From what I’ve been told by other guests I have been very fortunate learning to dive with Reef CI in Belize. For someone who was neither that keen on the sea nor on swimming, I had taken a gamble travelling all the way from the UK without so much as a taster dive back home. But my experience leads me to suspect the course must rank amongst the best you could find as a non-diver. Add to this the fact that you actually contribute to conservation of the world’s second largest great barrier reef and it’s a win-win situation.
There are many things that made it an amazing experience. I guess top of everyone’s list would be the location. I have never stayed on a ‘desert island’ before and was lucky that my arrival was set against a backdrop of perfect Caribbean weather. Next, for a beginner, comes the instructors and both have been fantastic; Simon from the UK and Tracy from the USA. I agree their ‘office’ is in a great location but they both work harder and longer days than many people I know, ensuring students get the most from their course. Simon was my Open Water instructor and he guided me and the other student through the training with patience and good humour, especially when neither of us took particularly well to being underwater on our first day.
It was an intense first week with videos, practical sessions, knowledge reviews, a break to swim with a whale shark, and numerous presentations that introduced us to what is at the same time both a fascinating and daunting world of marine conservation. It came as no surprise that bedtime tends to be early on the island. Thankfully, the staff here ensure that food, transport and comfort are dealt with smoothly, allowing you to concentrate on the learning.
With the course starting just off shore, students have the added bonus of seeing marine life that swimming pool Open Water students don’t experience so early in their diving careers. Having accomplished the basic scuba techniques on the confined water and first few open water dives, by Thursday we were ready to join the ‘real’ divers out on the boat. And later that evening, with the theory exam passed, I was a certified PADI Open Water diver. 12 months ago, if anyone had told me this is what I would achieve, I would have dismissed it out of hand.
Although still not 100% confident in the water, by the end of that week I was already contemplating extending my stay from two to three weeks. And on my return to the island on Monday I also decided to pursue my Advanced Open Water certification. Mid-way through that second week I finally reached a point where I just got it, any anxieties subsided and I couldn’t wait to get back in the water. My mind was made up, I had to do an extra week and I would recommend the same for anyone in my position. If you come to Reef CI with the right attitude, there is always more to achieve and you won’t be disappointed.