This morning we took an early flight on a tiny plane over to the small island of Providencia, or
Providence as the local Creole-speaking islanders call it, in English. I was too tired to do the first dive so I took a nap after breakfast and waited till the second dive. We took the boat out into turquoise waters, with the background of the green mountains and palm-lined sands completing the postcard image.
I feel a little nervous at the beginning of each submersion I think just because of the whole breathing under water thing, but Iâ€™m getting used to it. Iâ€™m also still having difficulties with equalizing, which is what you have to do on the way down. It just means filling the air spaces in your head like the ear drums and sinus cavities (not my brain cavity thank you), by plugging your nose and trying to blow through it at the same time. Your ears squeak letting you know air has gone through. I get pain in my ears so I have to do this quite often, but hopefully that will get better with practice too.
Once down below, after about 5-10 minutes, the adventure really starts. What I thought were corals are sponges, and they are really alive here, some looking like castles with long tubular shapes hosting a number of different colourful species. I have no idea how many different fish I saw but there was definitely a highlight. The other day seeing those large stingrays fly gracefully through the water. Today I saw what divers seem to be most excited about seeing: a shark. Yes a shark! It was just a small nurse shark, but a shark none the less. It was resting under a coral shelter and about four of us hovered around just looking at it sitting there on the bottom, peacefully, with its eyes closed. A little while later a couple of other divers made some noises or enough movement that it decided to change location, so I got to see it emerge and swim away. If youâ€™ve seen Sharkwater, you know how special, important, gentle, and endangered sharks are. Like the lion is to the land animal kingdom, the shark is to the ocean animal kingdom. Without them, the entire ecosystem that is the ocean, our source of oxygen on land, could collapse. Not a bad first â€œofficialâ€ dive.
It doesnâ€™t end there, the day gets better. After a short rest and late lunch at about 4:30, all were deciding on whether or not to go on the planned night dive. Some were too tired, or just felt like taking a break. But Gonzalo, Ezequiel, and Willian (the Chilean, Argentinian and Brazilian guys) convinced me to come along, that it would be really awesome and that I didnâ€™t have to worry. Willian is an instructor back in Brazil and Gonzalo is a PADI certified rescue diver, so really, with them and the instructor I didnâ€™t have much to worry about.
Being out in the boat at night is so beautiful, especially in an island way out in the middle of nowhere; there were millions of stars out shining bright. The only difference on a night dive is that you have to use flashlights and so while I was a bit nervous thinking about it being dark all around me, it wasnâ€™t really because we all had lights and while it was different it wasnâ€™t scary.
Probably the coolest part was the phosphorescence. The plankton are out and about in the night and they glow in the dark. They just look like brown particles with the lights on. But towards the end of the dive we all gathered at the bottom on the sand in a tight circle and shut off our flashlights. Then we started waving our arms around like crazy which makes them all light up. Our leader, â€œPeachyâ€ from Felipeâ€™s Dive Shop (heâ€™s an English, Creole and Spanish speaking local dive instructor) was humming a dance tune to get us into a rhythm as we moved around our arms lighting up the plankton creating a show. It was really cool. So cool it was just making me laugh out of sheer happiness.
Instead of returning right away for dinner, Peachy took us to Rolandâ€™s Bar, a nice outdoor beach bar with thatched roof tables and benches and we had a little fire where we stood around in our wet suits and he bought us all a beer. Now thatâ€™s a full dive service!
Sitting here now I feel a little bit of motion. I think being submerged twice in one day, for the first time in my life is having a strange effect on my body. Not in a bad way, just a sort of swaying, like the water molecules in my flesh and bones havenâ€™t quite stopped moving around.
Another day of diving and exploring Providence, where there are only 4500 inhabitants and 13000 annual visitors. Jennifer, one of our local hostesses, says they like it this way. They could use a little more tourism to boost their businesses, but they donâ€™t plan to overrun it, because they know it is a special place, with limited resources so sustainability is top of mind. With a seven-month dry season they really have to watch water-consumption and could not support large hotels. Most of the island is protected and undeveloped, with mangroves, forests and healthy reefs. It is calm, â€˜tranquiloâ€™ and super safe. A hidden gem of the Caribbean and pride of Colombia.