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August 23, 2008

Dive trip to Honduras!

I am finally on my first real dive trip! It's taken me over two years to graduate from those initial checkout dives in Folsom Lake to my first diving experience in the ocean. That's ridiculously long, especially considering that I've been running a full dive website for more than two years, and that I've written this book about diving. But now I am on Roatan Island off Honduras, and tomorrow morning I'll have my first ever ocean dive.

We're at CoCo View Resort on the southside of Roatan. CoCo View is not a resort in the traditional luxury accommodations sense of the word. It's a community of bungalows, cabanas and buildings on a totally secluded penninsula. It's tropical to the max, with flocks of Hummingbirds darting around, palm trees and other lush tropical greenery everywhere. Some of the bungalows and cabanas are directly on the water. Yes, I can actually see the water between the cracks of the floorboards in my room.

Getting to Roatan is easy. It may be a penninsula off an island off mainland Honduras, but all it took was a three and a half hour Continental flight from Sacramento to Houston, and then another two and a half hour flight from Houston to Roatan island. And not in a tiny turboprop, but in a real Boeing 737. Flying along the central American coast line is an experience by itself. There is so much pristine, gorgeous and seemingly uninhabited beach with inlets and islands. Is it yet to be discovered? Is it protected? What's the deal?

Immigration at Roatan airport is a lengthy procedure with stern customs officers handwriting and hand-copying lots of stuff. I am sure it serves a purpose, but hey.... we're just here for a week of spending money and boosting the local economy. It's hot and incredibly humid waiting in line. Our luggage has bright pink CoCo View tags and is being picked up and moved through customs by friendly folks from the resort. We're being greeted and soon sit in a nicely air-conditioned Kia van.

The ride from the airport to CoCo View is maybe 20 minutes and what I see is, on a somewhat less extreme scale, what I remember from a late 1970s trip to El Salvador. Visible from the streets is a weird mix of wealth and poverty, American-style shopping strips and much more modest local stores, corrugated steel covered huts and driveways to mansion and resorts.

The ride ends at a large boathouse from where we're ferried to the actual resort, just a few stone's throws away across a still lagoon, and yet so far from civilization. We get a brief intro from a friendly young American woman who hands out forms and the usual disclaimers. There are two young couples from New Jersey and some guys. How many dives do I have? That'd be 36. How many night dives? Ummm... one. Dive buddy Carol senses my intimidation and volunteers that my one night dive was the mother of all night dives. I remember well. It was. But I am still sure that everyone else is vastly more experienced, and they are a bunch younger, too.

I pick up the key to the cabana on the water and it is sensational, just gorgeous. Hot and humid despite the big room air conditioner, but that's to be expected. I am blown away. Pretty much everyone who comes here is a diver and so instructions on what to do are in the room. We unpack and gather up our gear and walk on over to the dive building and dock. Four boats are there, painted yellow, red, green, blue. We've been assigned to the green boat, CoCo III. They are sturdy vessels that, as I later learn, even have an opening in the center for divers to climb in.

We store our gear in cubbies, then sign in to get weights. They are the old-fashioned solid lead weights. The two couples are here and they seem to know exactly how much weight they need. Me, I tried in the pool and sort of figured I might need 14 pounds. So that is what I get.

I am not sure I want to use Nitrox as it costs $8 a fill or $120 for the week whereas air is included. Carol uses it, and so I make my first three tanks Nitrox as well. We test for oxygen content and pressure, note the data on a sticker on the tank, then deposit our passports at the office. At the signup sheet I see that the Jersey couples have already signed up for the shark dive.

What have I gotten myself into? Will this work out? It's gorgeous here for sure, but what awaits me beneath the surface?

Posted by conradb212 at August 23, 2008 07:46 PM

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