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SCUBA in the Sea

SCUBA in the Sea

BY AMANDA STOLL

Divers from around the world are drawn to Grand Cayman because of the great expanse of coral reefs just off the coast. While many visitors to the island experience these underwater sites while snorkeling at the surface, divers prefer to get up close and personal with Grand Cayman’s underwater inhabitants.

Almost two years ago, I took a SCUBA diving class at the rec center on campus. In a place as landlocked and devoid of interesting marine life as Illinois, most of my friends didn’t understand why I wanted to learn to dive.

I had seen a lot of beautiful fish and coral on various trips to Florida and one to the Bahamas, but always from ten or twenty feet away (i.e. snorkeling). Getting my dive certification opened so many possibilities for my next trip to the tropics!

My mom, dad, and I spent this past week visiting my mom’s best friend Jodi, who has been living on Grand Cayman for seven years, and one of the top priorities for the week was finally getting out to dive with Jodi and her sister, who also lives here.

And dive we did! On our first full day here, my dad and I went out diving with Jodi, her sister Kelly, and one of Kelly’s friends from the states, Collette. After getting comfortable with diving again, first in the pool and then into the Caribbean Sea, we saw more marine life than I could have imagined!

Normally, I would never consider touching anything underwater because I don’t know what might hurt me or, more importantly, what I might hurt. For that reason, it is illegal here to bother the marine life; being with Jodi, who dives here all the time, and Kelly and Collette, who are both dive instructors, opened a lot of possibilities to learn about and experience the marine life we were seeing in a safe and harm-free way.

On our first dive, Kelly found an Arrow Crab, picked it right up off the bottom, and handed it to my dad to hold on to (putting it right back where she found it afterwards)! She had an eye for camouflaged and hidden creatures and knew what would react to small disturbances, like feather duster worms that suck themselves back into holes if you get too close! She found a Peacock Flounder that blended in perfectly with the sandy bottom he was hiding on and Long-Spined Urchins that were tucked away inside the coral.

Our second day out, Jodi, Kelly, Collette and I did a drift dive where we started in one place and came up about a half mile down shore. On that dive, we found a sea cucumber, which looks like a big slug. Although Kelly picked it up (and even kissed it!) I really didn’t want to touch it.

At the very end of that dive, Jodi found a West Indian Sea Egg, which is a type of sea urchin. She went and picked it up off the bottom and brought it up for me to hold. Again, being hesitant to touch anything, I reluctantly let her put it in my hand. To my surprise, it wasn’t pointy at all and felt like a stiff Koosh ball! After a few moments, it even began moving around a little bit and felt like tiny suckers tickling my hand!

I’m so glad I was diving with experienced divers from the area. Sure, I am certified to dive and could have just gone out with a certified buddy, but I know almost nothing about the local marine life and would not have gotten the same experience if I had not been diving with Kelly and Jodi. Point being, if you’re dive certified, you’ll have an amazing experience, but if you go out with a dive master who knows their wildlife, you’ll have an interactive experience like no other! Whether you’re certified or not, I recommend Don Foster’s Dive Shop just south of Georgetown; they’re friendly and knowledgeable, and the dive site right off shore is beautiful.

Note: This post was written as if it could appear on National Geographic Traveler’s Travel Blog. http://intelligenttravel.nationalgeographic.com/?source=NavTravBlog

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