As already mentioned, our second day (and first true day) on Caye Caulker saw us sign up to do our PADI Open Water diving course.
This was actually something we had envisaged ourselves doing down in Honduras (which has a reputation as the cheapest diving in Central America), but we’d decided that the sooner we actually complete our certification, then it is something we have the opportunity to use anywhere between Belize and Honduras.
Day one wasn’t all that exciting, but did mean we managed to get all of the necessary theory completed in one go.
This involved us watching about 3 hours of video, completing a few trial quizzes, before finally completing a multiple choice test (which we needed to pass before getting in the water).
Thankfully, despite a few hairs pulled when it came to calculations regarding to wait times for repeat dives and in calculating approximate levels of nitrogen bubbles in the bloodstream, we managed to pass.
Day two dawned, and after discussions the previous evening with friends Chris and Rikki (who both already have their dive certification), there was one very nervous attendee who turned up for class.
Yes, that would be me!
I’m not, and never have regarded myself as a strong swimmer, and one of the necessary requirements to pass this first part of the diving course, was for us to jump into the sea and tread water for 10 minutes!
This was the only time that I found myself wishing that our first practical sessions were in fact in a swimming pool (as is often the case), and not in shallow waters of the reef as it was in this occasion.
Being in the actual sea was usually a great situation, as it often meant that we would spot sharks, barracuda or even stingray on our first practical day, as opposed to seeing nothing in the confines of a tiles swimming pool.
The one disadvantage came when I tried to meet the challenge of treading water, and several times, after finally getting relaxed, a wave would wash over me and leaving me coughing and spluttering.
But guess what? I did it, possibly one of my proudest achievements of the whole course.
The remainder of the day saw us enjoy our first experiences under water, albeit only at a depth of about two metres.
We found it a great boon to find only the two of us in the class, as it meant that there was little waiting around for a full sized group to complete each skill and we were fortunate as well that we both managed to complete most skills without the need for any repetition.
The secondary benefit of this was felt when each of the days practical skills were completed, we were able to simply enjoy the water as we would on a normal dive until it was time to head to the surface (I’d hazard a guess we earned more than 1 whole additional dive over the course of the 3 days thanks to this).
Days three and four saw us share our dive boat with a couple of different dive groups, the third day providing some memorable highlights.
During the break between our third and fourth dives, we anchored in an area known as Shark Ray Alley, where we were able to grab our snorkels and swim in some very shallow waters with about a dozen sharks and a handful of stingray!
Our last dive saw us find some lobster as well as a huge Black Lionfish (an introduced species to the area), although Sarah managed to miss both of these!
The final highlight of the day coming when we surfaced to find our boat being circled by a small pod of dolphins!
This was a real cause of excitement, and included amongst their group an incredibly small baby dolphin.
There were some challenging skills to be learned, perhaps the most harrowing being the full removal of our masks from our face and head whilst 12 metres beneath the surface (a challenge we both overcame on a couple of occasions).
We were joined both on the boat and in the water for our final day by our Irish friend Dave, who’d opted to partake in a refresher dive.
It was good to have some additional company beneath the waves, for what proved a couple of really enjoyable dives off the coast of San Pedro.
These two sites were very rich in sea life, and also saw us hit our deepest permissible depth (for our level of training) at 18 metres.
The sixth and final dive revealed to us probably the most impressive undersea creature we’d spied to date (although Dave somehow missed it), a Spotted Eagle Ray.
True, we have no other dive school or instructor to compare to, however we were incredibly happy to have done the course we did, with our instructor Joey.
Perhaps it was his ultra-cool Caribbean accent, but his relaxed demeanour meant we were never given cause to panic ourselves.
Now we just have to look forward to our next dives!
* Our PADI Open Water course through Frenchies Diving cost us $800.00 BZ each. This included 1 day of theory and 3 days of practical training (5 practical/training dives and 1 additional free dive).
* Our dive instructor, who we’d highly recommend, was Joey Pacheco.