Floating peacefully above a tube sponge, I lift my legs above my head and drop my hands down, my fingers extending to the edge. Slowly, two cleaner shrimp scuttle up the inside of the tube, curious about what I am and whether they should give me a manicure. I’m hanging upside down, about 50 feet underwater. Jen is nearby, taking photos of a spiny lobster. I breathe slowly, enjoying my moment of upside-down calm. As I drift away and slide onto my back, I look up through the blue to the sun beating down and smile, quietly thrilled to be here in this world so different from the one we walk in.
I was the last of my immediate family to become a certified SCUBA diver and I have no one but myself to blame for that. I was terrified, knowing that making a mistake while diving could have grave consequences, and I didn’t trust myself. I firmly believed that if something happened on a dive that caused me to panic, I would shoot to the surface and my lungs would explode. Sometime during my first year of college I realized how ridiculous that was. The entire point of training is to learn how to dive safely, what to do – and what not to do – down there. I also realized that my understanding of potential risks was a bit simplistic. So that summer I got certified in Colorado, completing my open water dives in Chatfield Reservoir. The visibility was so bad that I couldn’t see which direction my bubbles went. But on the way home, I told my mother that I couldn’t wait to do more, just maybe somewhere with actual marine life to see.
In the years since, I’ve seen shipwrecks, sunken statues, sharks, giant clams, eagle rays, turtles, squid, seahorses, lobster, crab, conch, eels, nudibranchs, anemones, fish of all sizes and shapes, coral formations that look like something drawn by an animator on acid, and so much more. And it never gets old. Watching an eagle ray glide through the water, spotting a shark resting under an overhang, seeing a parrotfish poop, snapping at Christmas-tree worms to scare them into hiding (they slither back out pretty quickly), noticing a sleeping squirrelfish under a coral ledge, glimpsing a turtle heading up to the surface for air: all of these things make me giddy.
Jen joined me in this sport in 2008 and took to it right away. The feeling of weightlessness, the quiet of hearing nothing but your own breath, the comfort of safely trespassing in an ecosystem in which we don’t belong, the breadth of marine life to see and wrecks to explore have left her just as hooked as I am. We have far more diving ahead of us and we’ll inevitably post about it from elsewhere in the world. But this is the last of our Honduras posts and we can’t think of a better way to end this series than with Jen’s video of our Bay Islands diving.