Readers of this blog will know that my short career as a scuba diver has been less glorious marine brochure and more P.S.A. warning.
It began with four treacherous certification dives in the frigid Southern California winter, and continued immediately with a Vietnamese dive in near zero visibility that saw me separated from the group and forced to practice my just-learned skills immediately. (Now what were they?)
I’m writing now after a pair of dives off Tranquility Bay on the island of Ambergris Caye, Belize, and I’m happy to report: I get it. I totally, totally get it. The appeal of diving, when it’s good, is intensely powerful and wonderful and undeniable.
A chunk of years ago, now-hubby and I had a hankering to go to Belize. But it was the recession and everything was more spare, so we opted for a relatively budget friendlier Hawaii trip. There, he popped the question on a hike in Maui, which is an absolute setup for romance. (Try playing your “We just got engaged!” card for free dessert in Hawaii — then look around and see that every last dude in the restaurant is on bended knee.) Obviously, no complaints about our destination pick for that trip. It was the magical stuff of dreams. (Followed eventually by a Tahitian honeymoon that was like, the stuff of dreams’ dreams. I mean — gulp. Speechless.)
But the idea of Belize remained under our skin, and now that we’re open-water dive certified (which readers of this blog know is a whole other dramatic story), we knew we had to get there, where the diving is supposed to be some of the best in the world.
A short, hourlong flight from Saigon landed us in the southeastern town of Nha Trang for the beach portion of our trip (pause to note I hardly find a trip worth taking if I don’t find a beach on some part of it. You can take the girl out of California, but…)
Quick backgrounder on Nha Trang: it’s a vacation destination populated by tons of international tourists, largely Russian (on account of the communist connection? Not totally sure). It’s also a huge draw for backpackers, and though we are beyond our backpacking years (no, wait, I was born past my backpacking years), it has a fun, youthful, lively energy. You will also find at night a healthy (“”) selection of bars offering “buckets,” basically copious amounts of cheap alcohol designed to inspire bad decisions among 22 year olds for under $1 US.
Also, remember those zillions of motorbikes that threatened our demise in Saigon? Oh man, did Nha Trang also have its share. Cross the street at your peril. Think more Vietnmese Miami than sleepy beach town. Totally alive.
In the week between the first and second weekends of pool and open-water training, I’m working with some new advantages and disadvantages alike.
As for the advantages, the fear of the unknown is somewhat diminished. And I now have a certain faith in the power of the anti-motion-sickness drug, Bonine, plus the knowledge of how and when to take it for maximum effectiveness.
As for the disadvantages, I’ve seen how badly some people fared on the first trip out. I’ve seen a bunch of green faces, borderline hypothermia cases, and even a perforated eardrum.
Hubby decided now — ahead of our trip to Vietnam and Bali — was the time to pull the trigger on the scuba certification we’d been talking about since before our Tahitian honeymoon in 2010.
I resisted a little bit, only because of the significant expense (close to $1,000 for the pair of us), and time commitment: eight hours of online coursework, followed by two weekends of solid training in the classroom, pool, and open water. But far be it for me to deny hubby any bucket list-y item — and I’m always game for an adventure. Plus, if we want to be certified in time for our trip, it’s now or never, with nary a weekend to spare. (We’ve never been interested in getting certified while on vacation because we move around a lot and don’t want to waste precious few days on a short trip on training dives anyway.) So away we go.