On our recent trip aboard the Carnival Miracle, we decided to go scuba diving which was one of the shore excursions offered by the cruise ($89.99/person). This was our second time, as we did try it a few years ago on the amazing Andros Island which is one of the Out Islands of the Bahamas.
If you’re considering scuba diving as a shore excursion (or even as a non-cruise visitor to St. Thomas), here’s how it works.
Eight passengers from our cruise (3 couples, 2 individual guys) met by our ship. We were asked to complete a detailed form asking questions like “Are you pregnant?,” “Do you have a cold,” and so on. You had to answer “no” to each of the 15 or so questions to be able to go diving. For some of them, if you answered “yes” you could still go but you would have needed a doctor’s note which would make it nearly impossible to obtain in such a short amount of time.
We then hopped on a safari truck and were driven to Coki Beach. The drive itself was about 15 minutes.
Coki Beach (Even If You Are Not Diving…)
I must say that I didn’t expect Coki Beach to be as amazing as it was. The sand is bright and powdery and the water was warm, especially in the first few feet out. Once it got to below about 3 feet, you could feel the water being a touch cooler. Even if you didn’t want to go scuba diving or if someone came with you on the excursion who didn’t want to dive, Coki Beach is a great place to sunbathe and snorkel. Note that Coral World is located there as well so if you’re coming by car, look for the Coral World signs.
In fact, there were tons of fish in a foot of water, right on shore! People would feed the fish (you can buy some food on the beach) and loads of colorful fish would come right up to you. As far as snorkeling is concerned, it was great!
In fact, what you could experience from shore turned out to be more interesting than anything we saw while we were 20 feet down. This was the only disappointing part of the excursion but the truth is, if it’s your first time scuba diving, you’re more concerned with what you’re doing than seeing tons of fish. If you really enjoy the experience, you can go on more adventurous dives around the Caribbean and the world.
Scuba Diving Course
Once there, we sat through a summarized version of a full PADI beginner course. PADI is the Professional Association of Diving Instructors and they set standards for what people should know to go scuba diving and get certified. (Side note: If you happen to be in Montreal, Action Scuba is the best place to get PADI certified).
The scuba diving course lasted about 15 minutes. The instructor made it clear that completing the course and scuba diving that day did not lead to certification. It was just a taster for a full program and enough to get you in the water for what is presumably your first underwater dive. After the lesson, we had to write a test. The test was done all at once, meaning that the instructor read the questions one at a time and we wrote down the answer. It was easy, so don’t worry.
Once the test was done, we walked over to get our diving gear. We got swim fins and masks from the shack and then walked down to the beach to get our oxygen tank and the rest of our equipment. If you had valuables (I had a very expensive camera with me and placed it in a bag), you could leave them in the shack. It’s one of those situations where you “know” that nobody is going to touch your stuff in the hour that you’ll be gone. In other words, I felt safe leaving my stuff.
It’s Not For Everyone
The eight of us were divided into two groups of four. My group was lucky enough to get native Texan and scuba diver extraordinaire Jordan Klein as our instructor. She helped with our gear and we did the basic tests we had just learned such as how to clear the water out of our masks without having to surface, as well as being able to take the regulator out of our mouths and put it back in safely while underwater.
Now, this may sound funny but you have to be able to swim to go scuba diving. One of the guys in our group didn’t really know how to swim so he quit right away. Stupid, I know.
Anyways, we slowly made out way down to about 20 feet at the deepest. If you couldn’t go down that deep because your ears hurt and you weren’t able to equalize the pressure in your head, you could swim along closer to the surface. Jordan held a string with her (see photo) that was attached to buoy which floated at the surface. One of the guys in the group stayed about 2 feet under water the entire time and just held onto the rope to be sure he didn’t lose us. Jordan went up to check on him from time to time.
We made our way back to the beach, took off the gear, and that was it! I think we were under water for about 30 minutes or so.
You bet it was! Overall, this was a great experience. One point that adds even more to it is that I have an underwater camera (Canon D20) and took great photos and videos while we were down there. Also, the beach itself is fantastic! If you’re up for the adventure, diving for the first time at Coki Beach in St. Thomas is well worth the experience. Jordan did a good job and while you don’t have to tip, we had no problem doing so.