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Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The Mermaid in Me.

Ever since I was a child I have been absolutely in love with spending time in the ocean! Whether it was childhood Sunday trips to have ice cream and sit by the sea in Nova Scotia, or spending summer vacations swimming and playing in the waves in Prince Edward Island. For those who know me well - you are most likely aware of my obsession with dolphins and sharks and my wishes of coming back as a mermaid in my next life :)

When I was a University student I became very interested in scuba diving. I decided to look into becoming certified with a military dive group on base. Unfortunately, due to a conflicting work schedule I was unable to make the classes. I did however, participate in an open house dive day where I was able to try out the gear and practice my scuba skills in the pool. I loved it!! My childhood dream of becoming a mermaid suddenly seemed possible!

Several years later when I found myself living in the Caribbean I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to receive my certification. I signed up with Grand Bahama Scuba and had the most knowledgeable dive masters to instruct me along my way. Fred and Melinda Riger are incredibly talented at what they do. Not only are they dive experts - but they are also experts of the sea! I learnt a lot about reef systems and marine life during my dives with these two (specifically about the invasion of lion fish). During this time I was also teaching an after school Marine Club for students from my school. My time diving with Fred and Melinda allowed me to share a great deal about the ocean with my students!

After completing the in pool safety training and other course work, it was time to complete my first open water dive. I couldn't wait! The first dive was meant to be a shallow reef dive (roughly 15ft). Due to a weather system moving in, the water had become fairly choppy and a shallow dive would not be safe. We then had the option to either call it a day or move out further to Shark Junction (bottom depth - roughly 50ft). So, Shark Junction it was! My first ever ocean dive and I was about to meet some huge creatures of the sea. After doing my checks and getting the okay, I jumped off the boat and signaled back my "okay" hand signal to Melinda. She then said "Go ahead, look down". As I floated along the ocean's surface, I gazed down to see roughly seven or eight reef sharks slowly swimming around the ocean's floor. I made my way to the rope and slowly made my way to the ocean's bottom. What an incredible feeling being surrounded by such beautiful creatures that sadly have such a bad reputation.

Over the course of the next year I did several more dives with Fred and Melinda. I made three separate trips to Shark Junction - always greeted by my friendly shark friends!! I dove through a shipwreck (Duncan's Wreck - 90 ft being my deepest dive to date). I made a few dives to the Tunnels which is a coral system that such as its name suggests consists of tunnels that you are able to swim through. Other dive sites included Chambers, Angel Camp, and Moray Manner. During my dives I swam along side sea turtles and stingrays, held sea cucumbers, stared into the eyes of a blow fish, was surrounded by sergeant majors, played peak-a-boo with craw fish and an eel - as well as many other beautiful species of marine life.

Before every dive Fred and Melinda gave a well informed lesson on what the dive site was all about. The depth, the life, the history, etc. For anyone who finds themselves on Grand Bahama Island and is interested in scuba diving, I would highly recommend a visit to Grand Bahama Scuba!

My final dive while living in the Bahamas was a dolphin dive with UNEXSO. This was a dive I had been interested in for a long time and I could not contain my excitement!! This truly felt like being a mermaid. UNEXSO has an open-ocean environment which is home to several dolphins that have been rescued, as well as several that were born at the facility. While this environment is closed off in the sense that the dolphins can not swim out into the open ocean on their own - it is all flowing water from the ocean that offers more of a natural environment. The trainers have trained several of the dolphins to follow their boat out to swim and play in the open ocean - and at the end of the session they follow the boat back into their home.

The dolphin dive brings its guests by boat out into the ocean and has two of the dolphins from the facility follow along - diving and showing off along the way! Once the destination is reached, we were geared up and made our way to the ocean's floor to play with our new friends. What an incredible experience! After sitting in a group circle and having the dolphins approach each diver and give a little kiss and dance, we were then able to freely swim and play along side the dolphins. This was probably one of the neatest moments of my life!!!

Once I am settled in my new life in Indonesia, I hope to plan several dive trips throughout Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia. If you're a fan of the ocean, please follow me on my journey! I will be posting pictures and blogs as often as I can :)

All photos were taken by Melinda Riger.
Dolphin video clip taken by UNEXSO.

Visit Fred and Melinda's Scuba website at:

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