Written by Lee Piper, PADI IDC Staff Instructor
For many divers the opportunity to dive in Belize and swim among Bull and reef sharks at 40m in the famous ‘Great Blue Hole’ is a distant dream. However, not for newly qualified PADI Advanced Open Water and Deep specialty Divers Guy Grindle, Sam Legget and Jason Probert who ticked that box on their dive bucket list (and will certainly be the envy of many a seasoned diver), a mere four months after becoming PADI Open Water Divers.
The trio’s underwater adventure started on a cold weekend in March at Vobster Quay dive centre in Somerset. With the water a chilly 5 degrees the novice divers braced themselves for the start of their training, run by PADI® IDC Instructors Lee Piper and Tim Hall of Exped Diving Ltd. Belize seemed to be a long way off both metaphorically and geographically, or it certainly felt that way as they stood there in a semi dry suit! Sam Legget said “Vobster was a challenging environment to learn in due to the low temperatures, but you’ve got to train hard to dive easy!” The promise of 30 degree crystal clear water and an abundance of nautical encounters from the Exped dive took the sting out of the mask clearing drills and filled their heads with images to look forward to…….and they weren’t disappointed!
Training completed the five PADI divers joined up with another seven and headed west towards the Caribbean Sea on the adventure of a life time. Paradise awaited, with the occasional tropical storm adding to the adventure, as dive training continued. Transported to a picturesque island called South West Caye, part of Glover reef, situated due east off the Belize mainland, the Exped Team established ‘base camp’ for continuation training and familiarisation dives in a location that is undoubtedly one of the best in the world.
Jason, Sam and Guy gained in confidence and experience as the training continued, progressing on to the Advanced Open Water course with fantastic multi-level, wall and night dives along with navigation training and depth progression, accompanied every now and then by the occasional eagle ray and nurse shark! Jason said “The atmosphere underwater at night all changed, this added a whole new level of challenging factors”
The training concluded with the Deep Diver Specialty, where the Exped dive team moved on to twin set diving – with their sights firmly set on a once in a life time dive in the famous ‘Great Blue Hole’. The Blue Hole in Belize was made famous by the adventurer and diving legend Jacque Cousteau who, in 1971, charted the dive site on-board Calypso whilst on his own Belize expedition.
Moving to Lighthouse Reef, a new base camp was established complete with hammocks, BBQ and portable compressor as the team prepared for the next phase of the diving adventure. Essential preparation included a dive on the wall at Half Moon Caye which is arguably the best dive in Belize. Whilst your boat is moored over white sand at a depth of 10-15m you can see the wall and the dark blue inkiness as it drops down to 100m+. Temptation to descend beyond your planned depth is overwhelming but Jason, Sam and Guy closely mentored by the Exped Diving team – Lee and Tim achieved their PADI Deep Diver specialty and were ready for the ‘Great Blue Hole’.
The dive in the Great Blue Hole is best described by Jason, “finishing our diving in Belize in the Great Blue Hole was outstanding, almost feeling like you’re not even on the same planet. As we descended down to 40m we started seeing shadows which, as we got closer, we could see they were sharks coming to greet us.”
For all those involved in the instruction, training, and expedition dives the experience will remain with them forever and the distant memories of that cold weekend in March will remind them of the incredible journey they’ve been on. From novice diver to PADI Advanced Open Water Divers and Deep Diver specialty holders in four months, whilst achieving some of the best dives in the world, shows how far they have come as PADI divers.
Long may they continue to seek adventures and experience the wonder of the underwater world…… and who know maybe one day Jason, Sam and Guy will lead and instruct their own group- the next generation of PADI divers!