Jordan and I spent the majority of our trip in the Maldives under the sea. Each day we found ourselves exploring the teal waters of the Indian Ocean through snorkeling or scuba diving. We even woke up at 5:00 am one morning to do a sunrise dive, and we are not morning people!
As Disney’s The Little Mermaid best said:
“Just look at the world around you,
Right here on the ocean floor,
Such wonderful things surround you,
What more is you lookin’ for?”The Little Mermaid
Jordan enrolled in a scuba diving course one semester while completing his undergrad at Clemson University (the fact that this was a college course still blows my mind today). The semester-long class took him through the ins and outs of scuba diving. The class utilized the Clemson dive well to practice their skills at depth. At the end of the course, it was time for his certification in Lake Jocassee’s open waters. Lake Jocassee is a beautiful lake surrounded by the Blue Ridge mountains in South Carolina near the university. While Jordan was finishing his certification dive, he saw a ropes course and a rowboat with a fake skeleton intentionally placed at the lake’s bottom of the lake. At that moment, he knew he was hooked.
He completed his scuba diving certification in 2009. But when we met in 2016, he had not gone scuba diving since. His wetsuit and scuba gear would stay in his closet, never getting the opportunity to go in the water. Let’s fast forward to our honeymoon in Saint Lucia, where Jordan’s scuba diving dry spell would end.
We had booked a twelve-night honeymoon in Saint Lucia at Sandals La Toc. It was an all-inclusive resort in a tropical paradise. 2018 was an intense year: I worked full-time, finished courses and graduated with my MBA from Clemson University, my sister got married, and Jordan and I got married in December. I wanted nothing more than to relax.
After we arrived on our honeymoon in Saint Lucia, Jordan casually mentioned the resort’s all-inclusive package included scuba diving. We were already paying for it; it was up to us to use it!
One tiny problem: I was not certified. But, there was an easy fix as the resort had an onsite PADI certification program. The certification would be valid for life. I just had to read a 200-page book, take a test, take a class, and then complete four scuba dives to test my skills and knowledge. Relaxing, right?
Learning to scuba dive was scary. A standard open-water certification allows a diver to go down to 60-feet below the surface. My first class was in the shallow dive pool at the resort. Jordan was with me to take a refresher course since it had been almost nine years since he was certified. I’ll be honest. I initially freaked out and did not think I could go through with it. I felt a lot of pressure because Jordan knew what he was doing and I did not. So, I sent Jordan away from the pool for a few minutes. Once it was just the instructor and me, things got easier.
I successfully became PADI certified on our honeymoon, and we enjoyed many days of scuba diving on the trip. Being deep underwater with hundreds of fish swimming around me is a feeling unlike any other. It’s the most magical experience in ways I don’t know how to describe. It’s a feeling worth chasing, and I could see why Jordan was hooked.
Since our honeymoon in December 2018, we talked about scuba diving a lot but never took a trip to go under the sea again. That was, until our last-minute trip to the Maldives for Christmas.
The Maldives is a large, narrow chain of nearly 1200 islands located over 600 miles in the Indian Ocean. Under 300 of the islands are populated, many of them with resorts. Twenty-six naturally created atolls separate the islands in the Maldives. These atolls are large circular coral formations with a handful of islands in the middle. Our resort was on a small island located in the South Ari atoll. The Maldives’ natural reefs and location make it an excellent spot for scuba diving.
After a train, plane, bus transfer, seaplane, and boat, we had arrived at our resort! We took a day to relax before signing up for any diving adventures. We were required to complete a refresher scuba diving course since our last dive had been over a year ago. On the afternoon of our refresher course, the ocean water was choppy. Large waves were crashing along the banks of the island. The staff had canceled our snorkeling trip that morning due to the weather conditions, but our refresher course was still on. After all, once we are underwater, it does not matter what the weather is like above!
The first thing we had to do on our refresher course was complete a twenty question test. The good news is that this was not a pass/fail test like my initial certification exam. The test was to identify things we may have forgotten in the past two years so they could cover the content. I got the first question wrong and knew I was off to a great start. The question was, “what is the most important thing to remember while diving.” I answered, “stick with your buddy,” but the correct answer was “breathe.” Honestly, both are super important. Phrases like “most important” are why I hate tests.
After our refresher lesson, it was time to get in the rough open water and test our skills. We set up our gear, strapped in, and jumped in the water. We needed to test three primary skills: clearing our mask, losing our regulator (what we breathe out of), and deploying a buoy. These are my least favorite things to do, but the most important to know.
“Clearing a mask” is where water pools in the face mask and makes it hard to see, or worse, makes eyes burn from the saltwater. To test this skill, we had to allow water to enter our mask and then practice removing it. To remove the water from the mask, I hold the top of it and blow air forcefully out of my nose. It sounds easy, but I get nervous when doing it sixty feet below the water. Jordan did it like a champ and even got an underwater high-five from our instructor. He filled his mask up the entire way!
The next skill tested was removing our regulator from our mouth, finding it, and reinserting it. After taking a big breath, I removed the regulator and let it hang free by its hose. I needed to re-catch the hose by swinging my right arm counter-clockwise. After a few tries, I still couldn’t get the regulator. I don’t know why; this was the easy part! My instructor stepped in to help me find it so I would not run out of air. Once safely back in my mouth, I had to “clear” the regulator to remove the water from the hose. This is done by blowing air out of the mouth. I didn’t want to take a breath full of saltwater!
The last skill was inflating a buoy and letting it surface to the top of the water. The buoy was bright orange to alert other boats that a diver may emerge in the area. One thing we learned in the Maldives are that the boats drive like maniacs. There are no rules! The buoy was wrapped tightly by a long string with a weight on it. Before inflating the buoy, I had to find a safe place to unwrap it so the weight would not harm the reef if it hit the seafloor. Once unwrapped, I had to use my back-up regulator to inflate the buoy with air. With our skills check completed, it was finally time to enjoy our dive!
Our first dive lead us to a shipwreck close to the resort. The Maldivians deliberately sank an old cargo ship in the area twenty years ago to help provide a home for underwater life. Visibility was low on this day. The cargo ship appeared out of nowhere as we were just a few feet in front of it. It was a spectacular sight. Hundreds of colorful fish, large and small, danced around us. A large mast still protruded from the base of the ship. We were able to get a closer look as we peered inside the windows of the boat. The marine life was abundant everywhere!
I felt that same magical feeling I experienced while diving in Saint Lucia. It is a few moments where I am still, not focusing on where our guide is or where my “buddy” Jordan is. Where my breathing is controlled and my buoyancy perfect. A simple moment to myself to take in all the wonderment under the sea. The feeling was still worth chasing, and we completed eight dives each on our trip.
We did not use an underwater camera to take photos during our dives, but we saw so much marine life on our trip. We saw funny looking parrotfish, baby clownfish in a sea anemone, large sharks sleeping on the seafloor, angry looking eels, and the most spectacular sea turtles.
Check out this chart below to see a sample of what we saw under the sea! The only thing we did not see on the list were the manta rays, but we saw large eagle rays instead.
Ironically, Jordan’s scuba diving gear did not make the trip to Saint Lucia, nor did it make the trip to the Maldives. It’s safely sitting somewhere in storage, along with the rest of our things that didn’t make the move to France. Maybe one day his gear will be under the sea again!
Stay tuned for next week to hear more about our Christmas trip to the Maldives. Happy New Year!