Monday, April 6, 2015

Elusive Whale Sharks and Divemasters

This is Elise.  I just got back from an all day whale shark diving excursion.  Whale sharks get up to 60 feet long and feed on small particles in the ocean.  They come to feed in the spring around the full moon while the snapper are spawning.  So the spot to see them is about 1 and a half hours out on a fast boat.  The kids weren't allowed to go so Mike and kids stayed at our lovely beach cottage.  So, I am diving without a buddy, but in a group.  I go out with a reputable, professional organization with good reviews.  I am a little apprehensive because it is a "blue water" dive, meaning there is no bottom.  You are in very deep water with no visible bottom.  If you don't see whale sharks then you don't see much at all.  From what the dive master said I though we would all be diving together.  I intending on staying close to them because the dive masters are familiar with the waters and the boat captain usually knows where you will be surfacing.  Everything started out fine.  It is a little disorienting to be in clear deep water and easy to get to 100 feet without realizing it.  I was fine until the divemaster and rest of the group took off.  I thought they must have seen a whale shark and be chasing it.  I followed but somehow soon got left behind.  I felt totally abandoned.  Luckily I wasn't the last person and there were three others behind me.  I got close to them because you aren't supposed to dive without a buddy.  The rest of the group was nowhere in sight.  I am used to the kind of guided dive when they are constantly asking if you are okay and checking your air supply.  No one was watching out for me on this dive.  I could've been at the bottom of the ocean or bobbing at the surface for all anyone knew.  I was scared and angry.  I kept my head and watched my air and depth and realized I was totally on my own.  I followed the snorkelers from our boat thinking the boat should be following them but in reality the snorkelers were following us.  Who is leading this dive?  I don't have a dive computer so I don't know how I am doing with my nitrogen levels.  I am in the middle of the ocean and I don't know where the boat is.  Finally we catch up to the other divers while I am running low on air.  I do a safety stop on my own using my watch.  I surface to a boat in choppy seas and now have to climb a ladder that is bouncing up and down precariously with my tank on.  I swallow some salt water in the process.  Get safely back on board, cussing mad.  I thought I was diving with a group and was left on my own.  Luckily I can take care of myself and didn't  panic.  If I had been a more inexperienced diver there may not have been a happy end to this story.
Nobody saw any whale sharks on the first dive.  I saw the fin of one on the second dive and also had the weird experience of being underneath some dolphins on the second dive.  Some people saw more whale sharks on the second dive but they were very elusive.
We are leaving for Tikal, Guatemala tomorrow morning and we will spend at least two days there.  Then Rio Dulce then Copan, Honduras, then Antigua.
I feel like I am still on a boat.  The room is rocking back and forth.

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