Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My first diving experience in the Riviera Maya

Finally the day that I had been waiting for has arrived, the day when I get to set up my own gear, put fins on my feet, pick up a weight belt for myself and get into a wetsuit. Everyone has been telling me how amazing this sport is and I had seen so many smiley faces in the shop that I was dying to finally get into the water and go DIVING.

I am a student from Finland who is completing an international student placement in Mexico with a focus on adventure Tourism at the Abyss Dive Center with Dave and the guys and as a thank you for my support, Dave has given my open water course. The Abyss Dive Center is my placement and I have been having fun learning about international sports tourism and learning how other countries market, use and provide sports tourism initiatives.

So after working in the shop for a few weeks, my day came. Pre dive preparation of the gear was already familiar to me but when it was time to get into the pool, I started to get nervous. I knew, in theory, everything that I was supposed to do but still I did not feel comfortable. Sebastian explained to our student group what we were about to do and even though all the exercises were quite easy and I got them done on my first try, I felt a bit nervous. Maybe I was just getting too excited to get into the sea.

After a short while my diving wish came true. While I was sitting on the edge of the boat I felt like I was waiting for a rollercoaster ride to begin. For a long time I hadn’t felt so nervous. My stomach felt like if I was about to take the most important exam of my life, and I was not sure whether I wanted to take it or not. Sebastian asked if we were ready to go. “No, no, no, no!!” was the answer that my head was giving me but for some reason the answer that came out of my mouth was a simple “Si, si!!” And that was definitely the right answer.

Everything did not go as well as I would have liked in the beginning. While descending I started feeling a slight pain in my left ear. This was something that I had been afraid of since my ears always seem to cause problems. I already started thinking about the worst case scenario that I would have to get up and leave the game for the others to play. I signalled to Sebastian that something was wrong with my ears, I ascended a few feet, stopped, and tried to equalize again. I was already getting frustrated and ready to give up until I heard a small (but oh so relieving) “pop” and I was ready to play the game with everyone else.

Until we reached the bottom I hadn’t been concentrating on anything else but following the line and getting my ears to function. And then I saw it for the first time, the royal kingdom of the deep blue, and I must say it was unbelievably gorgeous! I saw someone taking pictures of it like it was just another tourist trap to conquer. For me it was something extraordinary, something so out-of-this-world that for a second I had no clue what to do. I saw Sebastian waving us to follow him and he lead us closer to the reef.

These 5 months that I have spent in Mexico have been filled with noise; people shouting in the streets, cars honking their horns and music playing in the bars. I hadn’t even noticed that I’ve actually gotten used to all that noise. When I descended slowly to the soundless bottom of the ocean I felt like I was in the silence of the Finnish forests, only the flora and fauna were different, and also the fact that I was not in a forest, I was in the bottom of the Caribbean Sea!!!

While we swam over the reef and I saw all the fish and coral I just wanted to scream and laugh and jump and what not, I was so excited!! I imagined I was in the “fishy version” of Mexico City. Fish of all sizes and colors were everywhere, some busy with their daily tasks and others just hanging around enjoying the day. And I swear I saw a bunch of fish having a choir practise!

After being a spectator of the life in this under water kingdom for a while I noticed my eyes were getting dry and water was entering my mask. Because of the wonders of the sea, I had forgotten to blink and with the wide smile on my face the mask didn’t keep the water out. I decided to calm down a bit and try to keep my smile narrower even though it was a hard work in this beautiful underwater jungle.

The other thing that seemed to be hard work was controlling my buoyancy. I tried to do everything I could to not to crash into the reef or kick some innocent fish. I was told that it is one of the things that I would learn with time but from the beginning I didn’t want to be one of those divers who leave only destruction behind them. At some point I learned a bit how to control my buoyancy and felt more secure about myself in the water. But this would definitely be something I need to work on in the future.

I learned from the book that the objects seem 25% bigger in the water than in the surface. But no one ever told me that also the time goes at least two times faster under water. I couldn’t believe that only a few moments after descending we had to go back up again. After saying adios to the fish and getting up to the surface I could put the exited smile (you could also call it the “crazy smile”) back on my face. I didn’t really have any words but I’m sure my face told everyone what I thought about my very first dive. It was absolutely amazing and all I could think about afterwards was “when could I go again?”.

By Maija Waldén

Maija is a Finnish student who just finished her open water course at the Abyss in gratitude for her work and ideas she has brought to the shop. Thank you Maija and we are so pleased that you are having a great time.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Playa del Carmen is Important

Today, a committee of dedicated volunteers is launching a community event that should prove to be one of the best that Playa del Carmen has seen in many years. Though Playa is known for its events, community and continued playfulness, Taste of Playa 2009 is sure to be a hit with everyone. They sure got our vote!

As a Playa Del Carmen business for over 13 years, we have been through some good times and some not so great times. We remember it all, and are thankful for the experiences we have received and the experiences that we are able to give our clients. Whereever there is an action there is always an opposing reaction and we have proven that again and again.

There are times when we ask for support and there are times when we give support. This is a time that we feel, as a Playa del Carmen business, it is important to show our support. Abyss Dive Center has quickly and without question decided to support, as a sponsor, Taste of Playa 2009 to show the world that this is a great place to live, visit and work.

The committee is working hard out of a passion for where they live. We work hard each and every day out of a passion for where we live. This basic commonality is why we think this event is important. To add to the commonality, we admire the committees willingness to donate a portion of the proceeds to Aklu’um International School, a relatively new addition to the Playa scholastic system that is not for profit and has over 36% of the children on scholarship.

This is a win win situation and we encourage anyone else who wants to support to come out as a sponsor or an attendee. It is a date to keep in mind and we will be there, eating, drinking and having a great time with our friends and visitors in the Parque Fundadores September 5, 2009.