Learning to Dive

Sitting in the office watching out at the small waves lapping at the dock with a pleasant breeze blowing through I realize that this is the life that I have come to expect. The ocean casts a seductive spell over you and keeps on at you to want more. 5 years ago I came to this small remote island called Utila to learn to dive. I got trapped. Not only by this wonderful, charming and intriguing island but by the underwater world, Mother Nature had cast her spell on me.

Most, if not all, certified divers can remember their first time underwater, that first breath, that first descent and many will tell you that it was a life-changing experience. The sensation of going over the boundaries of human limitations, of being able to breathe while underwater is incredible. The underwater world is one of peace, freedom and tranquility.

There are so many forms of diving that there really is something for everyone. It can be relaxing, or it can produce the greatest adrenaline rush possible. It is beautiful, yet challenging, and the dive community boasts great camaraderie while the sport itself can also be a personal escape. It’s a sport full of options — Reefs or wrecks? Big or small? Shallow or deep? Day or night? Of course, as a diver, you don’t have to make to make choices; you can simply do it all.

While learning to dive is an experience made up mostly of highs, as with all experiences there can be some lows. Some skills that are easy for some can be a challenging for others. With most new divers nerves can come into play even for the most adventurous fool hardy ones. There are so many new things to learn that anything can trigger uncertainty. This is why it’s so important to choose a properly certified dive operation or an instructor whom you trust and feel safe with, one who is patient and adheres to standards. It’s natural to experience some concerns or problems as a new student, but learning with someone equipped to properly address those issues should guarantee that the highs far outweigh the lows. Utila has many dive shops to choose from and have something for everyone so be sure to do your research to find the right one for you.

Seeing the faces of new divers as they descend for that first dive and glimpse at the underwater world is magical and takes you back to your own first breathes underwater. They can’t see it yet, but I can — they’ve changed from non-divers to utter scuba addicts.

No one warns you before you take your first breath underwater that diving is addictive. They don’t tell you that to become a diver is to become a member of an obsessive, exclusive club of people who are irresistibly drawn beneath the waves again and again.

Junior Open Water

Why not share your love of diving and make your kids part of your next scuba vacation?
Coral View’s family friendly environment lends to a perfect place to get your family certified as PADI Open Water divers. We love kids and the great atmosphere that families diving together bring to the dive shop. Being able to see the smiles on young faces when they emerge from their first open water dives just brings joy to the heart and reminds us all why we are doing the jobs that we love.
With courses tailored around the individual guest we can ensure that each learning experience is conducted to provide the most enjoyment. Teaching takes place in one of our bright and airy classrooms and is broken into sections to ensure that young minds don’t wander.
If you are not already a certified diver you can all learn together, we will keep the classes to just being family members. After all it is your vacation so let’s center it on you.
Stevie from bloggers www.1dad1kid.com is our youngest Junior Open Water diver to date. He was certified at just 10 years old and has gone on to complete his Junior Advanced Open Water and dived in places that would make many adults jealous. Whilst here on Utila dad Talon completed his Instructor Development Course which put him in class for 8 hours a day, to ensure that they still had time a family Stevie was given a ‘man cave’ in one of the free classrooms to chill out and relax. Being around divers all day long surely added to his desire to dive more and further his own education.
Ximena Sarmiento was with us just a few weeks ago on a bonding vacation with her dad Rony. What an amazing young lady she is, she flew through all the theory portion of the course even though English is her second language and then showed to Instructor Chris and Divemaster in Training Kate that not only is she a wiz in the classroom but a natural in the water too. Ximena completed her Open Water dives with dad Rony by her side to share in her experience.
We are so proud of the way all our Junior Open Water divers handle their training and the divers that they go on to be.
Together you can gain a new way to experience the beauty of life and the ocean.

Arrival of the xDeep Stealth 2.0

As many of you may know I am a big fan of, and passionate about, sidemount diving.  To date I have solely been using, and teaching with, the Razor 2 sidemount system by Steve Bogaerts.  Once setup correctly this is an awesome system and one that is very difficult to beat.  Well, until now.

I had heard of and seen the Stealth 2.0 by xDeep but never tried it first hand so I thought it was time to give it ago.  My friend Steve Martin had switched some of his diving over from the Razor to the Stealth 2.0 and after a few conversations I decided to go ahead and order a system for myself to try out.  It finally arrived the other day.  Shipping is quite a timely process to Utila but it was certainly worth the wait.  I immediately went ahead and configured the harness to suit me and my style of sidemount diving before hopping in our onsite salt water training pool here at Coral View Utila to do some in-water adjustments and run through a bunch of skills.

Once happy I arranged to jump on a boat for a 2 dive trip to put it through its paces.

All in all I am very happy, in fact I was so happy that I ended up ordering another 5 sets for the dive shop to use as rental gear.  Our students and divers now have the choice to conduct training in either the Razor or Stealth 2.0 systems.  As part of our sidemount instructor programs you will be introduced to both setups to give you a more thorough knowledge base.

Whilst at the 2013 DEMA show I saw that ScubaPro have released their entry to the ever growing sidemount market.  To date I am unsure of the details of the system but I can only assume that it will be to the same build quality as all other ScubaPro products which is better than excellent.  I will be ordering one of these to test out when I am back at the dive shop so watch out for our review.

Coral View Visits DEMA 2013

It is that time of year again for the annual DEMA (The Diving Equipment and Marketing Association) show and this year it was held in the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.
Coral View’s resident PADI Course Director and Dive Operations Manager, Rich Astley, was able to attend this year and took part in several training programs and courses to help bolster the high level of commitment to education, customer service, and safety that Coral View provides it’s guests on the beautiful Caribbean island of Utila located in the Bay Islands of Honduras.
The day before the show started Rich was fortunate enough to be able to gain the rating of Visual Cylinder Inspector by attending a very informative course hosted by the best of the best; PSI Cylinders. All these guys do is deal with everything to do with cylinders of which SCUBA is a very small portion.  In fact the head honcho is contracted by the likes of NASA.
This rating will allow Rich to make sure that all of Coral View’s cylinders are kept within the visual inspection criteria as per the Code of Federal Regulations from the United States.
The first day of the DEMA show brought along Rich’s second day of class.  Still working with the highly experienced folk from PSI Cylinders he went ahead and completed the rest of the arsenal of courses the PSI offer.  This comprised of Oxygen Cylinder Cleaning, Valve Service Technician, and Eddy Current Technician.
armed with these extra credentials Coral View goes from strength to strength behind the scenes and with the service it can offer its local client base.
Thursday was day 2 of the show (day 3 of the trip) and was a day to be spent on the exhibition floor meeting various manufacturers and distributors to allow Coral View’s dive shop in Utila to offer you, the customer, a wider and more complete range of high quality scuba related product.
Coral View is now able to offer the complete product range from xDeep, Fourth Element, Intova, and XS Scuba on top of their existing product range from ScubaPro, Subgear, DAN, Trident, A-Plus Marine and many more.
Friday was a day away from the wonderful world of scuba so Rich could spend the day with his son at the Disneyland Magic Kingdom for his 1st birthday.
Saturday was the final day of the show and completion to the week in Orlando.  It was also filled with another full day class.  This time the training was hosted and conducted by ScubaPro.  Rich was able to update and re-validate his ScubaPro technician rating by successfully completing the Pro-Tech clinic.
Earlier in the week two of Coral View’s other instructors (Bradley Shellito and Francis Shay) attended a ScubaPro hands on class to become Intro-Tech technicians.
If you dive with us and use our rental equipment you can take piece of mid in that all our gear is kept in top rate condition.
The flight home added one last piece of excitement to top the week off.  We were on final approach at San Pedro Sula airport after having been stock in a holding pattern when we dropped out of the low cloud cover and about 150 feet above the runway when the pilot decided he wasn’t going to make it.  He aborted the landing and gained altitude.  We were then notified that we didn’t have enough fuel to attempt a second landing so we headed for San Salvador.  After a quick stop to refuel we were on our way back to San Pedro Sula were we landed safely albeit a bit heavy and are now on our way back to La Ceiba were we will spend the  night before getting back on the ‘rock’ in the morning.
The team is looking forward to the 2014 DEMA show in Las Vegas.

Divemaster Training with Coral View

I first came to Coral View to drop my cousin off for her Open Water course. We were on a family vacation in Utila for the week.  I was excited to spend as much time underwater as was possible. Utila did not disappoint. We saw seahorses, turtles and countless eagle rays none of which are common sights back home in Puerto Rico. All the diving that week was amazing.

I was sad to leave Utila, thinking that that was the only chance I would get to dive that summer. Thankfully, that was not the case. Before our last boat dive, I casually asked about Coral View’s Divemaster program, thinking that maybe I could plan to do that the following summer. Sarah told me that the best program they offered was during the summer when they hosted a research program from the UK. That last part really caught my attention. I had spent the last few years with similar programs in both Malaysia and in Madagascar.

When I got home, I quickly switched up my summer plans and booked a flight back to Utila for the summer.  I’m so happy I did. Gordo has to be one of the best instructors and mentors out there. Whenever I didn’t understand something or made a mistake, he would explain it differently and in a way that made complete logical sense. Assisting the rescue course taught by Wendy was tons of fun (even though I was mostly dragged around by Chris and Jeff).

My first lead started off rocky (it was a bit choppy and I had to take someone back to the boat for ear issues) and I was convinced I would get lost or mess up, but it all ended well. Assisting on an Open Water course let me see the difficulties some people had with diving. It was amazing to watch the excitement on people’s faces as they took their first breaths underwater. I was also given the opportunity to assist on many research projects, from chasing parrotfish to measuring and dissecting diademas.

My summer with Coral View was amazing. I swam with whale sharks and dolphins, spotted a few sea horses and met so many amazing people. The Divemaster course really helped me become a better diver. I’m way more confident in my abilities, improved my buoyancy control and had an amazing summer diving with amazing people.

Operation Wallacea 2013

Have you ever wondered what Coral View Utila gets up to in the summer when they become Coral View Marine Research Station? Here is a roundup of this summer’s season.

The 2013 Operation Wallacea expedition season ran from 12 June – 13 August and brought over 300 volunteers ranging from high school groups to PhD thesis students to Coral View Beach Resort to gather data on coral reef ecosystem health and biodiversity on Utila. Dr. Dan Exton is the Operation Wallacea Senior Scientist for the marine sites in Honduras, and this year Operation Wallacea was collecting data from three sites in Honduras: Utila, Cayos Cochinos, and Tela.

The projects that Operation Wallacea ran at Coral View this past summer included Vanessa Lovenburg’s study on benthic interactions between space competitors on a coral reef, Richard Nembhard’s projects on mangrove health, ecology, and function, Max Bodmer’s sea urchin transects to monitor populations and ecology, and stereo-video monitoring of the reef in comparison to underwater visual census (UVC) led by Kate Griffiths and James Cant. Ben Titus did some work with GoPros to watch cleaning station behavior, Dr. Michelle Gaudette looked at thermal preference in fish and urchins, Russ Cain visited to test new environmental profiling technology, and Dominic Andradi-Brown scouted the site for a future reef monitoring project. Coral View on Utila is shaping up to be a strong research center in the Caribbean.

The university students who joined us in the field were there either for experience in field research or to collect data for dissertations or thesis projects. Every researcher had to pass a Caribbean Reef Ecology course, led by Derek Gerber and Alex Harrison, which described common invertebrates, corals, algae, and fish species along with survey methods and techniques before they were allowed to help with data collection. The majority of these volunteers and scientists come from schools and universities across Europe and North America, and many return year after year to monitor the health of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. In addition to the research being carried out on site, there were numerous certifications received (from Open Water up through DM, numerous specialties, and even one Tec40) and some very amazing sightings including dolphins, nurse sharks, pilot whales, and whale sharks.

Many volunteers also come from high schools to get a feel for a marine field site and an insight into actual field work. These volunteers either learn to dive with the PADI Open Water course in conjunction with science lectures or sit the Caribbean Reef Ecology course.

We are very much looking forward to seeing the results of the research that took place this season.

It was a very successful season for Operation Wallacea at Coral View, and summer 2014 promises to produce an even stronger research program being operated on Utila. Only seven months to go!

How to Be a Better Buddy

A dive buddy is someone to share your diving experiences with in order to make them fun, avoid emergencies and solve any problems that may occur. The buddy system is used by scuba divers to make sure that someone is always there, helping to maintain the safety of the other buddy throughout the entire dive.

Not only do you need to have a good buddy, you need to be a good buddy yourself. You want to be able to help someone in need and make sure that you can help them to enjoy their dive.

It doesn’t take long for you to become separated if you are not focused on and have an awareness of where each other are.

Whenever you go diving, it is important to have a dive buddy that you can trust. Having a buddy also gives you someone that you can share the enjoyment and wonder of the underwater world.

What It Takes To Be a Good Dive Buddy.

1. Buddy up!
Whether this is with your regular scuba diving buddy or someone you have just met on the boat. Communication with your buddy is key, you’ll want to feel comfortable, safe and above all at ease with this person.

2. Pre Dive Discussion
Plan your dive together taking into account factors that may influence the dives such as one diver taking photographs. Let your buddy know if you are likely to have any issues that commonly lead to buddy separation, such as ear equalization trouble on descent. Discuss how you will deal with these situations should they arise.
Discuss hand signal communications and use them on the dive.
Plan your dive, dive your plan!

3. Buddy Checks
This doesn’t have to take a long time, a simple brief review of the gear you are using is sufficient if you are regular buddies as long as your buddy knows where your weights are released from and where your alternate air source is.  A more thorough look at your gear will be necessary if you are new buddies.

4. Underwater Considerations
Ask your buddy if he is okay periodically, point out interesting aquatic life to your partner, and communicate your tank pressure. Divers who are in constant communication tend to stay closer together and more aware of their partners.
Keep to the pace you have agreed in your pre dive discussion taking into account photographers or anyone wanting a different pace.

5. Continue your Education
Your buddy is not just someone to dive with, they can also act as a role model. Why not continue your education with the PADI Rescue diver course to learn the skills to avoid, prevent and respond to emergency situations and become a better dive buddy.


Whale Shark Encounters

To see a whale shark has got to be one of the most incredible experiences of my life. And every time I see one I am filled with a range of emotions: Awe, excitement and wonder. For a long time I grappled with words to try to describe what I was feeling inside when describing to others the experience of being in the water with these majestic creatures. As I swam with more of these incredible beings, I was able to understand and appreciate them even more. The whale sharks may not always show their speed or power but it is an incredible experience to see them drift by in their quiet meditation. Unfortunately, every so often, a group of loud snorkelers splash into the water and charge off towards our gentle giant forcing him to take refuge.

There are two golden rules for swimming with whale sharks that will make the whole experience nicer and better for everyone, including the shark.
Enter the water as smoothly as possible by sliding in and try not to splash.
Don’t get too close to the Whale Shark, anyone getting too close or chasing it will make the shark more likely to flee and disappear to the depths of the ocean.
One final thing to remember is when in the water look down to see the Whale Shark, it is not on the boat!

Sticking to these rules your encounters with the whale sharks have become so much longer and infinitely more awe inspiring. I couldn’t even tell you how many times we have had nice, long, relaxed swims with whale sharks that came to investigate the strange group in the water. It is an honor and a privilege every time I get to swim with them and something I will never take for granted.

The one thing that has struck my heart more than me getting the opportunity to swim with Whale Sharks is seeing young children getting their first ‘jump’. The reaction and excitement in the faces of 3 year olds when they come back to the boat is something that you will never forget and treasure forever.