Friday, June 22, 2007

Belize Diving Fun/Terror

Our time in Belize is coming to a close. Just 2 more days and we are off on our adventure around the world. Belize feels like home to me, and so it seems like we haven’t really started the “Big Gone” yet.

Charlie, Anna, and my mother-in-law Lynn all got certified to scuba dive yesterday. There is nothing quite as terrifying and gratifying all at the same time as seeing your family at 60 feet below the surface enjoying the reef.

Charlie kept changing from his regulator to his alternate air source – a skill that you are to practice OCCASSIONALLY. I would periodically look over at him and he wouldn’t have anything in his mouth and be looking for his alternate air source. He is so comfortable underwater that he would stop swimming from time to time and hang limply in the water, appearing unconscious – to get that feeling of weightlessness. Nothing like beautiful scenery accompanied by moments of terror.

Anna is becoming such a pro! She went on a dive to 81 feet, swimming through tunnels and caverns. I love this dive (at Love Tunnels), but wouldn’t have been able to do it with her if it hadn’t been for our friend and dive instructor Billy Leslie. He is an amazing instructor, wonderful with kids and nervous adults. He was her dive buddy and did such a good job taking care of her. At the end of the dive she was so proud of her accomplishment. It was awesome!

Jack has become a brilliant, confident diver. He buddied up with his brother and did such a good job taking care of Charlie and teaching him. He is a natural underwater – very graceful and self-assured. However, even with all this skill and confidence, I was still a bit of a nervous wreck down there. I don’t think I looked at the coral once - just scanned from one of my progeny to the next looking for a sign of panic or distress. There were, however, gratifying moments.

The best dive was to a sight called Esmeralda. Billy (along with other dive masters) has been taking sardines down to feed the nurse sharks for several years now, and since I first dove this sight (7 yrs ago) the sharks have become so tame! In the past the sharks would swim near the dive master looking for a treat, and the tourists would get to SEE a nurse shark. Now the sharks nose right up under their arms and swim along nestled beside them. It is quite a sight – dive master with a 6 ft nurse shark under each arm.

Billy held the sharks, turned them over and rubbed their bellies – and allowed us to do the same. The sharks go limp and stay in that position a long time. Is this harassment? It sure doesn’t look like it. The sharks swam right up to Billy and only stayed as long as they seemed to want to.

At one point Billy had one shark tail in each hand and was swimming away, shark upside down and backward and seeming to enjoy the ride. With one swish of their powerful tails they could have been gone. But they didn’t seem to want that.

Each of my kids got to hug a shark and rub its belly. Pretty darn cool. Pretty darn frightening.

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