• Emmy Ciabattoni

A Pedacito of Scuba Diving Uncharted Waters in Quepos, Costa Rica

Updated: Jul 1, 2021

It was my last day of work as a Divemaster, so the captain dropped me off for a private dive in the middle of the ocean somewhere. I’d spent the entire summer working as a social media intern for a dive shop in exchange for divemaster courses and although I’d spent every day on the boat, I’d never seen this spot before.

The Costa Rican dive shop where I interned for the Summer
The Costa Rican dive shop where I interned for the Summer

Clusters of black volcanic rock jutted out of the water; currents swirled in and out of their crevices. As the boat slowed, I did one last safety check:

  1. inflate your vest,

  2. check that your weights are secure,

  3. secure all of your straps,

  4. check that your air is working, and

  5. give the final OK that signals you’re good to go.

I rolled backward off the edge of the boat and my head bobbed to the surface just in time to see our captain pull away and fade off into the distance. He left us out there, alone, so he could drop off our clients at the usual spot.

I did a ton of training to become a divemaster in Costa Rica
I did a ton of training to become a divemaster in Costa Rica

I wasn’t too worried, being out there without his supervision. My dive buddy, Pat, was an experienced instructor. I wasn’t qualified to go on a mission like this, but at least he was. He could save us if anything went wrong. We descended and explored the volcanic crevices; we swam in, and out, and around the pointed black structures. The current slowly lured us into cracks, and then eventually out of them. God only knows what we could’ve seen in there.

Quepos, Costa Rica has the prettiest views
Quepos, Costa Rica has the prettiest views

On an average dive in the Manuel Antonio National Park, we’d see a few fish and maybe a turtle. But this place felt untouched; clouds of creatures surrounded us. My arms brushed fish scales with every stroke—their skin sparkled and shined in veils of silver, blue, and red. As we descended, the current strengthened and pulled us just a little deeper, and a little further into the cracks...


Until gone. He was gone. Pat vanished. He was sucked into a crevice; lost in its blackness.

Taking a dive in the waters of Quepos
Taking a dive in the waters of Quepos

I thought I was screwed. Completely screwed. He was the instructor, the experienced, the one who would save us, and I totally wasn’t certified for something like this. Technically, if you've lost your buddy, the protocol is to search for one minute and then ascend to find each other above water. But Pat wasn't lost, I knew where he was. The books said nothing about a situation like this. Should I venture into the crack, and try to find him? Or rise to the surface and signal for help out into the distance?


As a dive professional, you’re taught to protect yourself first; but I couldn’t leave him. Wearily, my fingertips clung to lava rocks as I crawled towards the blackness. The currents were light at first, lulling me gently into darker spaces and then guiding me back, towards the light. I inched deeper, waiting for the force to pick up and devour me completely.


Violently, my feet swept over my head while my arms wrapped around a massive boulder. No... no... no... don't let go… said the voice inside my head. The force sucked me harder, and my fingers were slipping, but I had to remain calm.


Finally, the current switched and shoved me toward the light. I floated away, away, away from the darkness and into the light blue water, but as much I wanted to go this direction I couldn’t. I couldn’t abandon Pat down there. He would be lost forever...


Pat! He was throwing shakas and gliding with the current right behind me. South, south, south he frantically motioned! We swam free, away from the black crevices.


The situation wasn’t ideal; it was risky and scary. However, it increased my capacity for stress and familiarity with unique underwater situations. I learned that staying calm is the most important thing because the worry, the anxiety, the stress—they won’t change the outcome. They’ll only hinder your thinking and judgment. Overall, the experience made me a better divemaster.


And I’ve learned that these lessons apply to the little, everyday things, too. If you find yourself panicking about a work issue, or a boyfriend, or some other kind of drama—stay calm and let things flow; it might be the best thing you can do for the situation.

I learned so much while living and working in Costa Rica
I learned so much while living and working in Costa Rica
 

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