I still remember the first time I was seriously exposed to Scuba. For my wife Casey and I’s wedding, we were married on a cruise ship that left out of Port New Orleans. Several friends and family members joined us, including John, Justin, Adam, and PJ; PJ and John were PADI Open Water certified (but had not been recently diving). During our cruise, most of our friends graciously joined us on two of our three excursions: a Mayan Ruin visit in Costa Maya and snorkeling booze cruise in the Yucatan. The former of which turned into a moderately epic adventure due to PJ keeping John and Justin up all night playing Liar’s Dice…or maybe it was Justin keeping them up all night. I had retired shortly after midnight, but they played dice until the sun broke the horizon, and then Justin finally won a game! When we met at our excursion’s designated meeting area, they were the last to arrive, and needless to say, looked like death and smelled a little worse. Is this starting to sound like a group of divers?
During our final excursion, after 5 days of adventuring together, we arrived in Cancun, where John and PJ booked a dive. Casey and I were just a little jealous, and this is when I knew I must become Scuba certified. Throughout my life I have always loved the water; I grew up in Thibodaux, LA, where I always had access to water: fishing, boating, swimming, and wake boarding. Casey is similarly from LA, and we decided to get certified together, which ended up being a challenge. Due to our busy careers, we saw several months and several advanced certifications and dives pass by for our friends. About one year later, we decided we needed to be on a vacation to make time to be certified, so for our one-year anniversary we booked a trip to Sandals Whitehouse in Jamaica, and our friends Chris and Taresa (also certified divers) decided to join us.
Jamaica was an interesting place, it was really rural and poor in between the airport and resort, but once at the resort it was a magical place of great food and drinks, beaches, and water sports. Upon our arrival, Casey and I immediately signed up to become Open Water certified; Chris and Teresa signed up for their dives. Note that diving is included with the Sandals resort fees, so divers make out very well; I will add that getting certified is not included, and we paid about the standard Open Water class rate, but our boat dives were included. After a couple days of course and pool work, we had our certification dives over the next two. To us, diving was more glorious than we had ever expected. For me, it immediately struck memories of my childhood aquariums, but swimming within them instead of staring through the glass. Needless to say we were hooked.
Casey performed five dives, and I nine during our time in Jamaica. The diving was far from the best tropical diving we have done, but it’s worth your time if you happen to be there! The reefs were well formed, but the fish life was becoming sparse due to the infestation of lionfish (note, this was 2010). It was apparent to us that juvenile fish were lacking from the population. Our dive guides informed us that they desired to kill the lionfish, but the government protected them. Some reefs had upwards of 10 lionfish easily visible, the largest one’s body we saw was about 12 inches; i.e. they looked well fed on the missing juvenile fishes. I have not been to Jamaica since and we have honestly not had plans to return, but I do long to return and discover if the lionfish population has been neutered.
After our trip to Jamaica, we both obtained Nitrox certifications and bought our own gear; we chose Aqualung, which was the premier brand at our dive shop, Ocean’s Edge in Annapolis, MD. I went on to obtain my Advanced Open Water certification and several specialties. We quickly found ourselves planning our vacations around diving and our life around our friends who dive. Within one year of Casey and I’s wedding, no less than 12 of us were addicted to diving, and doing it all of the time. It was within the year after Jamaica that Dive Yeti was formed, and there are many more adventures to recount. It’s needless to say that we were all bitten by the diving bug, and it’s still a welcome member of our family.