For the past 30 years, I’ve spent many vacations cruising and weeks at a time on Captiva Island. With all the water surrounding me on these vacations, would you believe that at the age of 55, I had an abject fear of swimming and the ocean? I finally decided to face my fears by taking a swimming class, and within a year and a half, I was fearlessly swimming and in the ocean! However, despite my new-found courage, I never could have expected to find myself scuba diving only three years later. But that’s exactly what I did on a diving adventure in Bonaire!
Thanks to my dear friend, Sandy Shaw, a master dive instructor, I completed my confined water skills to prepare for the trip. Sandy told me that the only place to complete my open water certification was in the calm, clear waters surrounding the island of Bonaire. She said the beautiful coral reef makes Bonaire a scuba diver’s paradise, especially one for beginners like me, and she was absolutely right. We arrived on the island of Bonaire on August 9, 2014 for a fun-filled week at the Divi Flamingo Beach Resort. I was more than ready to start my adventure and Divi Flamingo was the quintessential place to do so!
Our accommodation was an oceanfront deluxe room with an absolutely phenomenal view. Just imagine having coffee out on our balcony every morning – what better way to start our day. After we settled in, we went to the Dive Shop at the resort to get the necessary paperwork completed and to obtain whatever equipment we needed. I must give a shout out to Serge, Laural and the staff at the dive shop. I never expected to meet such a wonderful group of people. Everyday, divers and staff alike would ask me about my day’s diving progress and the encouragement I received from everyone was great. I must single out one person in particular – Alvin, the Assistant Manager of the dive shop. My first encounter with him was when he gave the newly checked-in guests an orientation about the dive shop, the reef marine park and everything else we needed to know about diving at Divi. As the time approached for me to do my check-in dive, I became very nervous and let my nerves get the best of me, making me feel panicked during that dive. Thanks to Alvin and his calm demeanor and outgoing nature, he sat me down and we chatted about the dive. By the end of our little chat, I was eager to try again. I started calling Alvin my personal “dive whisperer” because of his amazing ability to calm my fears. When he talks about scuba and the ocean, his love and respect for both are clearly evident and very contagious. I thank Alvin from the bottom of my heart for his help. Because of him, I did not give up and was able to experience the beauty of the waters and coral reef. Below is a picture of Alvin and me.
Halfway through my week, I unfortunately developed issues with my left ear, and much to my dismay, I decided to forgo scuba diving for the remainder of the trip. Instead, I snorkeled every day and was blown away by the Caribbean – especially the beauty of the water and the sea life, which unfolded before me. From baby squid to parrot fish, I was overwhelmed with what I saw.
The extraordinary thing about the Divi is that the staff is incredibly accommodating and friendly. I’ve never felt so welcomed at a resort, anywhere, before. From the Resort Manager to the front desk personnel to the waiters and bartenders, everyone made a special effort to make me feel right at home. In fact, I feel as if I found a new home away from home. The entire experience has left me wanting more. When you visit a new place and immediately fall in love with it you know you have experienced a sort of magic that is very rare. I am hoping to return to Divi Flamingo next year and nothing would make me happier than to dive the reef as a certified diver. Thank you Divi for this exciting adventure and I will be back. See you next year!
About the Author: Mary Grech works for a law firm on Madison Avenue in New York City. She’s fearless when it comes to emergencies; not only is she an EMT volunteer in her hometown of Hoboken, NJ, she is also Co-Sergeant for the Hoboken Community Emergency Response Team. We can’t wait to see her back in Bonaire next year diving.