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Cenote Diving Part 2 – Little Angel

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Read Part 1 here.

I recently learned that Buddhists do not believe in happiness. Instead, they assert that the general ‘suffering’ of life or ‘dukkha’ as they refer to it is something that we all should acknowledge and work hard each day to accept. It is the absence of dukkha that the rest of us would recognise as happiness. 5000 miles away from the grey skies of England and my cluttered desk lay the placid waters of Angelita Cenote, and upon seeing her I am filled with a sense of calm serenity. As we prepare to slip beneath the green water of a sink-hole nestled quietly in the jungles of Riviera Maya, it is safe to say that there will be no dukkha for us here today.

Luis is leading what will turn out to be an unforgettable dive; Angelita or ‘little angel’ is unique and difficult to justifiably describe. His briefing by the edge of the glorious fresh water pool fills us with nervous anticipation as we are reliably told from someone who has dived the Cenotes for close to twenty years that this is by far his favourite. We will reach a depth of 40m; regarded the maximum one should safely go on a single tank of air. During our descent we will lose sight of each other as the sunlight cannot penetrate the layer of mulshy water after 30m or so. Due to the nitrogen in our system, the depth of the dive and the overall freakiness of the dive site itself, Luis explains to us that everyone suffers from nitrogen narcosis when taking on Angelita; a condition that temporarily renders a diver feeling somewhat drunk and light headed. We will get ‘narked’ today. This dive, he tells us, will separate the men from the boys.

After more than 500 dives in locations all over the World, this is the first time I recall feeling slightly anxious since my early training dives more than a decade ago. Anxious, but utterly excited.

Laden with cameras, Sam and I step carefully into the water by a small wooden platform on one side of the Cenote while Luis plunges in from a higher point on the opposite fringe of the spherical swamp-like sink hole. We float to meet in the centre and take a look around us. We are in no hurry. Birds can be heard singing to each other in the trees that surround Angelita and dragonflies dance around our heads just inches from the water’s surface. We smile, nod and signal that we are ready to begin our descent.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The broken branches of gnarled trees waste no time in presenting themselves beneath us. It is as though a long forgotten forest has slipped beneath the water for only a fortunate few to witness. Our descent deepens through a foggy haze of particle rich water and seconds later the light leaves us as if a switch has been flicked off unannounced.

Blackness…

If not for the narrow beam of light from our torches, complete darkness surrounds us. Scattered on the Cenote floor are leaves of brown and yellow. We navigate around the protruding branches. Sam will later tell me that it is at this point that the narcosis set in. I don’t recall getting ‘narked’ but I certainly had a strange feeling. The previous day I had dived a Cenote called Chac Mool without Sam; I would later describe it to her as the setting for Indiana Jones if it were to be filmed underwater. On a similar note, Angelita stirs up evocative comparisons of Sleepy Hollow or better yet, Alice in Wonderland, only a much darker version than even Tim Burton’s re-make. Like Alice, we are now falling down the rabbit hole. Whether up might be down is almost impossible to tell… light creeps back to us; the fog of the dense water all around does its best to convince us that we are not diving at all. Instead we emerge from a cloud, flying through the forgotten forest in water that could be air.

We sweep around the edge of Angelita during our slow purposeful ascent. The past 30 minutes have elapsed in what now feels like mere seconds. The other world, the unusual place that has captivated us like never before is now disappearing beneath our fins; it is forsaken for the portal that now waits a few feet above our heads. The sunlight pierces the surface of Angelita and reveals the familiar world we left behind. Trees and clouds can be seen all around us; just an arm’s length away we need only to reach out, another fin kick or two and the mystique of the Little Angel will become a recent memory. Warmth kisses our cheeks and daylight hurts our eyes as we take our first breath of earthly air and look to each other for a reaction. What just happened? We are unable to effectively describe the feeling, the experience we just shared. We are elated. Luis has been here hundreds of times before but it’s clear to see that Angelita remains a special place for him. It is magical.

Freya Stark said something beautiful that I find poignant after such a day; “Good days are to be gathered like grapes, to be trodden and bottled into wine and left for age to sip at ease beside the fire. If the traveller has vintaged well he need trouble to wander no further, the ruby moments glow in his glass at will.”

Angelita is a ruby moment I will treasure forever.

Mat Reeve is a photographer, travel writer and all round adventurer. Currently a consultant at UK-based tour operator Dive Worldwide, Mat is a qualified Divemaster, Martial Arts instructor and fitness trainer. Mat has a huge passion for exploring and experiencing all that life has to offer. He has travelled more than 3000 miles throughout Europe by boat, train and road without spending a single penny while raising money for a number of charities. Mat has camped for weeks in the wilds of Africa. He has paddled the treacherous waters of the Zambezi amid crocodiles and hippos, and has led divers on incredible underwater excursions, introducing them to apex predators including bull sharks without the protection of a cage. The Sardine Run in South Africa remains his most exhilarating experience to date and included incredibly close encounters with enormous humpback whales, super-pods of dolphins, and a feisty group of dusky sharks at feeding time. Over the years Matt has been charged by a hippo, chased by a lion, stalked by a shark, and stung by a tiny but painful Portuguese Man of War. A hugely passionate animal and nature enthusiast, Mat likes to get as close to the action as possible.

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Frontline workers honoured with free dive trip to Yap

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The remote island of Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia is among the few places in the world that remains free of Covid-19 thanks to its ocean border and a strict travel ban that has kept its residents safe.

Nonetheless, Yap has been affected, too. As one of the world’s premier, award-winning destinations for divers, this paradisiacal location in the western Pacific Ocean has had no outside visitors to its rich shores and reef for nearly a year. But while there may be no virus, the island hasn’t been cut off from the economic impact experienced around the globe.

Manta Ray Bay Resort and Yap Divers by A. Tareg

That didn’t stop Bill Acker, CEO and founder of the Manta Ray Bay Resort and Yap Divers, from doing something, though.

Last March, soon after the island went into lockdown, Bill began to realize the effect of the virus on daily life beyond the island. “Yes, we are closed, have no divers, had to send our employees home and prepare for difficult times,” he said. “But we’re lucky in that we have, for the most part, avoided the human suffering and death this pandemic has caused.”

Thinking about the problems faced by his family business, they paled when he compared them to those endured by the healthcare workers who have been fighting selflessly around the clock for months on end for the well-being and lives of others.

“One evening, while checking the news online, I saw pictures of frontline workers who were tending to desperately ill and dying people when families and friends could not be with their loved ones. It was heartbreaking,” he added.

The next day, a meeting was held with the resort’s staff and Bill invited suggestions for ways they could do something to honor healthcare workers. The result was the idea to award twenty divers who are working on the frontline to save other’s lives during this pandemic while risking their own, with a free week at the resort.

Manta ray, Manta birostris, gliding over a cleaning station in M’il Channel, Yap, Micronesia by David Fleetham

Divers around the world who had been guests at Manta Ray Bay in the past were invited to submit the names of candidates for the award by December 31, 2020. “We received nominations for 126 individuals from as far away as Germany, the U.S., Australia and Canada,” he said. “It was not easy choosing the winners but our committee of staff members took on the job and selected the 20 finalists.”

“While trying to choose the people to reward for their hard work during this Covid-19 crisis,” Bill added, “by reading the nominations we saw that every one of the nominees was doing things above and beyond the call of duty. Sadly, we don’t have the finances to offer over 100 free weeks in Yap, but we do want to recognize the contributions all of them are making to our world. So, we are offering the rest of the nominees a free week of diving in Yap which includes room, hotel tax, airport transfers, breakfast, diving and Wi-Fi.  The only requirement is that they travel with at least three other people and stay in two rooms or more.”

“We do not yet know when Yap will open its borders,” said Bill, “but when it does, we will welcome these important guests to Yap to relax and dive with the manta rays and the other beautiful denizens of the ocean surrounding our island home. They are the true heroes of this devastating, historic time and we look forward to honoring them with a well-deserved dive vacation.”

Watch out for our exclusive trip report from a healthcare worker from the UK who is one of the 20 to have been awarded this amazing dive trip!

For more information on Manta Ray Bay and Yap Divers visit their website by clicking here.

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Dive Training Blogs

Dream Dive Locker Build Out. Part I: Demolition (Watch Video)

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It’s finally here! Time to start building the greatest dive locker the world has ever seen! Part I: Demolition! #dreamdivelocker

This is the first of a series of videos showing the evolution of building out my dream dive locker. My dream dive locker needs to be dive gear drying and storage, dry storage, workshop, office, editing suite, You Tube studio and classroom. That’s a lot of functions for a small space!

The first step is planning out the space and demolishing the laminate flooring. Then I taped up the walls to get a feel for the space. We have a lot of work to do!

But finally we will have a purpose built space to house all of our dive equipment! Subscribe to our channel to follow our progress! 

Thanks for watching, Team!

James


Subscribe here: http://bit.ly/DiversReady

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