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Thursday, 23 August 2012

Taking the Plunge: Scuba in Jamaica

Written by Gary Pearson
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Take deep breaths and whatever you do, don’t panic.

Scuba diving instructor Sinan Halacoglu conveyed the imperative message prior to my first plunge into the deep blue.

“If you panic you are done,” the veteran diver reiterated, his formidable, uncompromising shark-like gaze penetrating my defenses.

Though powerful, direct and of the utmost importance, Halacoglu’s message was of little comfort. That should be easy enough, I thought, still trying to absorb other tidbits necessary for a successful maiden dive.

Dressel Divers, set in front of the lavish backdrop of the Iberostar Resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica, provided the opportunity for my maiden scuba dive. The area is renowned for its serene, picturesque landscape. A stark contrast, however, subsists. Within a stone’s throw of the elaborate, ornate resorts, locals’ dwell in rows upon rows of decrepit, structurally unsound houses; a juxtaposition Halacoglu has come accustomed to.


“No one cares about locals, it’s all about five-star resorts for tourists; there is no balance here,” said the 30-year-old, his tone laden with anger.

Although Jamaica is synonymous with Bob Marley and the popularisation of reggae, its warm, laid-back culture, unmistakable slang, enviable accents, lightning-quick sprinters, exotic landscape and distinct coffee – cultivated in the Blue Mountains – visitors are often unable to fathom the hardships locals endure on a daily basis. According to Country Compass – a USAID analytical support project – Jamaica suffers from the highest per capita murder rate worldwide, while 69 per cent of rural inhabitants live under the poverty line.

“I have three kids, work 12 hours a day, six days a week, but it’s all good man,” said Rennae Gayle, who coordinates events for tourists on behalf of Iberostar.

Gayle, 26, smiled like the Cheshire Cat, showing off her pearly whites as she ambled along the beach. Regardless of personal strife, she maintained a sunny disposition. It was infecting, like an air-born contagion.

After the inspiring chat, and a quick informative classroom session, myself, along with two fellow Canadians – Shira Hutton and Mike Perrin – and one Englishman – Danny Kelleher – yanked, stretched and pulled our wetsuits snug.

The Sun, although blanketed by dense cloud cover, quickly heated the foamed insulated suits, rendering any movement exhausting and slow. Like an overheated penguin, I waddled to the pool and toppled in, finding instantaneous relief.

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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