SCUBA DIVING WITH CURIOUS 2 DIVE PART 1:
Our first scuba experience, well for the hubby and I, was on our last cruise in November. We went to Coki Beach to do a "Discover Scuba" with the dive shop there and had a blast.
For those that don't know, Sakari is a "scuba diver". She took the classes and got certified as a PADI Seal diver and on the team. She has been snorkeling and swimming in the ocean since 3 years old and her love for the ocean is just amazing. The amount of animals and creatures names she knows just amaze me. Last August, when snorkeling, in St Lucia at the Pitons, she all of a sudden decided that "I want to scuba dive!". I had no clue a child could do this. So, when we returned home, we called the local dive shop and found out that, if you are 8 years old, you can take dive lessons....and so she did. She dives monthly now with a different experience/lesson and loves it. However, her dive instructor quit this year (got an upgraded job and we are happy for him) and they were left without an instructor. She was having withdrawal. She could not wait to dive in the ocean....and dive she would! Here in Curacao!
I immediately started researching dive places. I found that most people on the cruise boards can only suggest dive places for those certified for open water. Then those that could suggest dive shops that did Discover Scuba were suggested...BUT, it was really hard to find that shop that did DSD AND a PADI class or bubblemaker for Sakari. That is where the problem lies. I contacted several.
I'm listing all the info I have on these places, just in case anyone ever needs it and is in my situation.
1) Atlantis Diving: I wasn't getting a response and had to email several times. They would do a DSD and bubblemaker class. Cost was $83 per adult and $114 for child. They would dive the Tugboat. Sakari could go down 6' and stay with her instructor, but would still be able to see the tugboat from above. The dive was for 45 minutes or shorter with the total session lasting 2.5 hours total.
2) Dive Bus: Super quick reply to let me know they rec'd my email and would be responding. Nice explanation and good communication. Cost is $110 per adult. They did NOT offer a bubblemaker for Sakari or anything for a child under 10 years old. They dive a Pierbaai Reef across the street from their place and is 3 hours long.
3) Ocean Encounters: This happens to be a place her dive instructor suggested and said they use when in Curacao. I told them about her being a PADI Seal and us completing 1 DSD in November. They did NOT offer a bubblemaker class and you needed to be 10 years old for that, BUT did tell me that since she has already had quite some diving AND we would be with her, they would allow her to do the dive. Wait what??? Then they also tried to offer us to do an Animal Encounter dive, which included diving and seeing turtles, nurse and lemon sharks...all behind a window that you could feed them. The cost would be $99/pp. That just didn't really seem like a "dive" experience to me if we are just diving down and viewing them behind a glass wall and I still couldn't get over the "she can dive with you" part.
4) Scuba Lodge: Price $95, dive at Marie Pampoen, Boca Simon or House Reef. Plus $10 pp fee for transportation and 3.5 hours total. When explaining what I was looking for, our experience, her age and so on...I guess I shouldn't have mentioned the word "Aquamission". I only explained that she is already certified and does a different aquamission, here at home, each month. They ran with it...and ran hard...to the point it got very frustrating. They started asking questions about which aquamissions she had done and which she hadn't. At first I thought they were going to put together an aquamission for her to do as her bubblemaker. At this point, if she's going to be scuba diving in Curacao, then the perfect aquamission there would be "creature identification" or the photography mission. After a lot of back and forth...I'm told "we can only do an aquamission in the pool". Um what? I don't want her in a pool. She can do that here. We are coming to the Caribbean for the ocean! Ok, so nix that idea. Forget about the aquamission. I'm sorry I ever mentioned it or wasted so much time on it. Then all of a sudden when I said we are only interested in the ocean, they could ONLY do the pool and an aquamission and was then informed there was not enough time to do DSD AND the aquamission. Um...what do you expect me to do with my kid? We are only doing it because of her. It's her passion! Ugh It was very frustrating and I gave up.
5) Bas Harts: Came highly recommended and they offered 2 dives, which included transportation, diving at Shon-Mosa and No-Name. Both calm sites, $139/pp for DSD or bubblemaker. Confirmation no deeper than 6' for Sakari. So...after getting all my answers from this place and all of the others, the last email from them stated "If you like to book please send....Height, weight, shoe size, name of ship, docking times/date". Ok, so...I decided to go with another due to time in port and cost and our first time there (as much as I wanted to try out 2 different dive sites). TWO MONTHS LATER...I get somewhat of a rude email (in my eyes) that was just totally weird to me and I've never had someone do this..."I guess your booked with Hans and are no longer interested in diving with us. Thanks for letting us know" Wow...that was a little shocker. I'm not a confrontational type of person...unless you really strike a nerve and this did with me. I decided to email back, in short, letting them know I contacted a lot of companies asking questions and gathering information based on our needs to determine the best fit for our family. I also reminded him that his last email said "if you'd like to book"...along with I didn't expect a company to assume I would tell them either way...booking or not. I mean after all, none of the other companies requested that. Obviously he must know who I am or something...how else would he have known I booked with someone else, and who it was, other than to read the boards here. I would have definitely used him on our return...but I also found this whole email rude...and I decided to tell him that as well. His reply was that they fill up quickly...I mean come on, it's been 2 months. I know you are not holding a spot for someone that didn't actually book right? Just know if you ask a question with him, and decide to book with someone else...ya just better give him a "no" as an answer...unless I was just lucky and got picked on for some reason. I'm just not sure.
If anyone has any thoughts on this...please feel free to let me know. I really would like to use this guy in the future. I know he comes highly suggested and many have done dives with him. Maybe we got off on the wrong foot. Maybe I took it the wrong way. Maybe he just struck a bad nerve. I don't know. I just found it rude, but I don't know him as others around here might.
6) There were actually 2 other companies I contacted. One with no response and another that...well, after looking at their website, it just didn't seem very professional to me...and I have no idea what their names were because I decided immediately not to use them.
7) Hans Pleij with Curious 2 Dive. Instant communication and all questions answered quickly and professionally by Hans. Bubblemakers was not a problem. Price was $88pp and a total of 4 hours. This includes transportation. Diving will be at the Tugboat, a drop off wall and a pier. Bubblemaker could be combined with our class and the introduction dive in the shallow water. We could stay with Sakari during the shallow dive at 6' or we could continue deeper with the divemaster to 40'. A little over a month later, I decided to book with them. I had also heard excellent things about Hans. I also was told that "if anyone could find a seahorse, it's Hans" and that is on my bucket list and I'm told this place is THE place for seahorses.
So, we booked and were super excited about this dive. I was glad it was saved for the last port. Let's go out with a BANG!
Sorry for the long drawn out explanation on this. I just felt it needed to be told for future use and hopefully it might help someone else looking for information.
.....on with our day...
After getting off the ship 1/2 hour late, it put a little stress in my step and I had really hoped that they were still waiting on us.
Our instructions said to exit the terminal and look for someone wearing a yellow tee shirt saying Curious2Dive on it. That should be easy enough.
Off we went.
As soon as we made it out of the port...I found this...this is Roel...but you can call him Ro.
Well obviously this was not a yellow shirt, but I surely couldn't miss the sign. The only thing that would have made it more obvious was to put some fins on him and a mask.
We walked across the street and got in the "company truck". I couldn't help but take another picture of my name in lights...well not lights, but chalk. I'm famous! Well, not famous but just them trying to find me. A girl can dream right?
Off we went to their "office".
And off I go on a picture spree along the way of anything that happened to catch my eye.
We were pulling into the "office" area. It took us exactly 24 minutes to arrive. Hmm, I'd have to say that I would love to call this my office any day. This place was really cute. All the little house/huts lined up on the water with bridges over to it and walkways.
We went to a little hut across from the "office" and I guess this is where they would conduct class.
Sakari started exploring too...and taking pictures. She had her eye on the conch shells...I could definitely tell that. She kept bringing some too me saying "Isn't this so beautiful"...you know, like a kid in a candy store throwing you a hint...only this is her kind of candy store.
Ro immediately brought out the paperwork.
He ask us our "sizes"...don't men know to never ask a girl her size (or weight). My answer has been and always will be "jumbo" no matter what size I am (and even when I was smaller)...it's just my "word".
While he was in the office, now playing a guessing game and gathering various sizes of wet suits...we were busy filling out the paperwork.
Once I was done, I kept hearing sounds in the water. I felt like someone was playing a prank on us and kept secretly throwing something in the water to make a big splash. Well, actually it didn't sound like a splash, but more like a bolder was just thrown in.
Sakari ask him if they had any pets...because animals is all that matters in life. His answer was "We have a few pet barracuda's." LOL
She would adventure off to find her own pets...and she accomplished that task.
I figured it was the perfect opportunity to get a few scuba girl pictures while I could. I would attempt of getting her with the Curious2Dive sign in the background.
Ro brought back the wet suits for us to try on and man was that an experience for me. I have never had a wet suit on before and I have come to the conclusion that I need a new bathing suit. My current bathing suit has a skirt on it and well let's just say...it doesn't "tuck" well and is very uncomfortable.
The hubby had to up-size his because of his "cruise belly", which meant that the bottom, around the legs, didn't fit well and eventually allowed water in.
Sakari is used to wearing them, since she wears a wet suit at every scuba class. However, she's never had a short one on and this would be the one time I wished she had a long wet suit.
We finished filling out our forms and Ro went over them. He never ask for our medical forms, so I volunteered them. I thought that was strange, since we had a "yes" on them. Then I also decided to present our log books and Sakari's PADI Seal log book, her dive card and other certificate showing her last ocean water dive from St Thomas. He said "oh cool...that's great". I still thought it was strange that he didn't request any of this and maybe they are a little more relaxed in Curacao? I know that St Thomas was on that and requesting everything to be in order.
There were some really interesting birds flying over us and they reminded me of the Bermuda birds with the long tails. Sakari swore they were albatross birds and the males had the red "blob" on the front of them. After looking it up, I think they were Makuaku birds.
After everything was in order and the truck was filled with all of our equipment, they locked up our things in the shop and we headed out at 10:31am. Off to the Tug Boat we went.
It was an interesting ride and felt like it was "off the beaten" path at times.
We arrived at 10:36, so it was a 5 minute ride to the Tug Boat.
We piled out and he told us to get suited up. Yikes! I have to walk with this thing? All the way over there? Well, I did it once before in St Thomas, I guess I'll attempt it again...but the distance was a little greater this time. Of course Sakari doesn't have to walk with hers and Ro carried it for her. Lucky girl! Oh to be little again.
The little area there was kind of neat. They had a few small building/huts there and it looked like you could get food and drinks if needed. There was a beach...if you want to call it that. It was nothing but rocks and shells, but there were people that had some lounge chairs on it and laying out.
The hubby was making this walk look so simple.
I like that we now have 3 camera's and (although I hate having my picture taken) he's at least able to get a few of me showing that I was there. I'm not in pictures often because I'm always the one behind the camera. Notice I'm styling a new pair of shoes? I wear a size 8 1/2, but these were an 8. I really wish that I would have sized up at this point. I also was really wishing I had cut my toenails down some too. They were hurting a little bit. I always take my dive socks with me when snorkeling and at first I had them on. But they just made everything too tight. So, I got rid of those and just wore the uncomfortable shoes. Well...I should say boots.
Ro was running a little behind us, carrying everything, and we got to an area where there were steps to go down onto the beach. This tank and equipment was heavy, so I decided to sit down on the steps and rest, I mean wait for him to catch up... only to find out that I couldn't get back up. I was stuck. It was like something was holding me down. Oh yea, that would be the heavy tank. The hubby laughed as I struggled and I was cracking up, while looking around me to see who all was witnessing this. About that time, the hubby grabbed my arm to get me up and Ro was coming and thinking I fell on the steps. I assured him I was ok and only having a fluffy person difficult moment. Man I need to get in shape!
We headed into the water and I was relieved to relieve some of the weight on my back. It was super rocky and a little hard to maneuver in the water. It was also a little wavy and some how I had to try to get my fins on...over my boots. What an experience it was. Of course I couldn't tell if they were on and I also couldn't tell how tight they were because you can't feel anything due to the boots. I wasn't sure if I liked this. Ro went down and tried to fix them and told me I was welcome to take them off if I wanted. For some reason I elected not to...I knew that those rocks would not be too comfortable to be standing on.
I looked under water to get my first glimpse of anything under there.
Curious 2 Dive also takes their camera with them and Ro would take this picture of us prior to going under.
They take pictures of you during the dive, and this is all free of charge, and they email them to you. I thought that was a nice touch! St Thomas made you buy the pictures they took.
Now just to give you an idea of the 4 photographers on site today (me, hubs, Sakari, and Mo). This is how many pictures were taken total:
Me "the picture freak"-497 pictures
So, if that gives you any indication of just how many pictures you are about to see..(no I don't share them all, that would be impossible and as always, they aren't all National Geographic shots of course). I did make the hubby his own stamp to indicate which pictures he took an I had to pull a logo from the internet for Curious2Dive to indicate which they took. Of course they don't copyright stamp theirs, this is my doing so that they get credit on here for what they did.
Now...another thing. We (our family) did have some issues that day with the pictures. ALL of us! The hubby normally doesn't have a camera, he's excused. Sakari is "new" with the camera and has only got to practice around the house and at scuba class. She hasn't learned the settings yet and I usually have to put it on the right setting. Me however...no excuse for me to screw up. But I did. I managed to lose my mind a few times and completely forget some of the settings and I ended up with some wacky green photos at times.
Here's the thing...I'm so used to the 620 and 830 camera and my new TG 4 does the same thing BUT the settings are different and I totally forgot. On the other cameras, you have to scroll the settings (within the settings) to put it on the macro function. On my new camera, you just twist the setting rotation wheel. There are several underwater settings (regular, wide angle, fast motion AND A MACRO SETTING). However, there is also a regular macro setting for above water, which I had been using A LOT this cruise...and I totally forgot this is NOT the setting you use for macro under water...and my pictures would suffer from it. With the settings on the wheel, sometimes you can easily hit the wheel with your hand and it changes the settings and you end up with wacky pictures. I get so excited when I'm under water and looking at everything that I forget to check my settings often. I will document things along the way as I post the pictures.
Now for the most part, most pictures were just ran with my action on PS, which sharpens for web and maybe lightened a little. The deeper you go underwater, the less clear the pictures become darker (unless you are close up) and they become bluer.
So, off we went under and ready to explore.
Ok, so let's get a few things cleared up before we start this adventure. I LOVE the ocean...we go to the beach every port we can. I love to snorkel and watching this beautiful underwater world, that is so different than we experience above water, it's amazing. There's so much to see under there and everyone should experience it.
However, I've been a snorkeler for many years. I'm new to scuba diving. I don't have experience, but I'm trying to learn...slowly. The only time we will ever get to do this is on vacation/cruising. I'm doing this because the love of my daughter for the underwater world and her love that she has created for scuba is unreal. I'm also doing it because it's a new experience that I want to share with her and it's amazing. But, once again, I'm new to this.
I do go to class with her and watch everything she learns in class and in the water. I've learned most of the equipment and signals and everything from her class. I've only did Discover Scuba once. This is my second time. We enjoyed our first time, but I had a bit of anxiety the first time learning to breathe underwater and the mixture of salt water and air in your mouth is what gave me the anxiety. It does take awhile to get used to it. But once I get used to it, I'm good. I just need to work my way up to it and then I don't think about it anymore and I enjoy the experience.
But this time, this time would be a little different for me. I think it was a combination of several things. This would also be different for the hubby. He was unable to go all the way last time because the current was so bad and he wore out AND his "no eardrum" problems and they had him pinching the nose to "clear his ears". He can't "clear his ears" because there's nothing to clear. If he tries to clear them, it allows water in and then he's in terrible pain for a long time and usually has an ear infection needing meds. So...this time around, I did a little research and also spoke to Sakari's dive instructor about the situation. We found some ear plugs (and was also going to get him one of those diving mask that has the covered ears on it that is supposed to "help" you clear you ears, but in his case it would keep the water out...but we ran out of time and figured he'd just try the plugs for this time and if it didn't work, we'd stop). Well, I'm happy to say they worked and he had an amazing experience and was able to do everything we did, so now he knows what he has to do.
Also, last time the dive shop gave us the solution to keep the mask from fogging. This place did not have anything (and even though I have made up my own solution to take with me snorkeling, I did not bring it to this dive location figuring that they would have it as most shops do). We were told to spit in the mask (which I know most do)...but guess what...I HAD NO SPIT! My mouth was so dry and I just couldn't produce any. It made for a very difficult and foggy dive for me!
It takes me awhile to get used to this breathing (as I said before) and for some reason, we didn't go over anything once we were in the water. There was no practicing the equipment (like clearing the mask or removing the regulator or throwing it over your shoulder and retrieving it) and I know how to do all of this without a problem and I feel comfortable with it. But I also know in an emergency situation, although knowing how to do it and actually not freaking out about it and doing it would probably go another way. It takes practice. BUT ALSO...doing that gives me time to actually get myself in the right frame of mind and to get used to everything, especially the breathing. We did not get that this time. We immediately headed out. That was an issue I believe...at least for me.
Sakari couldn't wait to get going of course.
Also, when we dove in St Thomas, we were told never touch the inflator hose to make our BCD go up or down (this is the "vest" you have on). They regulated everything for you. At this place, they let you do it all. I only know that in order to release the air when you hit the button, you have to raise your arm up for it to work, because of watching Sakari do it and learn about it at class. Otherwise, I would have never been able to figure it out.
I was having issues going down despite having it up above my head. Immediately my mask started fogging. I came up to the surface to try to spit again with not much luck. I started having to clear my mask underwater (which is no problem at all), but it would just continue to fog over and over. I kept floating up, I couldn't go down. Mask fogging. I floated up, mask fog. Rinse and repeat. Oh MY GOODNESS! I was getting frustrated, anxiety was starting and I ended up going to the surface. The instructor came up and ask what the problem was. I told him about the mask, I told him about not being able to get down, I told him to "set me" so that I could get down. He adjusted my weights and also told me that we would do this our-self. I told him that the last place would not let us touch it. I just wasn't sure if I was going to be able to do this. I had already freaked myself out. I felt like I wanted to panic but held it together. He let me gain my composure and then when I was ready I said so. He ask if I wanted to hold his hand for awhile when we were under and until I felt comfortable. I told him I would be alright and we tried again. It worked better this time and I was back to normal.
I knew once I got down there and started seeing the beauty of things, I would completely be fine and wouldn't even be thinking about it anymore (my breathing, the air, my feet hurting, the weights and so on).
Another issue I didn't mention was when we arrived at the dive site, there was a huge barge or something right in front of us. It had a crane or erector on it and they were working in the water. Ro said it had never been there before and didn't know what was going on. He said we would just have to swim around it. To me, it was kinda scary in that area and he assured me that they had a guy that was specifically assigned on that barge to watch the scuba divers and instruct those on the barge where we were. Well there's always human error and that's all I could think about. Ro also assured me that they could see us because of our floating flag. Still...there were the sounds. Oh my gosh the loud sounds of them working under there. Super spooky to me.
Sakari just took to this like it was nothing of course. She was busy snapping pictures of everything and I have to say she got quite a few good ones. In the past, she has had a few issues clearing her ears. They seem to get better with each dive or class. Her last class, she was only having an issue with one ear. This time, she did it!!!! I was so proud of her. She knows that if she can't get it to clear, she comes up a little and tries again. After clearing them this time, she would stay near the bottom almost the entire time. She is fearless I tell ya.
So off we went...
Both the hubby and Sakari struck an interest in some old tires down there.
There were so many Christmas Tree worms (also known as feather dusters) and so many different colors. These are my favorites!
The coral was absolutley amazing and so much of it.
It's funny how I noticed that in a lot of my pictures, Sakari is always facing or going in a different direction than the rest of us. She needs to work on being a little more aware of her surroundings and the people around her. Not saying that's what was happening in this picture, just that there were 2 instances that she wasn't paying attention and Ro had to use his "clicker" to get her attention to come back. She's like me and gets so excited, but the difference it, I don't run off and always know where I'm am and everyone else as well.
Now we have already had a talk about her putting her feet down (after returning home and that day) and how this can damage coral or the reef, even if it looks like it's only rocks. She did mention, after we returned home and I seen some of the pictures, that she was having a few issues with staying "off" the bottom and couldn't go up. We went over our breathing and how breathing in will inflate the lungs and carry us up and positioning ourselves upward from the front would also help when kicking. We will have this talk about touching the bottom again on the next trip prior to us going under again.
So...obviously something went wrong here and I must have hit the rotating button to off of "underwater"
This was actually the area where they were working on something from the barge. Once again, somehow my setting got messed up.
I must have noticed my settings at this point...but notice somehow I obtained a smear mark on the lens...which would remain on the lens during the dive. I have no idea how this happened.
Just wondering, do you think this is in 6' water??? (Just to let you know...I'm not floating at the top either).
As we came around this area, there was a bend and this huge rock stuck out above the water. It was pretty dark in this area and Sakari managed to capture all the fish in the area swimming around it...something I was unable to do when I tried.
I think this was actually the area where they were working on something from the barge. Once again, somehow my setting got messed up.
Up next is a hodgepodge of pictures from good to bad to I don't have a clue what was happening with the coloring. Oops
Sakari, what the heck are you doing? She's going in...lol
Ok, so look at this picture...do you notice Sakari's wrist? There's no camera on it. Well, she decided she wanted a selfie using her camera, took her camera off and handed it to her dad to take the picture. I did not see this going on because I was too busy clearing my mask and exploring. But, she didn't put the camera back on for awhile and I noticed it at a later point and freaked out because she was just carrying it...which is a good way to drop it and lose it. Especially in one of the areas I seen her without the strap around her wrist.
So some time around this point I discovered that Sakari was still holding her camera and didn't have it around her wrist. We were getting deeper and deeper and now on a decline. I flailed my arms around, cleared my throat...no wait, cleared my hands, and all previous scuba hand signals were thrown out the window at this point and I made up my own! Trust me, she got the point of what I was implying...you know that "mom" look you give your child and they know they better straighten up when you're in public? Well this was the "put that da** camera on your wrist and keep it there" look. It looks like Ro captured her putting it back on.
Just exploring more and more. I was beginning to think that we had really been gone for a long time. It seemed like we were really far down from the starting point. It made me wonder at what point were we going to turn back. I knew in the back of my mind that the distance that we had come was the distance we would have to go back. Not that I'm not enjoying this, it's that I had to all of a sudden go potty. Yikes.
Then comes this area...pitter patter pitter patter my heart went.
I don't know if this was considered the "drop off" and that last bit was the wall or what, but when I seen it...my heart skipped a beat and my anxiety kicked in. I don't know what it is about drop offs, but they scare the living crap out of me. That dark blue and not being able to tell what is down there just freaks me out. Maybe watching too much Nemo scarred me for life...lol
All I know is that Sakari has no fear. None what-so-ever. But she definitely put the fear of life in me at this point. She went deeper and deeper and I thought I was going to have a heart attack.
Oh ok, she's just going to the rock/coral sticking out. It's going to be alright...she'll stop and come back. But I don't know...she's really looking out there into the deep blue...
Ok, she did find something and I'm relieved.
Then at one point she went out...with nothing below her...no end in sight and it just looked like she was suspended in mid air...wait ocean. I seen exactly what she was going after...I knew when I seen it that she was going to go for it. I'm looking at her...I'm looking at Ro, he's looking at her...my head went back and forth...Sakari-Ro-Sakari-Ro...If there was ever a time that I wished I had a voice...it was now. I just wanted to scream...GET HER! Don't you see how far out she is and how deep? Signal her to come back! I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs to tell Sakari to come back!