A day in DePalm-adise with SNUBA (pt. 1)
|The SNUBA station at De Palm Island|
While at De Palm Island I wait for RJ (the SNUBA dive master) to make preparations for the briefing. In the mean time, sprinkles of water glaze over my exposed arms and seep into the pores on my face as the wind carries over the mist from the water park. Like a kid waiting in line for the triple drop, four looped, backwards rollercoaster at Six Flags, I anxiously await my chance to see the Little Mermaid and Flounder under the sea. Today I am going to SNUBA for the first time ever – how cool! What is SNUBA? Exactly what it sounds like – a mix of SNorkeling and scUBA diving that allows underwater pioneers to dive 25 feet into the sea while connected to a harness that has an air hose attached allowing you to breathe through a regulator. The only difference is that unlike scuba diving, the tank is not carried on your back, but conveniently setup inside a mini-float that is lugged along above the water. The cool thing about SNUBA is you don’t have to have prior snorkeling or scuba diving skills; you just have to know how to swim.
|RJ doin' his thang|
RJ returns to our group of eight for the briefing on the do's and don’ts of SNUBA after explaining what it is. Rule #1: Never hold your breath, and always breathe normally through the regulator. Rule #2: Never take the regulator out of your mouth, as this is your breathing device. Rule #3: Always follow your instructor. RJ gets serious, “And men, even if you see a mermaid, don’t follow her. You may never come back” Now that the rules have been discussed, RJ moves into the equipment side of SNUBA. Because we are going 100 feet outside the reef, one would normally think that this would be a strenuous activity from all the swimming. But! That’s where you are wrong. Luckily, this isn’t an Olympic swimming competition, but it's more of a comfortable drift along the bottom floor of the sea. And if this were an Olympic swimming competition, I’d feel like Michael Phelps with my swimming fins to help slice through the water.
The third item on the list of SNUBA grounds to cover deals with safety and hand signals. Those of you who have done scuba diving before will find this part easy as they are the same. To show that you are Okay! – your thumb and pointer finger are connected shaping a loop while the other three fingers stand tall. Point and wiggle means that whatever you are wiggling to what is bothering you. Thumbs up (which I continually mistaken for “groovy”) means going up and, as I’m sure you can guess, thumbs down means going down. To get our attention, RJ will clink his oxygen tank rapidly, as he will be scuba diving alongside us as we SNUBA.
|We're ready to get our SNUBA on|
(minus the guy kickin' it in the background)
We’re finally getting to the good stuff with the fourth order of business – what we are going to see! “Friends, if you don’t like fish – I highly recommend you NOT go on this tour.” All jokes aside, we’ll have the chance to spot Yellowtail Tuna, Sergeant Majors, needle fish, grouper, and an abundance of soft and hard corals, not to mention the Blue Parrotfish that reside at De Palm Island. He splits us up into groups of four, and I’m joined by a lady that’s visiting from the cruise ship and a younger couple from Nebraska. After gearing up with a weight belt, fins, snorkel mask, an air hose, and the mouth guard-like regulator, SNUBA Bri is ready to go! Buttttt not until we comfortably practice our underwater breathing by the pier we swim out from before letting RJ know we feel like Navy Seals. A few bubbles here… A few bubbles there… and I’m ready to Michael Phelps it out into the sea.
Join me next week when I SNUBA out past the rope and onto the bottom of the sea.