The Bahamas- what a thrill! The last time I went to these beautiful chain of islands was back in 2012, when I was newly minted eighteen and ready to devote time to theBimini Shark Lab. It was then that I got my first taste of the wonderful culture, the beautiful people and the gorgeous sights under the ocean waves.
This time, I spent all my time away from land (although the last day I was super close to the Shark Lab off of Bimini... should have swam my scuba butt over there to say hi) and on Jim Abernethy's Scuba Adventures Liveaboard, the m/v ShearWater. Boat sound familiar? University of Miami's RJ Dunlap uses their boat quite a few times (their sticker is right by the exit door... and supposedly the crew acquired orange and green nail polish from them... I'll explain that later).
We spent most of our time in Tiger Beach... which ironically is nowhere near land. Here, we got to meet some big tiger sharks.
My definition of "too close" is my face. In fact, my stick was by my face and my camera was farther out than the stick.
This picture shows one shark, "Maddie," taking special interest in me. She probably sensed my internal squealing. Or me singing the Indiana Jones theme song. One of those, right?
The shark actually got closer than that. I'd show the picture, but the stick got in the way... boo you, stick.
Well, I didn't enjoy the one day my tummy was upset (boo you, pumpkin pie), but the crew was sympathetic and never pressured any of us to dive/do anything we didn't want to do. On an average day, most of the REALLY serious photographers had about six dives- which is a LOT for my tiny self. We had to fill our BC's with extra weights to keep us planted to the bottom... +10 extra lbs is a lot to heave Shamu-style out of the water, yo. I mostly stuck to four dives, and on rare days did six.
If you've ever gone scuba diving, you know that it can take a lot out of you! I would fall asleep pretty easily most days (when the boat engine wasn't revving) and ate a boatload. Dessert? Two servings please, every time. In fact, I was taking a cat(shark) nap one day (apparently they paint the nails of those sleeping in public areas... hence the nail polish) and I guess the cook said, "Dinner's ready" because I woke up and the first thing I said was, "FOOD?!"
His response? "Of course you would wake up to that." #sorrynotsorry
- TUSA IQ-650 Element Air/Nitrox Computer Watch: An easy to read, easy to navigate diver watch. It allows you to set at either FT/MT as well as if you want military time or not. I liked that it allowed me to easily plan my dive, execute it, and even gave me feedback including when I was allowed to fly. Only downside? It's HUGE on my wrist- but that's because my wrist is so tiny. The face takes up my whole wrist, and I have extra band that I try to tuck away (and may just cut off). Overall, a great beginner computer watch. Extra points for being Air/Nitrox.
- Scuba Pro 5mm wetsuit: I'm what you call in Spanish, "Frivolenta," meaning I get cold easily and I get cold fast. Even with waters at an average of 76 degrees F (about 24 degrees C), I'd be shivering around 35 minutes without fail every time. In fact, the more dives I did, the quicker I got cold. Ironically, I was least cold during out 88 ft (27 m) dive... odd. It's a great wetsuit that has kept me pretty warm during all my big "cold" trips (i.e. Mexico, South Africa, etc.). Scuba Pro is one of my favorite brands, hands down.
- Ocean Quest 6oz Premium Lycra Diving Hood: I'm not a really big fan of hoodies- I always feel like I'm about to suffocate from how constricting they are. NOT fun. This was thin enough to not make me feel so, yet keep my head warm and my hair out of my face. Only con was that unless it was tucked into my bathing suit top, air would get into it and I'd be sporting a peanut head. Yeah, you guys have no idea how many selfies you're missing because of this peanut head syndrome.
- Pure Instinct by Mares Razor Full Foot Free Dive Fins (grey color): Melissa mistake #1- do not take free diving fins to dives that are not free diving. Oops. I felt like a penguin waddling the entire time trying to get from my seat into the water and back, but I pretty much mastered not getting my long fins stuck under... well, everything. They're pretty good at getting you from point A to B quickly, but DO NOT swim with these babies when they're a strong current. My feet are pretty small, so I needed 7mm size 4 booties to actually have the size 5 fins fit me, but overall the fins are comfortable.
- ScubaPro Spectra Mask: I've had this mask since I first started diving-- and I love it. I haven't parted with it yet, and I love how snug it fits. It sits comfortably on your face and doesn't leave too much of that dreaded "mask face" all divers sport after a dive.
- ScubaPro Nexus Semi-Dry Flex Snorkel: So I actually lost my original snorkel that came with the mask in Belize, trying to be a hero and go after seagrass survey PVC pipe of science (don't ask). I don't snorkel as much (instead opting to free dive) so the missing snorkel wasn't too much of a heartbreaking loss. My friend Sean took me to a dive shop on my birthday and got me this brand new snorkel, though, and I love it. It's comfortable in my mouth and actually stays attached to my mask unlike my other snorkel. Hallelujah.
- Go Pro Hero 3: So... I messed this up. I have a GoPro Hero 3, not 3+. Still, the quality that GoPro's produce never cease to astound me. I was unable to spend the money on an expensive filter set, but shout out of the Master, George, for allowing me to use his red filter! Definitely made ALL the difference... which is why you won't see any "before the red filter" shots. Too blue. If you're wanting to take underwater photography/videography but don't want to spend thousands of dollars, this is definitely the camera to start out with. Check out the video below to see the quality!
So, was it worth it? DUH. I think I got better at my photography, got some face-to-snout/teeth time with some jawsome animals, and got to meet some really amazing people from all around the world. It was a fun group and a great crew. A big thank you to the Scuba Adventures crew for dealing with my excited, rambunctious self (like, I asked if I could have ice cream at 3pm and Amanda, one of the crew members, graciously gave it to me... the whole tub... success) and for showing us a different side of sharks that not many people get to see.
Big, BIG thank you to Jim Abernethy's Scuba Adventures for choosing me to win the contest-- it was a spectacular journey! I highly suggest that if you love sharks and don't mind for their complete disregard of personal space, check this amazing group out.
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