DIVE LOG: A family Scuba Diving adventure in the Bahamas
Trisha Batchelor wanted to do something fun with her kids last summer. The Nebraska-based photographer talks about her incredible experience with her family in the Bahamas.
This was to be a trip of many firsts for our kids: first airplane ride, first trip to an island, first family dive, first ocean dive and first shark dive! Both our kids were scuba certified at lakes or quarries, so what a thrill to go to the ocean and dive as a family and watch them explore this wondrous world. We were on our way to dive at Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas in Nassau, Bahamas.
No one could guess that our kids were not avid scuba divers with their complete comfort level on the boat and at the dock. They both immediately became best buds with the boat captain and dive masters/trainers who were to overlook the dive. I’m so thankful that neither my 12 year old daughter, or 10 year old son have a shy bone in their body. Right up to Stuart & Michelle Cove and the rest of the dive staff they went and introduced themselves with the expectation of an instant friendship, and it was thankfully reciprocated.
At the dock, they helped get their gear on board with minimum assistance. They were so eager to see where their tanks were located and where they would set up for the dive. Everything was so exciting and new to them even getting some ice cold water with a paper cone shaped cup from a barrel ice cooler was a thrill. As the engine cranked and the boat was vibrating, we pulled out of the cove on our way to discover some wonderful fish.
Right before we were to arrive at the dive destination, the dive master began a briefing. They were both attentive and asked questions, yet still being kids and a bit impatient to hurry up and dive. But I guess we all were at that point. I helped them both with their wet suits and remaining gear even though I had confidence in their skills, this was all about timing and with many other divers waiting on us all to go out as a group, I wanted to alleviate any delays. Boy, it must be nice to have mom on board with you, well, sometimes I mean.
Into the water we went. My heart leapt as they both took their giant strides and bobbed to the surface to give the OK sign to the boat captain. “Yes! You did it, honey!” I wanted to scream, but I refrained. After all, I had my regulator in my mouth. We all gathered around the line and began our descent together. Unfortunately, my troubles with equalizing held us up and I was afraid I would be the weak link but it turned out to be a blessing because both kids had a few difficulties at equalizing. When diving, you simply can not rush some things and patience is vital at that point.
While my husband took one child on to the bottom, I remained with the other as we both had the equalizing problems. That soon proved to not be as enjoyable. I wanted to relish in every new experience with both kids together, perhaps a little selfish but I was so excited for them too. We decided to stay together and enjoy it as a family with minimum distance between us as we were with each for periods of buddy time.
I was so impressed as the kids gave the signs for the different fish they were sighting. My daughter gave the sign for the barracuda and couldn’t wait to show us. My son was a little more apprehensive as he came a bit too close for comfort with a lion fish. They were flying, soaring through the big blue ocean, soaking it all in and truly enjoying themselves. This was one of the happiest days of my life. But tomorrow it was to get even better as we would dive with the sharks!
The next day, a little uncertain about how my son would feel about being in the ocean with sharks, I began reassuring him that they were only there for the bait and had no interest in us. He had no fear which really surprised me since he was afraid of the sting rays we snorkeled with a few days prior. His explanation was that the sting rays were hovering all over him and he wanted some distance.
The first dive with the sharks was a free dive where we could explore the reefs and especially the wall where they tended to hang out. The top of the wall was pretty close to their limit so they were only able to descend a little. Not surprisingly, my daughter had ventured too deep with her dad, of course, and I had to get their attention to the depth gauge. Even the dive master gave the sign for her to come up some. I’ve gone diving in areas a little deeper than 100 feet but this wall plunged down over 6,000 feet. It’s such an eerie feeling to know how deep it is to the bottom of the ocean right below you, especially when your kids are with you. Yet, they showed no fear and loved every minute of exploring all the nooks and crannies to find anything to share. Our video cameraman found a sea turtle and rustled us all to capture some pictures of it too. As we took our turns, my daughter came in for a closer look and off the turtle went.
As the dive went closer to a popular hang out for the sharks, I still was amazed at seeing them glide through the water so effortlessly. Documentaries, aquariums and movies simply can not do these magnificent animals justice as seeing them in person in their own environment. And now the kids were there too! How wonderful!
One of the sharks swam right below us and my son released air to sink a little lower so he could touch the shark. My momma grizzly instincts kicked in and quickly snatched his BC up getting him out of harm’s way. After all, his little fingers reflecting the sun could look like the shark’s prey. “Don’t touch the animals,” we kept telling them both.
The next dive was the shark feeding dive and we couldn’t wait. When we got to the dive site, the dive masters got us in place so we could all get plenty of good shark feeding viewing. Frequently, I had to give my kids the “don’t touch” hand gestures since these sharks were being fed and were in feeding mode could mistake their hands for food, just like any domesticated animal. As one of the sharks swam right over our heads; however, I could not resist and just let this beautiful creature glide over my fingers as I felt her beautiful skin. I was so overjoyed! My husband admitted that he saw me and had to chuckle inside.
Up on the boat, we all shared the thrills we had just experienced, asking questions of the dive staff of the different sharks, even pointing out the female we all thought must be pregnant. Their eyes were so piercing and their very presence was captivating. With our mission completed and gear stowed away safely, we set back and reveled in the moment. The kids went to the front of the boat and leaned back against the window, soaking up the sun as the wind blew them completely dry.
What could possibly top off such a spectacular dive? As we pulled up to the dock, we overheard that the artist Wyland was also diving with the sharks just at another dive site. We admired his work for years and could not believe this chance to actually meet him! We rushed over and took our typical groupie picture with him and got his autograph on our dive logs. Wow! He was so kind and generous with his time. I can’t believe all we were blessed with on this trip.
Every dive is special and unique in it’s own way, and while this dive trip provided ample time to admire many gorgeous sharks beneath the water, this trip will be most remembered for the first time both of our kids went scuba diving in the ocean.
I look forward to our next dive adventure and all that it has in store for us to explore as a family.