Overcoming a deep felt fear: scuba diving for the first time

Filed under: Things to Do - by Louise Hennessy

Years of living in the Caribbean and never truly have taken the plunge.

Outwardly, we had resisted the idea of getting certified or convinced ourselves that the whole thing was just too costly; the truth was we were plain terrified. It was time…

The perfect option for us, and basically any other non-diver who wants to get a taste of it, was a short dive preceded by a class in shallow water; we opted for a visit to MUSA (the Underwater Museum), nestled in between the shores of Cancun and Isla Mujeres, thus not far at all, and a mere 10 metres/30 ft below the surface. When you say it like that it could sound like a walk in the park for some, but for first timers it can quite easily turn your stomach over at the thought.

Although in our heart of hearts we hoped that it might get cancelled due to weather, we found ourselves seated at a table in front of Valentín, our enthusiastic and insanely patient instructor and guide for the trip, at Punta Este Marina. If you are a novice and want to go with anyone, it would definitely be Valentín, whose response to our mention of nerves was a look of utter surprise and wide smile…why on earth would anybody feel scared doing what he does every day and loves?

Our group consisted of 4 other complete newbies and even a non-swimmer, which we were surprised at, and we all had the same doubts and fears we wanted cleared up before getting our suits on. This all seemed a bit overwhelming to start off with as there was a lot of information that we felt that we might forget, or do something wrong with later on, but at that point the realisation was that there was no way he was going to let us dive until he saw we were ready and able, and we might as well just allow ourselves to be led by the hand.

Our first stop would be a short distance from the area where the lagoon meets the sea, a patch of water described as Valentín’s personal swimming pool, and the ideal spot to get used to our regulators. The captain and his mate fit us up with the cumbersome jacket and tank, before the weird, yet quite easy backward roll into the water, with our regulators and masks held firmly in place.

It was definitely more nerve-wracking for some rather than others. However, with a level head and concentration we were pleasantly surprised not to experience any kind of panic at all. The three exercises included clearing our mask of water, recovering a lost regulator and extracting the water before beginning to breathe from it again, and the golden rule…NEVER STOP BREATHING! This may sound like a brainer, but a couple of our companions shot up to the surface a couple of times after inadvertently holding their breath.

Having surfaced and returned to the boat, Maria Ines (also a certified instructor) summed it up nicely in that we should feel as comfortable breathing underwater as above, and that it should be clear in our mind that everything can be solved underwater, without the necessity to rush to the surface, the big no-no.

It was clear that our instructors had years of experience and oodles of patience, and having seen our reactions and responses underwater they basically knew if we were made of the stuff. This in itself was comforting, as we headed off in the direction of the MUSA to put our training into practice…

A suggestion to keep in mind: although wetsuits are not compulsory when taking the class and visiting the MUSA, we would have felt quite cold without it. If you have one, take it. Otherwise you can hire one at the marina.

Remember that your concierge can help you to organize a diving class and trip at the marina if you fancy facing that fear!

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