I’m starting my DMT on Monday. Even though I’ve been diving for the past 4 years, I’m not at all certain what this training will entail, which makes it quite the grand adventure. My general observations inform me that divemasters are trained to know all the cool locations and wildlife, to keep tourists from taking starfish home and they answer questions like “will we see sharks?” and “what’s wrong with this hose thingy and can you fix it?” They also have to haul equipment around, be nice to customers and keep overenthusiastic divers from bashing into coral. They’re ocean park rangers, if you will.
I decided to do my DMT in Roatan, which is a small island in the middle of the Caribbean off the coast of Honduras. It’s got one paved road, lots of beach bars and I was last here in 2009 when I spent 2 weeks diving. After subsequent diving in Thailand, Australia, the Med, the Galapagos, the Florida keys and Mexico, I still remember Roatan diving as some of the best I’ve ever done. Let’s see if it holds up to my memories.
I’m probably not alone in my assessment, however, because the island is renowned for diving and divemaster programs. It’s continually overrun with divemaster interns who like to dive all day and party all night as well as a constant stream of diving tourists who each want to see something amazing and can’t be relied upon to follow directions. Basically this means that for the next 5 months I’ll be trapped on a small island with a steady crew of expats and young miscreants learning to wrangle unruly groups of clueless tourists who all want to do their own thing and instead should be pointed in a single direction.
I. Can’t. Wait.
I arrived on Roatan at noonish yesterday from a direct flight out of Houston. We coasted down to the runway right by the water, just like I remembered. There’s nothing like flying through solid blue and not being able to distinguish between the sky from the water until you see the color change to sea green water right around the island.
The customs situation was also the hot mess I remembered. Last time it was 2 lines and one agent. Everyone waited patiently like proper Americans, thinking (probably) that since there were two lines eventually there would be two agents, right? Um… not so much. We only got one agent so one line moved along and the other line just stood there.
I’ll say this for travelers, they’ll stand in any line for any amount of time if there appears to be something happening at the head of the line. But when nothing happens for somewhere around 5 minutes, the natives get restless. And start grumbling to their neighbors. And making remarks about the star bellied sneeches in the first line that SHOULD be letting the second line cut in since apparently that’s the system around here…
This time was Same-Same but different with 4 lines and 2 agents but a similar mix of aggressive people leaping forward to get through the line and overly polite people waiting to be invited forward by the completely passive and uninvolved customs agents who couldn’t have cared less. Finally the woman behind me said “Is there some kind of… system?” and I said “well, the system appears to be ‘leap into the gap and at some point everyone will get through the line.’ ” She laughed.
Eventually I got through the customs line and then had to run the gauntlet of getting my luggage. The Roatan luggage carousel is uniquely designed with a sharp curve so every other piece of luggage falls off the belt and lands in the empty middle of the carousel circle where no “unofficial personnel” is supposed to go. After 5 suitcases fell off the belt and piled up and no “official person” took notice, a traveler stepped into the DMZ and retrieved all the luggage, handing it off to grateful passengers while the security personnel looked on.
25 minutes later, the same 20 suitcases had all revolved at least 10 times and one frantic woman yelled, “Is that all the luggage??” I looked at the 50 people crowded around the carousel and thought “Seriously lady? I know this is the Island but even the worst airline in the world doesn’t lose luggage for 50 people in one flight. Where do you need to be that you’re in such a rush? An hour from now the drinks will still be there, the ocean will still be there and the sun will definitely still be there. Chill out.”
And welcome to the Island.