Scuba Diving in Negril & West End ᛫ January – February 27, 2018

Jamaica | 0 comments

The first time I went scuba diving was in the Red Sea in Egypt. I just loved it from the very beginning. Underwater I could explore a completely new world and felt weightless as if I was flying. I was 12 years old and stoked to become an Open Water Diver like my dad already was. It’s the first course where you learn the principles of scuba diving and the basic skills. After a test and some dives with exercises, you get your certification and know how to go diving around the world. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out for me because I got sick and couldn’t finish the required dives.

Coral Reef with blue fish, sea urchins, sponges and corals in West End, Jamaica

Another world: Underwater plants, animals, movement, sounds, and vision differ completely from what we are used to at the surface. This coral reef was right in front of the hotel where I lived.

One year later I started another attempt in the Dominican Republic and succeeded. From then on, I dived a couple of times per year on different vacations, mostly with my dad and sister. When I later traveled with friends or by myself I didn’t do it that much because it’s quite an expensive hobby. 😉

Becoming a Professional Scuba Diver?

Over the years I talked to many different divers from around the world. One thing I learned was that it’s not uncommon to become a dive instructor by working for a scuba dive school. After the Open Water Diver, there are four more certifications to become a Divemaster, which lets you work at dive shops, and then another for the Instructor, which lets you teach. I thought that would be perfect for me because it would not only let me scuba dive more, but I could even make money doing it. And I wouldn’t even have to pay for the pricey courses.

So I planned to spend three months in Jamaica and find a place to become a Divemaster there. I had been scuba diving there two times before and figured that it would not be difficult to find some work in the “no problem” country. I stayed there on a tourist visa and not working visa because I wouldn’t earn any money for my work, but get the certifications in return.

Finding a Place to Start

It turned out not to be so easy. I talked to all the dive shops in Negril I could find, but they all had different reasons for saying no. At the beginning of 2018, I finally got a call from a guy I had met at an Airbnb guesthouse, saying he might have a job for me. So I went to talk to him and the boss of the place.

Rasta girl scuba diving with shipwreck in background near Negril, Jamaica

Underwater selfie: It’s no problem to hold my breath for a while to take a picture with a smile and shipwreck in the background while scuba diving. 😉

The scuba diving shop was located in a hotel on the cliff side of Negril, called West End. After talking for a while, the boss told me that I could start the following day as an intern. I would help out with anything at the dive shop in return for doing the courses to become a Divemaster; Advanced, Emergency First Response, Rescue, and Master. I was so happy that my dream was going to come true.

The shop had been closed for a while and we were supposed to open it up again. I was excited to also see the business part of opening a scuba dive shop before some clients came. But sadly, that didn’t happen while I was there. Many things take a little longer to get done in Jamaica and on top, the guy who connected me with the hotel had to leave to due health issues. Luckily, another instructor agreed to continue the courses with me. In the end, I managed only to get the Advanced, EFR and parts of the Rescue because of missing time and study material. It was a great experience nonetheless, I learned a lot and will just finish the courses somewhere else.

The Jamaican Underwater World

On most of my dives before I did it from a boat, but at the hotel in West End, you could just walk from the dive shop to the cliffs, jump in the water and the reef started right there. It was very convenient. There were many small and colorful fish, sea urchins, stingrays, lobsters and sometimes sea snakes. Although it was a marine park where the animals are supposed to be protected, everybody fishes as they want because it’s not prosecuted. We also sometimes hunted. Or rather the others hunted with a spear and I helped spot the animals. We only looked for lobsters because they were valuable and for lionfish because they hurt the reef.

The lionfish just eat all the small fish and without fish, a reef can’t survive. Since they are not native to the Caribbean, they have no natural enemies. But you have to be cautious not to touch them because they are venomous and can seriously hurt you. After cutting their spine it’s safe to eat them, but the fishermen don’t catch them because the risk of getting stung is too high. It would mean they might not be able to work for a couple of days. I heard stories that the pain is so bad that you want to cut off your hand or wherever it stung. So we were always very careful with them and nothing happened.

Lionfish swimming over reef near Negril, West End, Jamaica

Don’t be deceived by its cool looks: Lionfish are very harmful to the reefs because they eat all the small fish and have no natural enemies. On top, you have to be careful not to touch them because they are venomous and can seriously hurt you. After cutting their spine it’s safe to eat them.

Collecting Trash from the Ocean

I also tried to collect some trash, especially plastic, from the precious underwater world. It was sometimes sad to see how much I found and we were always diving more or less in the same area. I don’t even want to imagine how much trash lies around the whole island. As a scuba diver, the pollution of the oceans is especially sad to see. I try to avoid using plastic whenever I can, but to save the reefs much more has to be done.

For my Advanced course, I was required to complete five different dives. One Navigation Dive, where I had to navigate underwater with a compass. Then a Deep Dive to at least 30m (100ft) and ours was also a Wreck Dive because we went to a sunken boat at the deepest point of 33m (108ft). Another one was a Boat Dive, which was easy because I had done it many times before. One was called Peak Performance Buoyancy where I had to establish the right buoyancy with my weight belt and scuba dive jacket so I could hover and maneuver underwater using my lungs.

A Different World at Night

The most different was the Night Dive. It was my first time scuba diving at night and I really enjoyed it. We started about an hour after sunset and had flashlights obviously. Underwater, it was strange at first not being able to see everything. I only saw the small part that I could illuminate with the flashlight and the rest was just black. But I wasn’t scared because we had been diving there many times.

I got accustomed to the environment and noticed that many plans and animals looked different than during the day. It was like another reef and very interesting to see. Around me, I also started to see very small animals that glowed. They floated through the water and looked like flying stars. We also saw some bioluminescence, small organisms glowing at night when we turned the flashlights off and moved our hands around which was really cool.

In total, I did 20 dives in Jamaica and am a step closer to becoming a Divemaster. The next underwater world I explored was in Cuba.
 

Keep swimming! 🙂

See More Pictures of My Time Scuba Diving in Negril & West End

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