I was certified for scuba diving with four wonderful friends in Monterey this weekend, and it was wonderful. I have coveted the ability to dive since that I learned what it was (I remember the moment; I was pretty young, and my mother very firmly emphasized how dangerous it was). As an adult, the equipment and perceived difficulty and expense in gaining the skill intimidated me, and despite my obsession with marine life and looking for it in the wild (in tidepools, up until now), I don't know that I'd have done it if friends hadn't had the idea and poked me. How fortunate I am.
It turns out that the equipment is relatively straightforward once one understands its use, its danger is not great if one takes proper care, and that obtaining certification was quite manageable. It's hard to explain how just delighted I am to have had this experience.
On our second dive, while hanging around under about 20 feet of water, holding onto a rope anchored in the sandy bottom of Monterey Bay and taking turns doing exercises, I saw a wild octopus. It was tiny, and the color of sand. It held very still, tentacles pulled in close and curled slightly upwards. I wouldn't have seen it if one of my companions had not pointed it out, and it quickly took its chance to disappear down one of the many tiny burrows that lines the seafloor. It was enchanting and beautiful. I hardly expected to achieve one of my life ambitions in wildlife-watching on my first weekend of diving.
So yeah, I want to do that lots more.
I managed to see a lot for relatively short dives in which our time was mostly spent doing the necessary certification exercises. (I hope that my mask never again has reason to be all the way off under water; it was a very sensible thing for us to learn how to deal with, but man, I hated that). Wild otters came very close on both days, hoping that our float contained abalone. Other sealife I spotted included a beautiful fish that I am reasonably certain (after a lot of time spent with my fish book and google) a black perch
, a sculpin of some kind
, a couple of truly enormous giant stars
and sea cucumbers
. There were oodles of bat stars everywhere
, and I saw one gorgeous sunflower star
. I have a very healthy respect for those; I have met them in tidepools, and they are very fast and inquisitive if you offer to touch one. I will not be offering to touch one the size of my face any time soon.
There was a glorious garden of tube-dwelling anemones
, some with beautiful black tentacles
, and cute little strawberry anemones
. A bunch of adorable juvenile sanddabs
scuttled around on the sandy bottom, and a diving cormorant
, who wasn't in the least bit concerned about us and practically brushed against us as it dove past. (That photo may not be the same species of cormorant, but you get the idea).
It was amazing and I loved it.