When I turned 16, the first two things I did were get my driver’s license and my scuba diving certification. Years of Jacques Cousteau as a child (I was even a member of the Cousteau society at one point) had me thinking that I might want to be a marine biologist. That passed, but the desire to dive and explore remained. In the many years since, I have dived (dove?) in British Columbia, Hawaii, and Thailand but always with years passing in between outings.
I wanted to take a scuba refresher class with hopes of doing some diving down in the Florida Keys. The manager at the American Pro Dive shop in Crystal River asked Diane if she would like to try diving. At first she said no, but apparently she enjoyed snorkeling with the manatee enough to consider it. After a retreat to the RV for lunch to consider it, she returned to the shop the same afternoon. We made arrangements to do a combined class, a refresher for me, and Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) for Diane. Win-win.
We arrived at the dive shop just after lunch the following day. Our very young instructor Rich wore a beanie but was very professional. After getting geared up, Diane watched a short video while I tried to figure out the cheap underwater camera that I’d purchased to record the event. We also met our captain Zac who ate his lunch while the video played.
We both took the short Discover Scuba Diving quiz. I kept thinking that since I was doing a refresher course, that I should have received something more or different, and a record for my log book (which I don’t have with me anyway), but I basically did the same as Diane.
Driving the Dream Machine, we followed them and our dive boat about 20 miles to K.P. Hole Park in nearby Dunnellon. The park charges $5 admission per person which is common in American state and some county parks.
The very clean Rainbow River is fed only by underground springs. It is very popular with kayakers and inner tubers, who float down the river enjoying the water, the wildlife, and the sunshine. The county helps to keep it clean by banning disposable drink containers of any kind on the river (a $75 fine).
We headed up river, enjoying the scenery, while Captain Zac gave us the safety lecture. We put on our wet suits and got ready to go. Diane was nervous.
Zac anchored our boat near the river bank and took pictures while we were in the water.
Rich led us through the basic scuba drills starting from the beginning…
We then progressed through other skills like using the buoyancy compensator, regulator remove and replace, mask clearing, and equalizing the pressure in one’s ears. The pace was fine for me, but I thought rushed for Diane or anyone who hadn’t done this before. Diane had to try the full mask clear twice and seemed a little apprehensive, but did well.
After a quick photo op, we headed down river. Rainbow River is a drift dive, where for the most part you can just let the current carry you along. Very relaxing. The river is shallow, varying from 3 to 23 feet deep, which is great for a beginner. Plenty of opportunity to practice ascending and descending.
The river bottom is sandy and mostly covered in long grass, which bends gracefully downstream. The visibility is amazing. Crystal clear water allows you to see over 100 feet (30 meters). There are lots of fish and turtles.
We drifted down 1 mile of beautiful river for about 40 minutes. I took pictures of Diane to record the event.
Diane asked to come up at one point, “just so I knew I could”. Despite the wet suits, we both got a bit cold by the time we were ready to board the boat.
Diane was happy.
Until she saw the alligators. You see, there are almost no bodies of fresh water in Florida that don’t have alligators. And snakes. We passed 2 alligators on the way back, both about 4 feet long.
Diane said that if she had known about the alligators in advance, she wouldn’t have done it. Perhaps that’s why Zac and Rich didn’t point them out until after her first scuba dive.
Oh, and I had a great time too. Now I have visions of Diane and I scuba diving together in exotic, crocodile-free waters around the world. Diane’s not so sure.