City was so excited about the dive. He obsolutely loved it. I'm sure he'll be trying it again.

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Once on the boat we talked about the school of circling fish. It was the main topic since we've never seen anything like that. The instructor said when we got back to the dive shop, she'd pull out a book to show us the different fish we had seen. I told her we knew what they all were and are pretty knowledgeable about their names (so she didn't show us when we got back. I mean we really didn't see alot of different fish. I could have counted them all on my fingers pretty much). 

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They had wrote our names on all of our equipment before we had checked in at the dive shop. I just had to get a picture of one of them.

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Here's a short video of our dive. I tried to cut it down as much as possible. We were filming the entire time we were down there so it was almost an hour long. 

We walked back to the dive shop, gravel owchie owey time and back onto the hot surface of the Malecon. 

We talked to the owner for awhile after we returned and eventually decided to head down the Malecon to see if any of the places interests us to stop and stay for the rest of the day.

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