The Old Crab & The Sea

Crabby Crab?

As we walked around the diverse city center of Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic — a whirl of colors, sounds of Caribbean music and honking horns along with smells of the sea and two-stroke scooter engine fumes — we came upon The Dive Academy ( Paul, who some might consider a crusty old sea dog, and Audrey, his charming French co-owner, were so enthusiastic, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to go out with them. (The shop walls are lined with great interpretive panels about Caribbean pirates. Even if you don’t dive, it’s worth the visit just for that!)

So, the next morning, we set out with our dive leader, Ivan, a young Frenchman who looks about 12 but assured us he was in his 20s. (Las Terrenas is full of French and Italian ex-pats, resulting in some 122 restaurants for a town of 60,000.) We were the only two divers for the first excursion. The boat, the Green Pearl, wasn’t much bigger than the trolling boat my granddad used fish from on the lakes in Colorado, but we quickly made it out to our first dive site, the Canyons of Las Ballenas.

Bob and I are new to scuba diving, and so each dive offers a whole new world. As soon as we descended, we were greeted by lacy purple fan corals, waving at us in the surge. The colors, the variety, and the richness of it all just astounded our senses. Because the dive was shallow and easy, Bob tried his hand at recording with the underwater camera. Unfortunately, the incredible colors don’t come through well on the video (link below). There were pink and bright green sponges and corals, fish of the brightest yellows and deepest blues, corals that ranged from massive brains to widespread elkhorn and much more. As we have discovered on every dive, it’s a magical world.

The “canyon” was a new experience, a trench of volcanic walls in the seabed. The floor was sandy, and at one end a pile of shells indicated an octopus or other predator lived nearby. Each ledge provided new adventures and opportunities with fish, mollusks, and shelled sea creatures. As we neared the end of the dive, the huge crab whose photo and video accompany this post came into view. Male or female? Age range? We do not know, but we suspect if the crab could tell stories, it would have many to share.

After 43 minutes, we ascended, and the wind had picked up considerably. I had a hard time getting back on the boat in the waves, and Bob immediately got seasick. We went back to the shore for our surface interval (the time between dives), and after lots of water, a bit of fresh pineapple, and a couple of biscuits, as the Brits call their little cookies, we felt ready to take on the sea again. We were joined this time by Ana, a world traveler who took up diving to overcome her anxiety of the ocean and whose last dive was in Thailand in January.

The sea was pretty rough on the way out, but Ivan assured all would be well once we got under the water. That turned out not to be true. The surge was ferocious, and soon all three of us were feeling seasick. Bob and I learned within seconds of each other that is possible to throw up while scuba diving. We just took out our regulators, got sick, put them back in and continued on our way. The second dive, called The Caves, wasn’t really into caves but a series of volcanic arches. There were some tight fits, but we made it through without damaging ourselves or the delicate corals and other marine life. The second dive wasn’t as beautiful and didn’t offer the abundance of the first dive, probably because of the motion and the seasickness — even turning our heads to the right or left became something of a nauseating chore.

So, we learned something new about diving and our tolerances for wavy seas. We met interesting people and shared new experiences. We met a crab and saw beauty that I can’t begin to describe. It’s a little odd that the world under the water sometimes leaves this word person speechless.

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