I may have looked like James Bond — supercool in full SCUBA gear — but I was fairly certain 007 never got butterflies in his stomach right before rolling backward off a dive boat into the Caribbean.
My husband, Mac, and I are in our early 60s and are not SCUBA divers. We have always been daunted by the amount of specialized knowledge and equipment that diving seems to require. Yet on a trip to San Pedro, Belize, our friends put the pressure on. “This country has the second-longest barrier reef in the world,” one said. “People come from all over to dive here. You’d be crazy not to.”
They suggested we do a shallow-water introductory dive requiring about 20 minutes of instruction and no certification. We signed up for a dive with SeaStar, a San Pedro scuba shop. On the dock we got a rundown of the equipment before we motored out to a spot near the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, where the reef is only 12 feet below the surface.
Fifteen minutes later, I sat on the boat’s edge in full gear and let go. Soon I saw giant sea turtles, huge rays and schools of fluorescent-blue fish. Docile nurse sharks cruised past. It turns out diving was just as our friends had described it: like swimming in an aquarium.