Travel in Mexico: Puerto Vallarta’s PADI Scuba Course

Happy New Year Everyone! 😀

This week has been quite the adventure. For starters, I completed my Open Water Certification in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco. This open water scuba diving course covers basic knowledge and skills required to scuba dive. I completed my course in four days, which were jam packed with physical and mental challenges. Here is the course breakdown:

Day 1: Hitting the books! 😀

wpid-img_20141229_094755_535I spent the majority of Day 1 camped out at Starbucks reading the course book.

The book is broken down into 5 sections, which prepare you for your final exam on the last day. They talk about how to handle almost every emergency situation. Most problems can be avoided with proper planning and common sense; however, certain problems like equipment malfunction need to be considered. I also had to watch two riveting DVDs about scuba diving. I almost needed clothespins to keep my eye lids from closing. Hah. After covering knowledge and theory, I was ready for my first scuba session.

Day 2: Confined pool session

For my scuba course, I chose the company Silent World Divers in Puerto Vallarta.24576438634_26a7edf915_oIt was expensive, but sometimes you get what you pay for. They provided me with all the reading materials, DVDs, one-on-one diving instruction, four open water dives, lunch on-board, final written exam, and certification card. It was extremely personalized and my instructor Yadi was fantastic. On Day 2, Yadi took me to the luxurious Sunset Plaza Beach Resort for our pool session. They had an amazing infinity pool with oceanfront views.img_8061img_8070My first task was to assemble and disassemble my equipment.  The parts are pretty simple, but basically the oxygen tank connects to a regulator, which provides oxygen for breathing underwater and also inflates my life jacket.img_8072This device monitors my depth and oxygen consumption, so I am always aware if there is enough oxygen in my tank or if I should end the dive.img_8064I also had to test my breathing regulator and life jacket for any leaks. No problems so far! 🙂img_8062Finally I was able to get in the water for our session. We went over a lot of skills that I read in the book and I will need to repeat those same skills when out in the open water. The session with Yadi lasted four hours. Afterwards I was exhausted and my fingers were very pruney, but at least I accomplished more than the guys playing beer pong in the pool next to me. Hah. 😉img_8074

Day 3: Open water dives 1 & 2

Today we met at Los Peines pier in Vallarta at 9AM.img_8103The crew quickly loaded up our gear and we were off. There were groups of experienced and beginner divers in the boat, plus Yadi and I for the certification course. 🙂img_8105During our 30 minute boat ride, Yadi went over hand signals to remember. “OK” means I am alright, but “thumbs up” means I am not alright and want to go to the surface.img_8111Los Arcos was our first diving location. It is a popular dive spot, so it was packed with other boats full of divers and snorkelers.img_8119img_8107It was a bit chaotic for my first dive. After gearing up with my wet suit, fins, mask, weight belt, life jacket, and tank, I did a backward roll into the ocean.

I’ll be honest, as I deflated my jacket and slowly submerged underwater, I felt hesitant to put complete faith in an oxygen tank to provide breaths for me. Luckily, Yadi was like a zen master who kept me calm throughout the whole process. Scuba diving is extremely mental. You need to constantly take slow and deep breaths. The worst thing to do is panic and hyperventilate, which is usually your first reaction. Despite those initial challenges, things only went uphill from there. 🙂 Dive 2 at Los Arcos was much more relaxed and we were able to see many fish, a few eels and manta ray.

Here is an awesome sea urchin skeleton I found underwater. 🙂img_8151The ride back was calm and relaxed. The crew provided sandwiches and fruit for lunch and we took in the ocean breeze.img_8126img_8130While walking home, I talked with one of the advanced divers from England. He told me the most beautiful dive spot he had been to was in Egypt and his worst diving experience was in the Dominican Republic. When he finished diving there with his buddy and ascended to the surface, the boat had taken off on them. They had to float around for two hours waiting for another boat to come by. This nightmare is a great reminder to always go with a reputable company and trustworthy sea captain.

Day 4: Open water dives 3 & 4

Today we headed out to Las Majahuitas and Punta de Misamaloya. As a reference, these two locations and Los Arcos are all located in the Banderas Bay.24576438594_ce619fab4c_oAnyway, today we had two new groups of divers on board from New Zealand and Mexico State. The three from New Zealand had quit their jobs and began a worldwide voyage. From Mexico they plan to travel around the United States and then move to Sydney, Australia. 🙂
img_8133img_8136The trip from the pier to Las Majahuitas was about an hour. On our way out there, we spotted a few dolphins. The dive spot was very calm, but the water was murky with limited visibility.img_8140img_8145Today I had to pre-plan my dives using a dive chart, which determines how much time I can stay underwater at a certain depth. With the increased pressure underwater, nitrogen can build up in your tissues. If spend too much time underwater and don’t give yourself enough time to ascend back to the surface, you could have bubbles build up under your skin. :/

It’s a lot to think about, but there are simple formulas used in order to determine how deep you can dive and for how long, so no worries. 🙂25181860056_88cec6849aI was also able to test out using an underwater compass in order to navigate to and from the same spot. Very cool!

Once in the water I had run through many scenarios where I run out of oxygen and need to make it back to the surface. PADI encourages the buddy system, because each diver is equipped with two breathing devices. If you run out of oxygen, you can signal your buddy to use theirs. 🙂

Additionally, during the two dives I had to go through various other emergency scenarios due to equipment malfunction. This gave me a lot of knowledge on how to control almost all situations.

For the final dive at Punta de Misamaloya, we had finished the skills are we were ready to have some fun. Yadi took the GoPro camera with us to get some underwater shots. Check ’em out! So cool!pict0250fishfish2I’m sort of like the blonde version of Ariel from Little Mermaid. 😛scubaBeing a goof! 😛pict0231 Here I am slightly inflating my jacket to hover above the ocean floor. Kind of like underwater yoga.balance Like a remote control, this device inflates and deflates my jacket underwater.pict0241What a great dive and end to a fantastic course. After all was said and done I got an A on my exam and became an open water diver. Woo Hoo! This lifetime certification allows me to dive up to 60 feet underwater with a buddy or instructor. So cool! They also gave me a log book to document my dives. It’s like an underwater passport. I wonder where I will dive next. 😀pict0267Upon leaving the pier, I saw a few bizarre creatures in the parking lot. Which of these things does not belong? 😛lizardThese are iguanas, and actually they came here first, so it’s probably our cars that don’t belong! Hah. Very cool animals with such vibrant colors.img_8171After the course, I was able to mosey around Puerto Vallarta. The old romantic zone was my favorite part. It was the most tranquil.img_8191img_8195img_8198The Malecon boardwalk was also full of beautiful sculptures and offered spectacular ocean views.
img_8176img_8184img_8187img_8084For the most part though, Puerto Vallarta reminds me of a combination of Las Vegas and the Jersey Shore. Party central. Hah. Personally, I can only handle it in small doses.img_8085img_8097img_8193I did manage to meet a lot of travelers at my hostel from all parts of the world, including Germany, China, Slovenia, India and Brazil. I even convinced the guy from China to head to Rancho Sol y Mar. Sounds like he had a great time. 🙂

On my final day, I went to the beach with the guy from Berlin to soak up every last drop of the sun. 😀 I had a blast watching this little puppy build himself a hideout in the sand.img_8206After two wonderful weeks by the beach, I took the overnight bus back to QuerĂ©taro. I am now recharged and ready for another school semester. Bring it on! 😀

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