Monday, December 13, 2010

Shark Dive

2 days of waiting were well worth the Shark Dive, 2 days of waiting in paradise, I'm quite capable of handling.  Although I must say that the first day of waiting I didn’t get in any dives and I felt a heavy withdrawal from being down in the corral, breathing compressed air and processing nitrogen.  So the second day I got my fix with a fun dive, which is as simple as it sounds, no course involved just diving for fun. 

The next morning I kitted up at “My” dive shop and grabbed a taxi to a larger town called Coxen Hole.  The shark dive was organized through one dive shop on the island.  Although I use the word organized loosely as they really were quite unconcerned about communication, dive safety protocol, and the wants and needs of the divers.  It really made me thankful for the quality of training that I have been fortunate to have found.  I felt confident in my routine of taking care of my own safety in terms of inspecting and setting up my gear and keeping myself safe during the dive.  The dive shop seemed to be focused on selling a video of your dive for $75.  I wasn’t impressed with the outfit but the dive was perhaps one of the most fascinating events of my life. 
The dive boat went out approximately 20 minutes where we got in the water and followed a reference line off of a buoy down to 21 metres below and behind a reef.  Going down we had to fight a strong current and could see a few sharks swimming around below. 

Getting along the wall of the reef put us out of the current and gave as a good place to observe the sharks.  I say us, there were 9 fellow divers plus a dive master and the guy making the film.  I was trying to keep track of all the sharks but they came in and out of view so quickly it was hard to count.  I estimate there were ~ 15 – 20 Caribbean reef sharks ranging in size from 3 – 6 feet in length, 1 black grouper, a Nassau grouper, and a few other little fish around.  I was hoping for some sort of rogue badass shark to make an appearance.  A tiger, bull, or even some hammerheads would of uped the adventure and as I said there were 12 of us so odds were in my favour!  The dive master brought a closed bucket of fish that the sharks clearly knew all about. Whether they could smell the fish or were working on learned behaviour I was not sure, but my guess is that there was a bit of both.  We then got to swim around with the sharks.  The dive master had told us that touching the sharks was forbidden but that is kind of like telling a kid not too touch the stove.  When one of the larger sharks passed over me I had a quick look to see that the dive master was looking the other way and snuck my hand up towards its belly.  It just scooted above my fingertips but then its tail wacked me in the side of
                                                                                    the head, so I was satisfied.

We were then motioned back to the wall and our man opened the bucket.  This was a surreal experience, being all but 10 or 12 metres from a shark feeding frenzy!  Try as I may I couldn’t help keeping myself calm.  My heart was pounding with excitement so hard I thought it was going to scare the sharks away (or bring them around for a closer look).  My heart rate being up, my air was being used quickly and after the feeding, as other divers looked for teeth, I had to sign to the divemaster that I was low on air and he sent me up.  I did my 3 minute safety stop at 5 metres and got back on the boat.

This was my last day on Roatan and I reflected back on my time spent there.  I really enjoyed the place.  The dive shop, Ocean Connections, was such a great outfit and I was really feeling at home there.  They were professional, friendly, and fun.  My instructor Jergen was fantastic in his skills, clarity of instruction and his attention to safety procedures.  The place where I slept, West Bay Bed and Breakfast, was perfect for me; comfortable, clean and affordable.   The beach was fantastic and I will miss getting up early to do my kung fu and have a swim in the ocean.  While I ate a few times at the beautiful seaside resorts, my favourite place was a locals hang out.  It was built under a house on stilts, set way back from the beach in a muddy parking lot. The cement floor was cracked and uneven.  The tables and chairs made of plastic (and provided by Coke).  The roof was just high enough for me to not hit my head on the floor joists of the house above.  The servers spoke no English so I often knew not what I had just ordered.  But you know  I enjoyed eating there more than at any of the high end,    
picture perfect resort restaurants on the beach.  This place wasvery real. Authentico, I believe is the word.

The people of Routan are gentle, laid back and 
friendly.  I was a bit sad leaving the next day on the early ferry but eager to see some jungle.

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