Although I haven’t been diving before I have snorkelled in abundance in the various countries I visited and I have always been in awe exploring the underwater world. Therefore it seemed like a no-brainer to commence my scuba-diving education which would enable me to explore the mysteries under the sea to a greater extent! ATI Divers based at La Iguana Perdida in Lake Atitlan provided me with the perfect opportunity to “dive in”!
The underwater treasures at Lake Atitlan were completely different to anything I have seen before. However I know that learning here will put me in good stead for my future dives as I learned in a high altitude freshwater environment, which has big differences to diving at sea level due to pressure and buoyancy changes amongst other things. Of course because I haven’t dived before at sea level I didn’t notice any of these differences just yet.
The visibility at the Lake wasn’t very great; it was pretty murky with an ominous dark green hue, unlike the many sea level dive sites with crystal clear blue waters. Yet this added to the mystery of diving at the lake and made it that much more exciting when the treasures below the surface came into view. The treasures I speak of are not of the usual aquatic life; they are areas that have been reclaimed by the lake and the buildings that it has swallowed in the process. There is in actual fact an ancient Mayan pilgrimage site called Samabaj which was devoured by the lake in around 350AD! However it’s certainly not possible for recreational divers to explore the ruins due to inaccessibility and precarious nature of diving at altitude. The buildings that I explored were previously hotels and houses. This is of course pretty tragic knowing that people have lost parts of their homes and livelihoods. It did however make for some seriously interesting exploration.
One of the dive sites called Agua Caliente which literally translates to “hot water”, was named so due to the hot vents which can be found at a depth of 18m. I assume that this is due to the proximity of the volcanoes surrounding the lake, which also causes the sediment to be hot, especially when you dig down a little deeper with your fingertips! During this dive we swam under submerged docks and toasted cheers at an underwater bar!
As a first time diver I found the Open Water Course to be absolutely brilliant, this is probably also due to the fact that I had a great dive instructor who I was lucky enough to have one on one! The hardest part of the course for me however was not learning to breathe correctly underwater or getting a hang of buoyancy, it was putting into practise the safety measures I had to learn. For example, taking the breathing regulator out at any point and learning how to replace your mask if it comes off. I had a slight panic at one point during that exercise as I had my eyes closed of course which is disorientating enough but then my breathing went awry and I began inhaling through my nose…..water of course. I honestly felt for a slight moment that I was going to drown, it was absolutely terrifying. However I managed to regulate my breathing, calm myself down and eventually put my mask back on and empty it of water.
The best thing is that once you’ve learned these safety measures, you’re probably never going to have to do them again. But of course the knowledge is there in case the worst does happen and it makes you aware of what to avoid for prevention.
I wasn’t sure going into the dive course if I was even going to completely like it or feel at ease under the water. For one, I’m pretty afraid of the dark. Two, I’m not very comfortable swimming when I can’t touch the bottom of the water, especially when it’s deep open water. And three, I’m not particularly great when I get water in my mask….hence the panic!
However I overcame each fear and found scuba diving to be strangely natural and therapeutic. I will certainly be continuing to dive in the future at every opportunity and I have already decided I would like to do my Advanced Certification and Divemaster internship as well as various specialities as I also completed my Altitude Diver Specialty at ATI Divers!
5 dives done and many more to come!
So we partially cooked an egg at the hot vents……pretty cool hey?!