Written by Carpe Diem Overseas Educator Hannah Newman
With hearts racing from excitement and nerves (all but two members of our group hadn't SCUBAed before) we secured our weight belts, put on our masks, inflated our BCDs, made our giant strides into the beautiful blue ocean, and descended into the coral-filled abyss below.
It's been a sincere privilege capping off our Carpe Diem Education three-month semester with five days of SCUBA diving with West End Divers. After Spanish school, homestays, working with sustainable development organizations, living on permaculture farms, and doing turtle conservation throughout Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, getting our Open Water (10 people), or Advanced Open Water (1 person) , or Emergency First Responder (1 person) certifications has been tremendous.
SCUBA diving, we've come to find, is like entering a new world filled with fantastic treasures waiting to be discovered. Much like a museum, we must look, but not touch, as fish rain down upon us, peak out from crevices, or sneak up beside us when we're least expecting it.
As one of the group's leaders, I've been nothing but astounded and impressed with the enthusiasm and vigor with which my students have gone after this new skill-set -- fully embodying Carpe's focus on experiential education. Encouraged by the infectious energy of Maike, Courtney, and Camille alongside the non-stop logistical support of Manon, the students spent their free time leafing through fish books and acing their knowledge reviews.
Aside from returning home as certified divers, highlights from our time with West End have been a group fun dive accompanied by professional photographers (we still can't believe we managed to ace that pyramid picture) and an optional night dive attended by six students. With flashlights in hand we headed down the mooring line, almost immediately greeted by a massive coral clinging crab. We made our way around Overheat Reef waking up a sleeping turtle, seeing plenty of lobster, and observing an octopus camouflaging from the sand into the coral just below us! We ended the dive by extinguishing our lights for a blackout -- a 10-minute period to watch the green and blue bioluminescence and patiently await Roatan's famous string of pearls. Dangling like chandeliers, the white lights encircled and awed us, making it hard to muster the will to return to the surface. Yet eventually the warm starry night greeted us as we bobbed like buoys before heading up the ladder and onto the boat. But little did we know, the spectacle wasn't over yet. As we made our way back to the dock, we were accompanied by three dolphins swimming and jumping alongside the boat, aglow by bioluminescence and encouraged by the shrieks of joy from the group. It was a truly unforgettable way to cap off our experience, and we can't thank West End Divers enough.