CategoriesAdventuresTravel

Find Adventure at a Cenote Dive Site

cenote dive site
English: Cenote Ik Kil, near Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The SCUBA diving experts at the Professional Association of Diving Instructors have opened me up to the many adventures in their sport. Encountering underwater wildlife and examining shipwrecks could definitely lure someone into SCUBA diving.

But I started thinking about some of the reasons I like hiking; one of the main reasons I hike is to see cool geological sites. Volcanoes, towering cliffs, caves, that sort of thing. I asked my PADI friends what sort of geological oddities I could find underwater.

The PADI crew tells me the cenotes – or sinkholes – in Mexico might be the best bet. There are cenotes all around the world, from Australia to Canada to Zimbabwe. The famous The Great Blue Hole dive site in Belize is one example.

cenote dive site
Swimmers in cenote, Yucatan, Mexico. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But let’s talk about the cenote dive sites in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. They’re packed with stalagmites and stalactites, two of the features I like best in dry-land caves. These are some incredible caves. It sounds like you have thousands to pick from in the Yucatan thanks to a lot of limestone. You can narrow the search for a great cenote dive site by consulting a PADI dive centers near Playa del Carmen: Pro Dive Mexico, Scuba Playa and Dressel Divers can all help you find a great cenote dive site. If you really want a long-lasting adventure, find out which ones connect to larger, horizontal underwater cave systems (some cenotes are connected, and can extend 300 feet under the water table).

Cenote unterirdisch
Cenote underwater (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Something else cool about cenotes in Mexico: They have their place in the mythology of indigenous people. In the Maya culture, some cenotes like the Sacred Cenote of Chichen Itza were considered a gateway to the afterlife. So you may catch a glimpse of artifacts or human remains!

I’m still on a quest for more interesting underwater geological sites. I imagine that any underwater volcanic activity is probably too deep and otherwise dangerous for SCUBA divers to approach (but correct me if I’m wrong). And I’d love to know of submerged meteor impact craters, fissures -- just about anything. Chime in with anything you know about, and I’ll collect your info for a future post! In the meantime, here’s a fun blog post about cenotes in the Yucatan. It also has some good photos.

Thanks as always to my friends at PADI for the great information.

 

CategoriesAdventures

Check Out Halloween-Themed SCUBA Events

Halloween-themed SCUBA
Photos of some Halloween-themed SCUBA fun (courtesy of PADI).

Just about a year ago, I had no idea that there were any Halloween-themed SCUBA activities. My friends at the Professional Association of Diving Instructors set me straight.

And for a second year in a row, PADI has clued me in to some great Halloween-themed SCUBA events. First up, we have a course to get certified as a Zombie Apocalypse Diver. Police Officer Woody Tinslow, who is also a part-time employee as a dive instructor at New England Ski & Scuba, devised the course. The curriculum for the course covers SCUBA diving basics along with zombie biology and history, and survival, search and recovery skills. Now, I’m not sure if Woody adheres to the Max Brooks "Zombie Survival Guide" for his information on zombie biology and history. But if he’s taken his own approach, it’ll be interesting to see his spin on a cultural meme with no sign of slowing down.

“Um, does anyone else feel something chowing on their legs?”(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Next up, we have a nationwide Halloween-themed SCUBA event that follows one of my personal rules: If something is hard on dry land, do it underwater to make it even harder. That’s right, an underwater pumpkin-carving contest.

This takes me right out of contention since my favorite jack-o-lantern carving tool is a Dremel (you should see the pumpkin guts fly when I go to town). Check out your local PADI dive centers to see if you can join the fun. Let’s not forget that pumpkins are buoyant, so you’d better have a plan for keeping that gourd from floating away. Bermuda Triangle, a brilliantly named PADI dive center in Greenville, SC, is just one of many places where SCUBA fans did some underwater carving. Bermuda Triangle’s event happened yesterday, but watch for others in the coming days.

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CategoriesAdventures

In Honor of April Fool’s Day – SCUBA Mythbusting

whale shark, SCUBA, PADI
Don’t let myths about SCUBA deprive you of the chance to swim with a whale shark. (Image courtesy of PADI)

If you’re a regular reader, you know that I don’t go much for holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’m a Halloween sort of guy -- and I dig April Fool’s Day. I have a friend whose mother can barely speak to me without snarling nearly 10 years after a prank I helped pull on her (let’s say it involves my best police sergeant phone voice and a story about him misbehaving in some very bad ways).

You can imagine that I spend most of my April Fool’s time trying to -- well, fool people. But this time, I’m on the side of good: I’m going to help my friends at the Professional Association of Diving Instructors set the record straight about some misconceptions about SCUBA diving. Get ready for some surprises! My commentary on PADI’s info is in italics.

You know what's not a myth about SCUBA diving? That it's really pretty darn cool. (Photo courtesy of PADI)
You know what’s not a myth about SCUBA diving? That it’s really pretty darn cool. (Photo courtesy of PADI)

MYTH #1: I don’t live near the ocean, so I can’t dive.

Nope! With more than 6,100 PADI dive centers around the world, you can literally begin your diver’s certification anywhere. Diving courses can be found at your local sports and recreational center, or in less traditional locations like exotic hot springs and lakes. Visit PADI.com to locate the nearest dive center.

And be sure to check my Yahoo! story about beginner dive sites. It has some non-ocean locations like quarries and rivers.

MYTH #2: If I dive, I’ll likely run into a shark or other dangerous underwater creature!

Scuba Diving in depths of the ocean
Scuba Diving in depths of the ocean (Photo credit: Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Maybe you’ve been watching too much Shark Week. In reality, the odds of having a deadly shark encounter is just 1 in 251,800,000, you’re actually 12 times more likely to be killed by a vending machine than shark! Many underwater animals that seem intimidating, such as the school bus-sized whale shark, are virtually harmless and enjoy human interaction.

Those are some low odds. People tend to worry too much – think of all those “afraid to fly” people you know, and how willing they are to drive at 85 mph in a school zone while texting and making themselves a cappuccino with their portable espresso machine. Makes fretting about SCUBA diving seem a bit silly, no? And watch out next time you go for a bottle of soda in the break room!

MYTH #3: Women with breast implants can’t scuba dive.

Never fear! If you’re worried that increased underwater pressure will cause damage to silicone- or saline-filled implants, you have nothing to worry about. A recent study found that diving caused an insignificant increase in bubbles ― nothing that will damage the implant or surround tissue.

Well, I guess that means most of the female population of the north half of my home city of Scottsdale is good to go. Um, what about collagen? (NOTE: PADI supplied the images for this story – none of which included breast implants.)

MYTH #4: Snorkeling is just as good as scuba diving.

Why stay on the surface when you can experience a whole new underwater world? Fully immersing yourself in scuba diving allows you to experience the wonder of breathing underwater, and explore amazing destinations such as reefs, underwater caves, shipwrecks, airplanes and more!

And let me say more about SCUBA versus snorkeling: Last time I snorkeled, I got bounced around in Belize by all the surface waves. Meanwhile, I watched as – 20 feet below me – SCUBA divers glided around unaffected. Soon, I was bobbing and barfing and getting laughed at while trying to escape a floating mound of my own chunder. So, I ask you: Would you rather be like the SCUBA divers or like me?

 

 

 

 

 

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CategoriesAdventuresfeatured

My First SCUBA Dive Experience (Guest Post)

first SCUBA dive
Want to learn how to SCUBA dive? Thailand might be your place. Photo credit.

SCUBA diving is an amazing sport and trying to explain the underwater experience to someone that has never dived before is hard – if not impossible.

My first SCUBA dive was in Koh Samui, Thailand. And from start to finish, the experience was amazing. I’ll do my best to explain to you what happened during my first dive. I hope it encourages you to get your mask and fins together and book a SCUBA vacation.

Koh Samui

Koh Samui is a beautiful island in the Gulf of Thailand that is perfect for beginners. There are dozens of dive schools on the island offering Professional Association of Dive Instructors and SSI courses to guide you in your first SCUBA dive. And you won’t struggle to find a school that can teach you to dive in your native language. I learnt to dive with a friend of mine who was working as an instructor on the island at the time. I was paired up with a Thai girl who was also undergoing her first dive experience. After studying the theory and taking part in an enclosed water session, we headed from Koh Samui to Koh Tao for our first open-water SCUBA dive.

first SCUBA dive
Who wouldn’t want to see a whale shark? Photo credit.

The Fear Sets In

Most of the dive companies in Koh Samui take their students to the nearby island of Koh Tao for their first SCUBA dive. This is because the visibility is much better, as are the reefs and the range of marine life. It took us about 40 minutes to get to Koh Tao; as my dive buddy and I got closer to the dive site, the nerves started to set in. Neither of us were willing to jump from the boat into the water. Both of us hung around until we were the last people on the boat. After another five minutes or so of deliberating, my dive buddy and I eased into the water to see how we felt. After all, we could always return to the boat if we didn’t enjoy the experience.

Descending

The dive site that we visited was called Aow Leuk. It lies in the middle of the protected marine park of Ko Tao, and it’s just eight to ten metres at its deepest point. Along with my instructor and dive buddy, I descended and practiced some of the skills we had learned on the bottom of the ocean floor. Once we had the OK from our instructor, it was time to swim to the nearby reefs and explore the site a little bit more.

Within minutes, neither myself nor my dive buddy felt an ounce of fear. Our first SCUBA dive experience was absolutely amazing.

It is really hard to describe just how awe-inspiring SCUBA diving is … the underwater world is just so unique. Shoals of fish swim past you whilst eels poke their heads out of small cracks in the rock. The more you look around, the more you see – blue spotted rays, clown fish and even turtles. Unfortunately we did not encounter any of the whale sharks that often swim in these waters

By the time we had returned to the boat, my dive buddy and I could not wait to re-enter the water for our second dive. Since then, we have been the best of friends. My dive buddy has just completed her PADI rescue course and I completed my Instructor course 3 years ago – both of us were hit by the SCUBA dive bug. If you ever get the chance, you will completely see why.

This guest post was written by Rutger Thole, a member of the BookYourDive.com team. Find out more about him and get great diving tips and ideas at his Google Plus profile. 

If you’re thinking about visiting Thailand to scuba dive, check out the divein.com guide to plan your trip.