People often ask us if we're SCUBA divers and we always say we're happy snorkelling. It's true that we both enjoy floating on the surface, watching the fish and coral going by below us. And we both do a little freediving, Steven particularly. We've been lots of places that offered SCUBA courses, but it always seemed to like too much expense for something neither of us was particularly interested in.
Here at Robinson Crusoe resort, like most resorts in the Pacific, they have a dive shop and this time we paid more attention to their offers of an introductory dive trip. The cost was reasonable, and we knew that the water would be fairly calm and clear here. After discussing it a bit, we decided to go for an intro dive for Steven's birthday.
I was leery, mainly because I am very sensitive to pressure changes in my inner ears. I have a lot of trouble equalizing the pressure in my ears and often have difficulty when flying. Many times I've had blocked ears for over 24 hours after a flight, and I know from freediving that I get pain in my ears when I go more than a metre or two deep. Still, I decided to give it a try.
I didn't have a lot of trouble with the diving gear, though it felt quite odd to be in the water with all that stuff. The main trouble I had, of course, was my ears. It seemed like forever to get down to a reasonable depth as I kept having to surface a little, try to unblock my ears, descend, try to unblock my ears, surface, try to unblock my ears, descend, etc. And the more this went on, since this is the first time I've ever swum with dive gear, I could feel myself start to panic because it feels so weird to breathe.
Clynt, our dive instructor, was very patient and helpful, and after what seemed like an hour got me to let go of the mooring line we were descending on and actually swim around a little. Once I started swimming, the panic all left and I was back to only have to deal with my ears. And once we found a depth to stay at, I was fine.
We dove off the reef near Robinson Crusoe, which was quite decent coral with lots of fish. Among all the other excellent reef fish and corals, I managed to see a hawksbill turtle and a huge sunfish.
After almost 40 minutes down below, we surfaced slowly, and my ears went to town. It doesn't hurt nearly as much when they pressure is relieved, but it feels like tiny popcorn in my head. For the rest of the day, both ears were still blocked and they occasionally hurt. A day later I'm still popping my ears once in a while.
All in all, it was better (ear-wise) than I thought it would be. However, it would be hard to say that it was a huge amount better than a really good snorkelling trip. If I had the opportunity to dive a lot, I'm sure I'd get better at managing my ears, but as it was I spent probably 3/4 of the time futzing with either my ears or the gear and 1/4 of the time looking at the fish. I might be tempted to go again if the price is right, but I don't see myself getting certified and taking up SCUBA as a hobby.
As a side note, Steven doesn't share my inner ear troubles and had a better time of it. Even so, he's happy to snorkel and isn't eager to do more dives, either. Lots of people really dig diving, so our experiences obviously are just one opinion. Overall, I'd say it's worth trying at least once. There is something really cool about just swimming along in the undersea world with ease.