Updated: Sep 16, 2019
In our travels, Joe and I have been fortunate enough to venture to the Galapagos Islands where we spent two weeks island hoping, exploring both above and below the surface! SCUBA diving at Kicker Rock was at the top of the bucket list for the trip. I’ve been diving since I was 16 years old and was adamant that Joe get certified once we got married.
“On our first dive of the trip, I feel uneasy which was a first for me. I figure it's because I don't have my own gear, am in a thicker wetsuit, and the water is significantly colder than I'm used at 58 degrees Fahrenheit. Overall though, I have a good dive and am amazed by all the wildlife. Although the Galapagos straddles the equator, the Humboldt Current from Antarctica runs through the island chain, which creates a unique environment for active sea-life.
“A few days later, we load onto a catamaran bound for Kicker Rock, the iconic rock formations jettisoning out of the Pacific Ocean. The guides have us test our gear off a beach before getting underway, and that's where the problems begin. I am completely uncomfortable with everything; my fins and BCD are too big, I don't have enough weight, my mask is leaking, and when the cold water hit my face, it literally took my breath away and caused me to choke. We get the weight worked out, add some socks to my fins then get underway.
“We arrive to Kicker Rock, and it's breathtaking! Suited up, we jump in and start our descent. As soon as my head sinks below the surface, I motion to Joe, my dive buddy, to resurface. My gear is still uncomfortable, the water is unbearably cold, and as soon as my face dips below the surface, I feel panic set in. I get shortness of breath and suddenly have the urge to sniffle, which is impossible with a mask, and I can't seem to get enough air; I can hear my heart beating in my ears, and I'm shivering uncontrollably. I have been diving for 15 years, in tropical climates, but I have never had an issue like this. Joe tries to talk me through what can only be described as a panic attack by telling me to focus on the sea lions sunbathing 100-yards away. It's no use; now that I'm this apprehensive, it's just not safe for me to dive, and I'm still levelheaded enough to know that. I call it off, and the guide calls the boat back (because it had left us to take the snorkelers elsewhere) then leaves me waiting to rejoin the group.
"I'm so upset with myself as I join the others for a snorkel tour between Kicker Rock. Unfortunately, I end up cry through the snorkel the whole time, and see the eye-popping sea-life through a blur of tears. We do see lots of turtles and colorful fish, and at the end, a sea lion flies right past me!
“After lunch on board, and a pep talk, I suit up and jump in confidently. As I hit the water I gasp loudly because it is so unbearably cold. I laugh it off, while sucking hard on my air, but I am adamant about completing this dive. Once we get to depth, I'm shivering uncontrollably, blowing through my O2, and keep looking at my dive watch to calculate how much longer until it's over.... I'm still in no condition to make this dive. I waive over the dive guide and signal that I am ending my dive. I'm so mad at myself. The guide takes me up, blows the whistle for the boat, tells me to swim to the corner of the Rock then descends.
“I'm left alone bobbing in the middle of the Pacific Ocean at Kicker Rock. With no boats or people insight, I start to swim for the corner, but it's so far and the waves are pushing me towards the rocks. Instead I float and kick just enough to keep myself off the rocks. I have an encouraging conversation with a nearby sea lion; there's nothing I can do, I have let my emotions get the best of me. I have missed out on diving at Kicker Rock in the Galapagos because of anxiety. It sucks and I feel defeated.
“The boat powers around the corner and picks me up. Kicker Rock is breathtaking and is truly an amazing experience; I wish I was in a better state of mind to appreciate what was happening around me.”
It took just over a year to regain my confidence to SCUBA dive again. Underwater was my calm place, a place with just me and my thoughts, thinking about the lives of the creatures we encounter. I missed being in their world, instead of observing from the surface snorkeling. Joe and I finally went diving at the RMS Rhone wreck where we were able to take it slow from our own boat, and by the time we reached depth, I was perfectly comfortable! I was back in my element!
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Until next week, Happy Sailing!