Earlier today eleven members of the Eisenhower Institute’s Environmental Security program took to the ocean for their first real SCUBA adventure! We arrived bright and early to the Pura Vida Dive Center to gear up and were soon off to the Phil Foster Park, an inlet for our first breath under ocean water to gain our open water certification. I do admit I was very nervous, especially after our dive instructors Marc and Finch, warned us about sea urchins, fire worms, puffer fish, sting rays, star gazers, boats, and a slew of other things that could hurt us! We suited up, looking like a bunch of Sea World performers, and were ready for the water!
We started off testing our SCUBA skills such as switching between our snorkels and air tanks for breathing, compass navigation, and establishing neutral buoyancy, and were then able to swim about in the inlet. We had a tough time at the beginning, as we had to swim against the current, which threatened to push us into the boat channel! (It turned out to be a good workout.) We had to steer clear of the multitude of other divers learning to be certified as well! This list included a ten-year-old kid learning to use enriched air, which is much more advanced than the skills our group of college students was learning! (We tried not to be too envious.)
After practicing some simple skills we set off to swim underwater across the inlet. We saw a multitude of creatures that ranged from huge sea stars to sea urchins to puffer fish! It was absolutely incredible! We even came across a sunken ship, which was absolutely crawling with life. The inside and outside portions were covered with multi-colored coral covered with fish of all shapes and sizes!
After a few mishaps, which included some cramping, chills, and being stung by a fire worm, we completed the first portion of our open water certification. However some luck was on our side: The current shifted in our favor, nobody drowned, and the weather improved! After an exhausting, but rewarding few hours we were more than ready for the boat dive tomorrow and even more ready for lunch and a shower!