Travel

Travel and Diving in the COVID Era

By Ingrid on 11/17/20

A personal reflection by Ocean First Ambassador and Avid Scuba Diver Rhonda Ahrens

Anthony Bourdain said “Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you.”

Even in 2020 there are ways to travel & dive safely! My lengthy travel report below is proof. I usually fly often for work but my last work trip was late Feb. 2020. Then we hunkered down and stayed home until just before Memorial Day when we took a family trip to Mt. Rushmore & Custer State Park, SD. We drove & stayed in a KOA (Kampgrounds of America) cabin taking Clorox wipes, hand sanitizer & masks – it was easy and so rewarding. While there, Cathy Christopher let me know she was leading a Key Largo trip in July which happened to be over my birthday weekend so we jumped on it and booked flights. We left a day early, a mask-wearing family of four, traveling nonstop on Southwest with the middle seats open. We felt completely safe and grabbed our rental car in the Florida airport & headed directly to Key Largo. The trip consisted of 10 dives to 20’ depths in 3 days with some pretty decent choppy surface waves. Overall, it was so much fun and we even spied a Caribbean disco clam in addition to plenty of nurse sharks, swim throughs, and tried to spy the Benwood wreck in poor visibility.ronda-blog-8.jpg

In late September, I went back with Cathy Christopher as my dive buddy. Southwest Airlines were still flying with the middle seats open. The tropical depression (I don’t even recall which one since there were dozens this year) hindered our plans to do a night dive in Pompano Beach and a couple morning dives before heading to Key Largo. While it was a bummer, we made the best of it and found an Irish Pub after a long walk on the beach. We had the most delicious donuts at Dandee Donut Factory before heading to the Keys. The diving was great – 8 dives in two days with Mike Pivacek and other Ocean First clients. We were able to dive the Benwood wreck in nice visibility on that trip in addition to many sites on Molasses and Pickle Reef!

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Now, fast forward to November. My husband and I booked a last minute trip to Belize due to another couples cancellation and a text from Amy Christopher. We were with 12 other adventurous divers led by Bruce Penner. We flew United via IAH. After two 2-hour legs and a puddle jumper flight to Ambergris Caye you are on the beach! Belize Ministry of Health takes COVID-19 extremely seriously. You must have a negative test within 72 hours of flying, there are hand washing stations and sanitizer everywhere, and everyone is wearing masks. They are open for business and welcome Americans with open hearts.

ronda-blog-3.jpg The Sun Breeze Hotel and dive shop are together on the same property. Easy, delightful visibility on our 60-80’ dives with so many active nurse sharks you had to push them out of your way at times, and I’m only half joking! Social distancing was not required under water and they knew it! Our Dive Master fed them plenty of lionfish with his spear. We saw large reef sharks on every dive and a hammerhead greeted us on the surface as we ended our night dive. There were dolphins under water and on the surface, we spotted eagle rays in schools swimming with us and under the dock as we boarded the dive boat. Those 13 dives in gin clear water over 5 days were some of the best I have had in years, and I’ve been certified & diving since 1986! We visited Lamanai Mayan Ruins prior to flying home on our rest day. Belize now holds a special place in my heart after this visit.

We all know this has been a challenging year to say the least. I know everyone's situation and comfort level are different but if you are a healthy diver with wanderlust blues, there are safe travel options out there for you.

Sign up for our upcoming trip to Belize in Mid-February to experience the magic!

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