As a young kid in the 1970s, I loved to watch “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau”. The underwater world looked so fascinating to me with all its strange creatures, amazing coral and many interesting ship wrecks. I remember going to the beach and looking at the ocean or a lake and wondering what was under the surface.
I got certified during my last year of college with a friend of mine. My early dives were mostly local dives on the shores of Connecticut. Eventually, my wife got certified and we would take our vacations to Caribbean islands that were known to have good scuba diving. In the early 2000s we lived in the Florida Keys for a couple of years where I could regularly dive on the weekends. I really enjoyed those dives even though I did the same dive sites many times. It was simple for me then. I didn’t have fancy gear and I wasn’t into photography or video yet so I had no gear to carry.
I’m not really a gear guy anyways and I really dislike carrying lots of stuff on a dive. Mask, fins, an inexpensive lightweight BCD, a 3 mil wetsuit, and a basic regulator. That was it. It was great and I miss those dives. I was able to hone my skills and really become comfortable underwater.
Most new divers don’t understand when I say that you need to get a lot of dives under your belt before you go on a trip to an epic destination. They won’t enjoy them much. Scuba is like anything else in life. You need experience. The more dives you do, the better you become, the less air you use, the more time you can spend underwater and the more you see.
Eventually, I started taking pictures. It was a simple setup with a Nikon CoolPix camera and a basic housing. No lights or strobes. It opened a whole new world for me as a diver. I could re-live my dives when I got back home and also share the pictures with family and friends. I was hooked.
My wife gave up diving in the mid-2000s, but I continued taking trips to various islands. We also moved to Cape Cod where the water is much colder than the Florida Keys, so I initially didn’t do many dives there. At some point I switched from pictures to video with an early generation of the GoPro cameras. Again, this opened up a whole new world. I could shoot 1080p video and really show my non-diving friends what it was like underwater. I created a YouTube channel and started posting simple videos.
We had a small boat for a few years, which allowed me to do some interesting dives off of Cape Cod, but my preference was still to travel. I eventually started going on “liveaboard“ trips. A liveaboard is a large dive vessel where approximately 20 divers and a crew basically dive, eat, and sleep for 1 - 2 weeks at a time. Again, (broken record here) this opened up another whole new world not only of diving but also traveling. The best diving locations are where the fewest people are and usually you need a liveaboard to get you there.
There is a sense of adventure when traveling to a place like Cocos Island, a prehistoric looking island 350 miles off the coast of Costa Rica. It takes approximately 34 hours by boat and is uninhabited except for a few park rangers stationed on the island that love to play soccer. Or the Revillagigedo Archipelago which is 250 miles off of Cabo San Lucas. Except for a small Mexican military outpost on one island the rest are uninhabited and will take approximately 22 hours to get there in calm seas. Galapagos is a place you can get to by plane but the best diving is at Wolf and Darwin islands which are only accessible by liveaboard.
Darwin's Arch provided non stop action of large pelagics and will probably always be my favorite dive site. Cocos provided thrills with two of the coolest dives I ever did, a night dive with hundreds of hungry sharks and another dive where we surfaced near a bait ball that attracted many sharks, dolphins, tuna, and various seabirds diving into the water for food. An awesome spectacle to see!
I eventually got more creative with my video editing and better at adding music. Here are links to some of my more popular videos if you are interested:
Scuba diving became a big part of my life. Friends, family, clients, and my sub-contractors would ask me: where I have been lately, do you have a video of your last adventure, and where are you going next?
People were often surprised that I would travel by myself. However, at the time I didn’t have a buddy that could go with me on these trips so if I didn’t do them on my own, I would never have done them at all. What I found out is that a lot of people travel solo. Men, women, from all countries, ages, and occupations. The liveaboards were a very diverse group!
My dive buddy that I met on a trip to the Sea of Cortez had a great explanation for traveling by himself. He would tell his friends that he was going with “my friends I haven’t met yet.” I thought this was great explanation for solo traveling. I ended up meeting my friend Glenn on the Cocos trip and we subsequently traveled together to the Galapagos and French Polynesia. We had another trip planned for 2020, an epic month long adventure to Palau and Chuuk but unfortunately Covid put an end to that one. Hopefully, that trip will happen someday.
Why do I like to scuba dive? When I dive I feel it's almost like flying. I can move in any direction. I get a sense of peace, awe, and fascination with what I see. I get to interact with amazing creatures like whale sharks, dolphins, rays, and of course, sharks of all types. When you look directly into the eye of a dolphin or giant manta, it has a lasting effect on you.
I also learned a lot about our oceans. They are not as endless as we thought and there is way too much pollution in them. The garbage that we dump in the oceans does not disappear; it ends up somewhere and I have certainly seen a lot. If you are interested in learning about a couple of organizations that have novel approaches to cleaning up the world's oceans, I have been following these for many years:
Scuba diving is not a big part of my life anymore, and that's ok. I have not given it up completely, but hiking has become a larger part. I guess I’m trading in the ocean for the mountains now. Alas, another world awaits!
So if you have a place you want to visit or something new you want to try, just get out there and try it. You might find a new world filled with billions of people, and some are the friends you haven’t met yet.