19 Sep Curacao Diving Misadventures
Getting our Padi diving certification is something Micah and I have wanted to do for quite some time. It still has yet to happen, but it will. I am determined to drum up some motivation and get certified one of these days; especially after our amazing experience on a “discovery dive” in Curaçao. Well, amazing except for one…or maybe two minor incidents, but I’ll get to that.
We stayed at a pretty awesome hotel, The Lodge at Kura Hulanda, (read about it here if you haven’t already, for real, it was a pretty awesome place). The beach, Playa Kalki, is located on the property, and right off the shore there is a reef called Alice in Wonderland, which is one of the top spots to dive around the island. This is a great spot for a shore dive–around 100 ft offshore, there is a wall of coral that reaches depths of over 100 ft. The wall is more of a gradual drop off than straight down, but it makes for a great dive spot, especially with the water temperatures averaging about 80 degrees F and visibility usually around 100 ft.
We couldn’t go to one of the best dive islands in the Caribbean and not dive, so we booked a discovery scuba diving course with Go West Diving (Ocean Encounters West at the time). Basically, the course consists of a lesson on land, some skill testing in shallow water and then about 45 minutes of exploration on the reef–our instructor, Amy, taught us the skills we needed to know and took care of setting up our equipment and making sure our gear was operating properly during the dive. We also had the privilege of diving with Arne, from Turtle & Ray Productions–he took photos and video of our dive. I was so excited he came with because I am kind of obsessed with taking photos of absolutely everything, and since we dove about 10 ft deeper than my underwater camera can handle, I didn’t dare bring it with. It is so much fun to have photos and video of such an amazing experience, especially since it was our first dive. Make sure you check out the video at the end of the post–it shows just how beautiful the reef is and how awkward I am in front of a camera!
Amy, our dive instructor was great–she was so much fun and made us both feel very comfortable, even after I inhaled a huge gulp of water and was practically choking to death right before going underwater to practice our skills. After Amy felt comfortable that we could handle going into deeper water, we swam out to the wall and stared in amazement at all the vibrant colors and marine life around us. I was so focused on studying the reef and finding the eels and unique little creatures living in the cracks and crevices, that I didn’t realize how deep we were (oops…thankfully we had an instructor keeping track of that for us).
At one point I looked up and saw just how massive and beautiful the reef is–we were about 45 ft. deep at this point and the wall appeared to reach up forever. But, it was only until turning away from the reef and looking out at the bright blue ocean fading into black with thousands of fish swimming in front of my eyes, that I realized the vastness of the ocean. I know the ocean is obviously huge, but the sheer openness of nothing but blue really puts the size of the ocean into perspective and it makes you realize just how much there is to explore in the world–I was, for lack of a better word, in awe of everything around me. Maybe that was the problem…
One moment I was looking up close at an eel in its little home, the next I accidentally ran into a piece of coral and scraped my knee, and then…I noticed my finger felt a little funny. A little lighter perhaps, and that’s when I realized that I didn’t take my wedding ring off, even though it was no longer on my finger. I didn’t want to look at my hand, perhaps denial would be a better option? No, that wasn’t going to work, so I eventually looked and confirmed that I did, in fact, lose my wedding ring somewhere along a wall of coral that goes to depths of over 100 ft. Great. How am I going to explain this one? Other than I am just plain stupid and forgot to take off a ring that is very valuable to me, before going on an adventure in the ocean.
I signaled to Amy and Micah that I lost my ring, and all I could think was don’t panic…don’t freak out…don’t panic…we are 45 ft underwater, it is not a good place to get frazzled, which is an ever common occurrence for me when I lose something. The problem was that there were so many cracks and crevices that the ring could have fallen into, and to top it off, I had no idea when it actually fell off. So, with little hope, we all set out to look for the ring, and after what felt like an hour of searching but was realistically about 5 minutes, I spotted something shiny laying nicely on a tiny little piece of coral that looked almost like half a clam shell. I reached out for it and almost turned away, thinking “no that can’t be my ring, it looks like a metal bottle top”, but then finally some sense was knocked into me and I realized things appear larger in water. After a second look I determined, IT WAS MY RING!!! I snatched it up so quickly and immediately gave it to Amy for safe keeping. I seriously CANNOT believe how lucky I was to find my ring–I mean, come on, not having a clue where it fell off and being right along a wall of coral, and I still somehow managed to find it–pure miracle right there. It could have fallen down to the bottom of the ocean, landed in a crack or hole, been swallowed by a curious fish, or any number of countless things. Granted we could have run into much worse trouble than loosing my wedding ring, but I am amazed that I actually both lost and found it, deep down in the ocean! After a little celebration dance, we continued our dive and even ended up seeing an octopus–something I have always wanted to see in the wild. At that point and all things considering, I felt as though the dive couldn’t have gone any better and we had such an amazing experience that we would remember forever, and luckily Arne was there to film it.
That is, until we got out of the water, and I noticed my face felt a little strange. You see, I have this teeny tiny little hole in my head. Yes, really. A hole in my head. It’s right next to my ear near my temple and apparently is something that has been there since birth and has never been an issue. But, when the surrounding area of my face was feeling a little swollen, I may have started to freak out a little bit. It literally felt like water snuck into that tiny hole and I had a pouch of water just hanging out under my skin! It was such a weird feeling and I had no idea what had happened–I tried searching all over google, but, not surprisingly, I was unsuccessful at find a serious answer. Think about it; “When diving, can I get water inside my face from a tiny hole in my head?”, yeah, not a strange question at all. Throughout the evening, the right side of my face kept getting larger and larger, and I thought I may have to call a doctor. Maybe I contracted a strange disease? Or maybe my face was actually filled up with water? I kept thinking of all the possibilities as I began to resemble a chipmunk more and more.
After a nice dinner at Sol Food, despite my lingering panic, I finally realized what must have happened. When we got back to the hotel, I tried my mask on again and it was so tight I could barely stretch it over my head. That’s when I remembered I tightened my mask, A LOT, right before going underwater because I always seem to have trouble with my mask leaking. And there was my answer, although I’m still not 100% positive, I’m pretty sure I had mask squeeze!!! I had that sucker so tight I could hardly believe it! After looking at photos of other people’s mask squeeze online, I realized it could have been so much worse!
Anyways, that was our eventful diving experience. Here is a video of our adventure by Turtle & Ray Productions–it’s around 15 minutes long and we kind of look like flailing idiots–apparently we didn’t realize we don’t have to pretend to fly when we are underwater. Around 8 minutes into the video you can see where I give Amy my ring for safe keeping and our little celebration fist bump; around minute 12 you get to see a glimpse of the octopus. Turtle & Ray Productions did a great job documenting our dive and we were so glad Arne came with. Arne and Amy both pointed out so many interesting things that we would have easily missed if they were not along–they were such good company and we were lucky to have them with us. Despite all of our little mishaps, we had so much fun and can’t wait to dive again!