What is snuba, you ask? It's a cross between snorkeling and SCUBA. You get to go down about 20 feet under the water with a regulator, like they use in scuba diving. But instead of carrying a big oxygen tank on your back, you have a long hose that connects you to your tank, which is floating on a raft on the surface. If you're lucky, you'll get tethered to a timid couple who will swim 20 feet behind you the whole time and you'll get to pull the raft along like you're in the ocean Iditarod. There is no certification necessary. They give you a 1/2 hour training, and you get to see whether you're prone to claustrophobia or hysterics!
We did our dive at Coki Beach, on St. Thomas, with Virgin Islands Snuba. Our guide, Tammy, was awesome. She was very patient and thorough in training us. She waited until we were comfortable with each part of the process (learning to breathe with the regulator, learning to clear our ears, learning to hover in the water, learning how to get the sand out of our shorts, etc.) before we went on with the next step. It did take a little getting used to: having those loud bubbles going past your ears, and breathing V-E-R-Y S-L-O-W-L-Y, and equalizing your ears as you submerged. But once you got down there, you just forgot about all that and surrendered yourself to the amazing world around you.
It just so happens that I have a totally irrational fear of open water. Well, maybe not so irrational. It probably stems from the three or four times we ALMOST SANK while sailing in Lake Huron growing up. ("Hey, Ari. Go below and see if there's any water filling up the galley." My dad literally said those words to me. On more than one occasion.) If you haven't sailed in Lake Huron, let me tell you: You might as well sink in the North Atlantic. It's about that big, and definitely that cold. Standing on a rocking bow during 15 foot swells trying to change the sail with nothing to hold onto and waves lapping over your feet every time you crashed down a wave's trough might just give you a slight fear of open water. MIGHT. Well, that and SHARKS. No, there are no sharks in Lake Huron, it's true. But I've watched enough seasons of Shark Week to know that you can't even wade waist deep in the ocean without advertising your thighs as appetizers. So anyway, if I've been a bit nervous snorkeling before, you would understand, right? It's easy to get carried away by the beautiful fish and coral and then to suddenly realize there could be a shark coming straight for you and start flailing about hysterically. Not that I have. No, I'm just saying one could and it would be understandable, right? Well, I never got that feeling when snuba-ing. Somehow, being under the water where you can see your enemies coming at you makes being in the water a lot less terrifying.
And, as it turns out, the only enemies that came at me on our dive were some angel fish and a remora. A remora, in case you don't know, is one of those parasite fish you always see sucking onto a shark, or sometimes a whale, cleaning off all the slime for them. This one had no shark attached, thank goodness. But it was very big and very intimidating anyway. I managed not to scream under water and flee to the surface. I hear the bends isn't so fun. So I just kept swimming. (Away from the remora...you know, just in case it decided to go shark browsing for a shark.)
Anyway, I HIGHLY recommend you try SNUBA next time you're somewhere tropical. It's all the fun of a dive without the training/certification. Although, you could say I got bit by the dive bug, because I think I'm going to have to sign up for real dive certification classes. They do that here in Utah, right? 'Cause Lake Huron is definitely OUT.