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Mexico, Fiji, the Great Barrier Reef, Hawaii, Thailand, even Saba...
These are just a handful of internationally renowned dive sites across the globe.
Anguilla dives don't make most "Top 10 Dive Spots" lists. Thank goodness! ;-)
Anguilla diving is the best kept scuba diving secret... According to many Anguilla divers (and experienced divers who have gone on dives in other exotic locations), Anguilla has great diving.
I say "according to," because I have not been diving... Yet! Until I can experience it for myself, I'm taking the word of my good friend, Kristin Bourne, an Anguilla diver.
Kristin Suited Up and Ready to Dive!
(She's on the left)
Although fairly new to diving, she has been diving in Anguilla.
She has seen sharks, sea turtles, stingrays, lobsters, eels, beautifully colored coral and sea fans, and a limitless list of beautiful fish... some small, some large.
Kristin has visited Anguilla many times, for many years. She loves the island and all that is unique about it. Today, she calls Anguilla "home!"
It didn't occur to her until a couple of years after her first Anguilla vacation that she had not infact experienced all that Anguilla has to offer.
"What about the sea surrounding the island?" She wondered...
At the time, she was still living in New York City. She started taking her training classes in the City, and on her following trip to Anguilla, completed her Open Water Certification right there in a bay of her favorite island.
Since her first "scuba steps," Kristin has gone on many Anguilla dives including wreck dives and dives to outer island cays.
She has so many diving stories, and so many more to come, that she has been piecing together a tremendous Anguilla dive journal to remember all of the beautiful sights she has seen.
Scroll down to read Kristin's journal, all about an exciting, inspiring Anguilla activity!
Whether you are diver looking for an ideal beach vacation with tremendous dining and would like to have an activity like diving in your vacation mix, or you are beach-goer looking for a fun new activity, Anguilla diving is an unforgettable way to connect with the ocean.
Clear blue water with clarity, a variety of gorgeous tropical fish, garden eels, a variety of stingrays, friendly sea turtles, and graceful sharks sounds like good diving and a beautiful way to spend the afternoon to me!
Learning to dive in Hell's Kitchen NYC?
Yes!... For the love of Anguilla
The indoor pool Pan Aqua in NYC uses
for confined water dive training
(photo courtesy of Pan Aqua)
I wasn't necessarily so interested in the art of scuba diving, but more so in seeing the underwater world around Anguilla.
I took the most extensive training course option right there in Hell's Kitchen NYC at Pan Aqua.
I did it over a course of 3 weeks, for 2 nights a week.
This is when you do your text book training and learn skills in a pool and basically practice what you will need to prove you can do the same in the "open water".
Although I thought Pan Aqua and my instructor there was wonderful, it took quite a bit of motivation and focus to get me through it.
Turning into a prune in a chlorinated indoor pool (where the only thing you see under water is a rare floating band-aid!), peeling out of the cold wetsuit, showering, getting back down and across to my neighborhood late on a work-night evening was not my idea of leisure or fun.I kept the intense blue and warm water of Anguilla in mind to keep me motivated ;-)
I just had to know what it looked like "under the sea" in Anguilla.
There are several dive operations on Anguilla where you can easily get your open water certification.
I've been fortunate enough to experience two of Anguilla's dive operations: Anguillian Divers and Special 'D' Diving.
After completing the first half my training in the Spring in Manhattan. I came to Anguilla for vacation in late August, and did my open water certification right there in the clear blue water of Meads Bay with Marjon of Anguillan Divers.
My Dutch friends, Jolien and Gert-Jan, who live in Anguilla had used Marjon of Anguillian Divers, who is also Dutch, for their diving for a long time.
Marjon of Anguillian Divers
I think back to days that I had my class in NYC. Maneuvering in a hurry through the Times Square area at rush hour from my office in Midtown East to get to Hell's Kitchen was quite hectic to say the least.
I'm sure at least 20 people have been whacked by my fins which I carried to class ;-)
I bet taking a class with Marjon in an Anguilla pool might be a little more relaxed!
My open water certification was not so relaxed but, that was due to the water conditions that day, which were "iffy".
The open water certification was done over the two mornings.
The Diver Down Flag...
It is used to notify
boats to steer clear for the safety of the diver
I had the company of 3 other lovely ladies from New Jersey who were also getting their open water certifications... a mom and her two daughters.
The dad was not interested whatsoever in learning to dive. He stayed on the beach and watched as the dive flag moved around Meads Bay.
He could only wonder from the beach what we were seeing down below that dive flag.
We arrived early and met with Marjon at her Dive Shop in the West End.
Then we followed her in our cars just a minute down the road, to her previous dive shop just up the hill from Meads Bay.
That is where we suited up, checked our gear, and then made our way on foot down to Meads Bay for a "beach entry".
This is also where I talked one of the girls out of backing out! I didn't try too hard, just reminded her of all of her classroom work and preparation for today...just to walk away?!
She decided to stick it out.
For some, diving is a little intimidating. Including me. I have found the more you do it, the less intimidating it is... more about that later.
I have to admit, this part - the "beach entry"- caught me off guard. I had imagined a boat entry and I knew Marjon had a boat.
Our suit-up, gear-up spot just above Meads Bay
Thinking about it, as I walked down to Meads Bay with my heavy tank on my back, I was feeling less intimidated to do a beach entry for my first time, instead of just dropping off the side of a boat and sinking!
Not so fast with your comfort though, Kristin, the waves on that end of Meads Bay (the Viceroy Anguilla end) were a little rough that day!!
In fact, Marjon was contemplating not letting us go in.
Us four "Open Water Certification Candidates" all cheered that we march on! We were not about to turn back now!
Marjon must have been appreciative of our eagerness as someone for who diving is such big part of her life. With that she sent her assistant on out in to the water with the dive flag.
We grabbed our dive buddies and began to take turns putting on our fins and backing in to the surf.
I will spare you the ugly details of the next phase of this morning. I'll just state a few phrases and we can move on: It was the least graceful I've felt in my life. Snorkel knocked off (gone forever), fin knocked off, body knocked over by wave, scooting in to the water as opposed to backing in on foot, poor visibility... I was not sure what to do with myself!
That should sum it up :-/
Then, Marjon appeared, made sure I made eye contact with her and yelled out to us that it would get better as we made our way down and out.
She was right! We made our way down to between 25 and 30 feet and rested our knees on the sandy bottom of Meads Bay.
It got much clearer and the water became much less rough as we made our descent away from the surface and toward the bottom.
On the way down, I saw the coral ledge that we would check out after we completed our certification tasks.
I also recall seeing enormous conch shells just hanging out on the sea floor. Gorgeous! Some looked ancient. Like Roman conch's!
We took turns completing our certification tasks. Marjon would demonstrate what she wanted us to do, since you can't talk under water ;-)
We would then take our respective turns as she pointed to us one by one.
It was a very methodical and organized way of doing what we had to do in order to get to the fun part.
Marjon was very encouraging.
After we completed the tasks we were then privy to viewing the coral ledge that lives there in Meads Bay. I had told myself that I didn't want to see an octopus or a shark during my very first time down. No, I didn't see a shark but I did see a little octopus. Marjon pointed it out and then it shot away.
I also saw some colorful fish (mostly small ones), a stingray, a black and white spotted eel, and some graceful sea fans.
4 new P.A.D.I Open Water Certified Anguilla divers! (that's me on the left)
We made our way back to the shore. We had had a rough start but succeeded!
Day 2 of certification was much like the first day, however, the entry was not as challenging. Hooray! Of course, it helped that we knew a little of what was ahead of us too.
When we completed our last task on Day 2, Marjon took our picture (which I thought was very cool of her) and we did our last cruise over the coral ledge before beaching ourselves as certified divers.
The experience was interesting for certain! I think the difficulty of the initial beach entry only made me tougher.
Success! Thanks, Marjon!
I was happy it was over and Marjon escorted us back to her dive shop where we paid her and happily accepted our P.A.D.I. Certification papers.
Marjon does all of the submission paperwork for you. My certification card arrived to me in the mail several weeks later. A nice post-vacation souvenir!
Cost? I can't remember what I paid for the Open Water Certification. I know it was well over $200US and worth every penny. Her website currently lists an Open Water Certification as $375US.
I told Marjon that because of that first day beach entry debacle that I felt like a weinee.
She said, "Ah, sometimes weinees make the best divers" I'm not sure if that holds true but I like the way it sounded :-)
The hard part was over! Now onto my first real Anguilla dive with the amazing Douglas Carty of Anguilla's Special 'D' Diving.
2012 Update: Marjon and Anguillian Divers have closed up shop to explore other seas. If you are looking to get your "classroom" and open water certification in Anguilla, there are some options for you. Vigilant Divers (out of Sandy Ground) and Shoal Bay Scuba offer training and certification.