I’ve done a lot of snorkeling and whale watching over the years but, until this week, I had yet to scuba dive in our beautiful Bay of Banderas…and I call myself a “Bucerian!” I’ve always had a nagging desire to know what lies way down beneath these waters, especially around the magnificent Marietta Islands, now an ecological bird sanctuary and coral preserve. It’s been ages since I was dive certified, so I was both nervous and excited when my friend Amy invited me to join her on a full-day, two-tank dive with Oceano Adventures, out of Punta de Mita.
The picture on my dive card is from my honeymoon so, thirty pounds and two kids heavier, I wondered if my body was even up to the challenge. Despite the fact that I lug a three-year-old around—while hauling a packed beach bag on the other arm—I hadn’t tested my ability to carry heavy oxygen tanks, nor navigate underwater currents, in over a decade. Emerging from my new-motherhood cocoon, I knew it was time to get back out there and finally go down under the Bay! Luckily, Amy was in the same boat (literally), and we made a pact to vanquish our diving fears together.
The kind and easygoing demeanor of our Dive Master Jamie Stickney, who spent a patient refresher-hour with us reviewing life-saving safety and recovery skills, alleviated all my anxiety. By the time we had helped each other squeeze our buxom bodies into tight layers of neoprene and clunked around the bottom of a pool, our laughter and mutual encouragement laid the foundation for a day full of trust, humor, and fun.
Three other novice divers joined us on the boat, and after a short, picturesque ride we were all staring at the electric blue feet of the Boobies and the craggy, crabby, caves that make the Marietta Islands so famous. Jamie explained that we were floating above an “underwater mountain range” and my imagination sprang to life, equaled by excitement to finally see all that lies beneath. Descending below the water’s surface can be a daunting experience as your senses are engulfed in new sights, sounds, and sensations. One must push past the initial reflex to stay near the world we know and breathe, to make the ginormous, anti-species, leap in the realm of the gilled. The first thing you notice is how loud it is down there! From echoing boat engines to crackling coral, an underwater symphony clangs to the rhythm of the tides, while your own regulated breathing adds an eerie Darth Vader like cadence.
Once you find your equilibrium, the weightless exploring begins, and I could simply hover and watch a small patch of coral for hours without growing bored. From minuscule Christmas Tree Worms to full-sized Moray Eels and Electric Rays, life under the Mariettas is blooming. The highlight of the day for me was surprising a fat, adult octopus that quickly squeezed his entire body into a tiny crevice and proceeded to stare me down, as if he was studying me right back. The variety of Pufferfish and the size of the Damselfish were impressive, and after eighty minutes of underwater exploration we were out of oxygen but full of visions and memories for a lifetime. Jamie delighted us on the ride back with stories of the giant Manta Ray she dove with two days earlier, and a flotilla of sea turtles the week before. I realized how much I’d missed the rare and privileged view of marine life that diving provides, and felt immensely blessed to have re-discovered my passion for Scuba and my adoration for the millions of creatures populating our bay.
If, like Amy and I, you need a short refresher course and a little nudge to get back into diving, or if you’re a first-time diver looking for a safe and fun experience getting certified, I can’t recommend Jamie Stickney at Oceano Adventures enough. The care, professionalism, and knowledge she infused into the day made all the difference for us, and our boat crew was exceptionally helpful getting equipment on and off the boat, changing our tanks out during the day, taking photos, and keep us all hydrated and safe.
Visit www.oceanoadventures.com to book your dive trip today; I guarantee you won’t be disappointed…you may even run into me back down there.