Boring Local Dives?
The first surprise came while conducting a PADI "Discover Scuba Diving" experience onboard the "Sea Experience." As any Instructor will tell you in private conversation, DSD's are the bane of our existence. This is where we take non-certified people out on a one day experience to introduce them to the world of scuba diving. It is a necessary evil in the world of making a living scuba diving, but few instructors like taking responsibility in the open ocean for someone who has not yet had a full formal training course—let alone a group of them. However, you don't have to like it, you just have to do it. Anyway, as I toss my group of nervous first timers into the raging and unforgiving sea (that's added just for drama) it occurs to me that I often snorkel the site but rarely do I get to dive it in full scuba. Cool, this will be different. We cruise the reef and I'm amazed at how healthy the live bottom is in spite of the heavy traffic that it gets. Then it occurs to me, most folks that come here are not divers and therefore don't ever get down and kick around on the reef, hence the good health. Very colorful sponges, sea fans and tropical fish are everywhere in addition to the ubiquitous Bermuda Chubs aka "Atlantic Piranha" that get fed here at least twice daily. After a nice leisurely tour, the father of two teenaged boys in my group who is a fully certified diver and just along for the ride, comes swimming up to me with the dreaded bug-eyed look that every scuba instructor knows as the face of impending doom. Turns out this guy is OK, just very excited. He's pointing frantically to a crusty rock trying to show us something. So we swim over and see a 6 or 7 foot nurse shark hanging out on the bottom directly under the boat. For those of you who don't know, nurse sharks are absolutely harmless unless provoked, don't mess with them and they won't mess with you. Now, let me tell you, with 30 snorkelers in the water just 20' above us the last thing I want to do is bring attention to the shark. This would lead to 29 of them walking on water in a mad dash to be the first back on the boat. In the ensuing panic more than one person would probably lose it altogether and go into a full blown panic attack, this is something that most dive boat operators like to avoid. Naturally, Dad wants to get a picture of his boys doing their first dive along with the shark. So... He is down there poking at the shark trying to get it to come out of it's hole an play with us—bad idea. I communicated with Dad via hand signals to cut that crap out—I could tell that he didn't have any idea what I was saying with my hands, but he knew exactly what I meant. Back on the boat. I pulled the divers aside and had a little heart to heart chat about harassing sea life and such. Additionally, I asked them to not use the "S" word on the boat as it could cause to people to have premature heart attacks and using the onboard defibrillator was not in my plan for the day. They all agreed. Dad thought it was one of the best dives he had ever been experienced and was ecstatic that he was able to share it with his sons. However, I wonder if the boys truly appreciated how rare it is to see a shark on your very first ocean dive.
The following weekend found me once again up at the crack of dawn throwing yet another group of intrepid DSD students into the briny deep. This time I had a couple recent High School gradates from West Virginia doing their first time ocean experience. Fortunately they were both comfortable in the water and took to scuba very quickly and had a great time. Just as I was relaxing and thinking that I would once again cheat the Grim Reaper out of his due, I noticed that we had company. We swim up on this little Hawksbill sea turtle that's about a foot across and he's just chilling on the reef. The funny part is that it takes several minutes of waving and gesturing to get the divers attention before they realize that we are not alone. I found it quite amusing. It's a big deal to spot a sea turtle inshore these days considering that 4 out of the 5 major species are on the endangered species list and the 5th is still on the "threatened" species list. Later when I asked my divers what they thought of seeing a sea turtle on their first dive their response was a bit muted... "Oh, we see turtles all the time back in West Virginia."
I'm now changing my mind about the concept on "lame" local dives. I'm thinking that if you take the time and open your eyes you can find something cool and exotic on just about any dive, if you have the patience to look. There are no lame dives, only lame divers.