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Firmly convinced that our primordial ancestors had every reason to sprout legs and lungs and crawl out of the mayhem that is the sea, I had never felt particularly inclined to reverse that trend. A mediocre swimmer at best, harboring a primal fear of being gobbled up by sharks, and having tuned in to one too many Discovery Channel specials about the veritable sea monsters trolling the ocean’s depths, I had resolved that I would happily stay on terra firma and leave the sea to those with gills.
Of course, having a couple of scuba diver girlfriends along with my boyfriend, John, harp on for years about the wonders that lie beneath the surface of the sea – “it’s like visiting another planet!” – I was, admittedly, intrigued. And then John pulled out the trump card: No true explorer (and gosh darn it, that I was!) could claim to truly know this planet – the Earth’s surface is, after all, 70 percent covered by ocean – without setting out undersea. Read more
Scuba diving Earth’s arcane waters is not for the faint of heart, but it’s one of those recreational activities that can be incredibly fulfilling and moving once you pass all the required courses and finish training. I found this out firsthand a couple of months ago when I received my PADI Open Water Diver certification in the Holy Grail of diving sites: the Great Barrier Reef.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have serious reservations about suiting up and walking off the edge of a boat miles away from shore – I’m no Olympic swimmer and the idea of being 60 feet underwater for an extended period of time seemed rather unnerving (after all, we weren’t born with gills). But, at the same time, the thought of splashing into a heaving ocean of fish and other aquatic creatures sounded exhilarating. If you, too, get overcome with a sense of excitement when you imagine yourself swimming an arm’s length away from wildlife you’ve only read about in textbooks, then scuba diving is right up your alley. Below, I’ve outlined what the certification process entails, as well as what you’ll need to do to receive your diving license – your golden ticket to exploring both uncharted and well-known underwater sites.
Oceans, lakes, glaciers, and rivers cover approximately 71 percent of the world, but few of those waters offer the same pristine fecundity and diversity as the mythical Great Barrier Reef. This past August, I received my PADI Open Water Diver certification with Pro Dive Cairns in Australia and ventured to new depths, exploring Earth’s granddaddy barrier reef – an aquatic treasure trove home to 1,500 species of fish, 360 varieties of hard coral (plus, one-third of the world’s soft coral), as well as 30 types of whales and dolphins. And that’s just skimming the surface. This underwater city encompasses 2,900 reefs, 600 continental isles, and 300 coral cays, making it the largest UNESCO World Heritage Site and a diving mecca for adventure seekers.
With so much to “sea” (and being a novice diver), I was eager to get my feet wet, both literally and figuratively. My five-day Learn to Dive program consisted of two days of rigorous classroom coursework and personalized pool training (which were headed by proficient dive instructors), before I cruised nearly 25 miles off the coast to put my freshly acquired skills to the test in the Great Barrier Reef. For the next three days, I called a 16-cabin vessel home, making nine dives (four training, five pleasure) in some of the natural aquarium’s outermost and secluded reefs, which were teeming with marine wildlife.
If you’ve always wanted to learn how to dive, now’s the time to take the plunge. June marks the first annual Learn to Dive Month in the greater Fort Lauderdale area with enticing deals for wannabe divers: a reduced cost for training classes, a free graduation dive and buy-three-get-one-free offers at several hotels, with some rates as low as $69 per night.
The program, dreamed up by the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, has more than a dozen dive operators – “all the big boys,” says Dave Carmichael, owner/president of Brownie’s YachtDiver stores, one of the participants – signed on and eager to teach new enthusiasts of the sport.
Swimming with horses is so 2008. And besides, who would want to when you can hang out with these guys instead? Such an opportunity is on hand at the Anantara Si Kao Resort & Spa, a new hotel that borders the pristine Had Chao Mai National Park in the Sikao district (that’s right, sea cows in Si Kao!) of southern Thailand. The upscale, rural resort looks onto the turquoise Andaman, which is populated with all manner of coral, fish, and yes, the friendly, lumbering (and vegetarian) 1,200-pound endangered creatures known as sea cows, or manatees. Read more
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