Discover Scuba: Underwater Thrills in Playa del Carmen
Posted by Tony & Cheri on October 18, 2011
A week ago we were sitting on the bottom of the ocean, the air bubbles from our scuba tanks drifting slowly to the surface 40 feet above us. Beneath a swirling school of silvery fish, we spotted a large sea turtle casually munching on underwater plants. As we slowly approached he lifted his head and blinked his huge eyes once or twice as if trying to focus on us. He decided we were no threat to him and returned to his lunch as we swam past. This was only one of many amazing sights that greeted us on a very special day of scuba diving.
Not everyone realizes that Playa del Carmen is near some of the premier diving spots in the world. The 600 mile-long Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest continuous coral reef in the world, sits just offshore from Playa del Carmen. The reef, with its beautiful coral and abundant sea life, offers a myriad of diving and snorkeling experiences. The reef is home to thousands of amazing sea creatures, from tiny shrimp to large sea turtles and fish of every size and color imaginable. It is an underwater world which has to be seen up close and personal to be believed.
We have both tried diving before. Years ago Tony went diving in Playa a couple of times and both of us went on an introductory dive in Belize a few years back. At one time we even took a diving certification course but never completed the open water dives due to a motor scooter accident Tony had which kept him out of the water.
We both wanted to go scuba diving again, but we knew we needed some refresher time first. Cheri was hesitant as she has always had a fear of being underwater. She knew she would need a lot of patience and help to try it again.
So we were thrilled when our friends Patrice and Laure, owners of Mexico Blue Dream dive shop, invited us to join in one of their “Discover Scuba” introductory classes. They promised Cheri she could go at her own pace and that their instructors would give her all the help she needed. They convinced us to give it a try.
We started out with a short instructional video at the dive shop and met with Eric, the instructor. We also met Bruno, who would be taking videos and photos of the class’ adventure. We were each fitted with all the proper equipment: a wetsuit, a BCD (buoyancy control device, or what you might consider a very special life jacket), weight belt, mask and fins. The Mexico Blue Dream staff then brought all the equipment, including tanks, over to the Luna Blue Hotel pool where each person received personal instruction from Eric. We learned proper hand signals and practiced breathing underwater, clearing our masks of water that may have seeped in and swimming around the pool with our equipment on.
Of course, at first it seems a bit strange to be breathing underwater, and until you find your comfort zone it’s nice to know you can simply stand up in the pool if you need a moment out of the water. When everyone was ready and felt comfortable with the equipment we were all taken back to the dive shop and after a short rest break (in case anyone wanted a a bite to eat), we headed down to the beach and the Mexico Blue Dream dive boat where we were joined by Craig, another dive instructor.
A short 10 minute ride later we were at the reef. One by one we got into the water. Once the class and instructors were in the water we began our controlled descent to the bottom. As Cheri was still very anxious, Eric took everyone else down while Craig continued to work with Cheri near the surface.
When Tony and the rest of the class reached the bottom–about 35 to 40 feet down–the tour of the reef began. The clear water made visibility perfect. We found ourselves surrounded by colorful forms of coral and schools of fish of all sizes and types. It would be impossible to list all the sea life we saw, but among the various sea creatures we encountered were sea turtles, moray eels, various crabs, brightly colored parrot fish, beautiful angel fish, sun fish, pipe fish, and even seahorses.
We did two separate dives in two different locations. Both were what are called drift dives, as the current carried us along the reef. Most reef diving in the Riviera Maya is drift diving–what many believe to be the most pleasant and relaxing diving experience there is. With a drift dive, one simply “goes with the flow” and simply drifts past the scenery with the natural current. We literally just floated past the sights of this colorful underwater world. By the end of the day we were tired but exhilarated from the things we had done and the sights we had seen. Cheri was happy that the instructors had been so patient and kind with her.
The day was unhurried and relaxing, something we really appreciated. Extra time is built in so that the day flows more at a Mexico pace. Since students in a Discover Scuba class are new to the sport, Mexico Blue Dream believes in having that extra time for mental preparation and relaxation along the way, so that the experience is positive and enjoyable for everyone.
We have always highly recommended Mexico Blue Dream and came away from this experience even more enthused about their operation. Every single person we encountered–from the owners to the dive instructors to the boat staff–was friendly, approachable, knowledgeable, enthusiastic and calming. Their focus is clearly on making each dive a special experience for everyone involved.
Anyone can have the same experience we had when visiting Playa. Mexico Blue Dream offers a SCUBA pool demo where instructors will assist you in trying on scuba equipment and then teach you how to swim and breathe while underwater. This can all be done in the safe confines of a shallow swimming pool.
For guests of our own Luna Blue Hotel, the Mexico Blue Dream pool demo takes place only steps from your room in our new sunken garden swimming pool. Best of all, it’s free when you stay at the Luna Blue.
If after learning to use the scuba gear in the pool you want to try it in open water, the nice folks at Mexico Blue Dream will be glad to take you on a “Discover Scuba” dive, much like we did. You will see a short instructional film and then take the Mexico Blue Dream’s boat out on the Caribbean Sea where you will have two 45-50 minute dives. You will always go with a dive instructor who will watch you closely, monitor your safety and guide you past the incredible sights of a living coral reef.
Many people find that once they try scuba diving they want to go again and again. The good news is that Mexico Blue Dream can help you become certified as a scuba diver. The dives you make in your initial Discover Scuba program count towards your PADI scuba certification requirements.
If you are going to be a guest at the Luna Blue Hotel, just let us know that you would like to try the FREE scuba pool demo.
You only live once. You owe it to yourself to experience the vast world which lives just beneath the surface of the sea.
Bruno’s video talents
Mexico Blue Dream Dive Shop in Playa del Carmen Mexico
On the road to Mamita’s Beach Club – Calle 28 between 1st Ave and the beach
Tony & Cheri practicing in the pool
The Mexico Blue Dream dive boat taking us to the reef
Tony trying out his gear
Cheri getting instruction from Eric in the pool