Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Day 157: More Water Adventures: Dolphins, Stingrays and Scuba

This part of the trip was a dream come true for Dianna. Ever since she was a little girl, she has wanted to swim with the dolphins. She and I did this together, and Brian scoffed at it; (being a manly guy, he most likely would prefer to swim with the sharks!) He got some pictures of us together with the dolphins which he promises to send me, and we really didn't want to spend $200 for the photos taken by the park personnel!

I took this photo of a stingray at Xcaret. At Xcaret at a nice, safe distance. Unlike at Xel-Ha, the other eco-park we went to. Xel-Ha (shell-ha) is a lagoon along-side the ocean, with tropical fish, and you can either float the length of the lagoon in floats, or snorkel through it, exploring cenotes and caves in the water. I was quite excited coming upon a sting ray, and hovered above it, thinking romanticized thoughts about its cuteness and softness, like the ones at Mall of America that you can pet. It wasn't until later that my smarter children informed me that their under-water hand motions to me weren't "glee" but "What the heck is wrong with you, mom? Get away from that thing, don't you remember how Jeff Corwin died from a stingray?????!!!!!"
oops. At least I didn't touch it.

I don't have a photo for this next part of our trip, and if you don't want to read on, bail out now! I don't want to bore you, but this is also a way for me to preserve some of my memories of this trip. And for me, this was an especially exciting part of the trip. We went scuba diving! Me! Down into the ocean, 40 feet!

Dianna is dive certified, but Brian and I have never done this before. The excursion involved about 1 hour of classroom stuff watching a video, filling out forms. Being the Old One of the group, because I checked "over 45 and family hx of heart problems" (my father), I had to talk to an md on the phone to get permitted to do the dive. This made me extremely nervous. . . . ! Then we practiced in the pool, learned how to signal things under water, like the very important, "I have no air."

Dianna did a dive with another group while we get a crash course in the pool, then Dianna joined us for our ocean dive. Five of us got into the boat with the instructor, put on our equipment, sat on the edge of the boat (backs to the water) and were told that on the count of 3, we all had to fall backwards into the water. If you didn't fall backwards, you had to wait until the boat captain gave you permission to go so you didn't fall on anyone or into the propellers. It all happened so fast and the peer pressure part got me unbelievably moving along with the rest!

But then my mind basically went blank, and thankfully, Dianna coached me on to the next step, which was suppose to be grabbing a rope in the water and literally pulling yourself down the rope to the ocean floor with the rest of the group. I was the last to go. You have to go slow, constantly equalizing the pressure in your ears, and if it hurts too much, you go up slightly to equalize further. But if any of the 5 of us did not continue down, all had to come back up and the dive was over.

So I kept going down, but problem child that I was, I had to keep slightly going up for my ears, and the whole bouyancy thing had me very confused. The life vest has 2 buttons; one button fills it with air, sending you up; one button expels the air, letting the lead weights on your belt help pull you down. But if I didn't use my flipper feet to grab the rope, I'd start floating up, and then my lead weight belt managed to slip down past my hips toward me knees. . . . oh god, oh god!. . threatening to fall on peoples' heads below me. I signaled to the instructor, who tended to problem student here, embarassingly helping me tug the belt back up and tightening it down more firmly. But I still kept floating upward and was struggling to descend, so he added lead weights to my vest.

We were down near the ocean floor for about 20 minutes seeing tropical fish, and swimming among brightly colored schools of fish. But I kept hearing this hissing noise. All of a sudden the instructor was rapidly rounding us up, linking us together in a ring to hold onto each others' vests, and rapidly bringing us up to the surface (but slow enough to keep from endangering us). It turns out that another member of our group had a tank that was rapidly losing all its air! Fortunately, he was wisely checking his gauges frequently; I hadn't even started checking mine yet!

At the surface, we had to climb up a ladder to the boat, and Problem Child here managed to fall off the ladder, bruising my arm from elbow to shoulder. One of those very strong, short, Mexican men, again gave me a hand and helped me get above and over the top rung of the ladder into the boat. I was never so happy to have my feet on something solid as that moment.

I'm really glad I did this, but truthfully, I think it would be much wiser to REALLY get dive certified before doing something like this on a vacation. Too much can go wrong. I felt our instructor was thorough, efficient, serious, and watchful, but I'm thinking that there could easily be situations where a vacation excursion DIDN'T have a completely competent instructor.


Tricia said...

CooL shots, I love the stingray photo.

Chell said...

Great shots. I am loving reading about your adventure. It sounds like the vacation was really a good thing for you in many ways.

Debbi said...

Wow! what an adventure! sounds like you had a terrific time - love hearing all about it. the scuba must have been a blast!

Becky said...

Scuba diving sounds so fun, but I could feel my anxiety level rising just reading about your adventure. I don't get it with stingrays and why some are okay to touch and others will kill you. It's not like they remove the stingers before they plop them in the tank at Sea World, is it? Are they different types? Anyway...
And you can tell your kids it was Steve Irwin, not Jeff Corwin. ;-)

Jeanne said...

Oh my goodness! What an adventure you had on your vacation. I'm not bored in the least. I gasped a few times while reading!!

I admired you before, but now...whoa nelly! You are truly a remarkable woman.

Thanks for the nice comments on my blog. I don't have your gift with writing, but if you get a smidge of inspiration from what I share, that's terrific. :o)

Michelle said...

what awesome pictures! the stingray photo is very cool but i would have been doing the hand motions too! :)

Amy said...

Cool shots, I can't wait to see the ones with you in them too!

Sounds like quite the adventure you had diving. I did this in Hawaii and was the problem child, I hyperventilated so badly that I ran out of air too quickly and we all had to go back up because of me. Why was I nervous you may ask...oh yes, that would be the fish swimming around me scared me!!! Anyway, the instructor put me in the pool the next day and made me practice before he would take me back out and didn't give me a food pouch so that the fish wouldn't get near me. :)

Melissa said...

Sounds like you had an awesome time. I have a real fear of fish so this would be therapy for me :)

Amy said...

Very cool experiences!

Heather said...

Cool excursion - totally outside of your "box", isn't it? That's what I like about you, Angela. :)

BTW, I got a chance to meet Ann (pinewoodtoo) the other day. She and DH were driving through to go to Sitka AK.