As much as I enjoy scuba diving, and I do, I really do, sometimes it has some elements that can make it tough to love.  Just getting to the dive site is often a study in masochistic behavior for me. The day usually starts super early with a dive briefing while I pick at the provided soggy fruit “breakfast.” That’s followed up by putting on a smelly wetsuit (no matter how many times they’re washed they never quite lose that distinctive pee smell) and then trying not to vomit up that breakfast while on a long, sometimes bone jarring ride to the dive site. “Ugh, what am I doing?” is a common thought for me on a dive boat. Sounds great right? You’re probably rushing out to get certified right now.

Despite what I just said, though, you should definitely rush out and get certified. I love diving. Love, love, love it. As much as I may dislike hate the boat ride to the dive site, the second I hit the water, all that discomfort fades away. As I drift toward the bottom my heart rate slows, my breathing becomes deep and regular and I am truly living in the moment. I love it and will endure just about anything in exchange for that peace and tranquility I crave. And with the Meso-American reef system running just offshore of Mahahual, that craving was intensified when we arrived a few weeks ago and I was anxious to get out and explore this entirely new area.

deidre diving in mahahual
Hmm, wonder what’s in this canyon?

Finding a reputable dive operator in a new town can be a bit tricky, especially in a town as small as Mahahual, so I was glad when our awesome homeowner (Hey Terry!), who was in town for a few days, offered to set us up with his go-to dive op. As with all things, the diving in Mahahual is done a bit differently so I had some questions for Terry. The actual conversation was probably a bit different but in my mind it went like this-

Me: What time do I have to get up and what kind of soggy fruit breakfast will we get?
Terry: We’ll eat at home, they’re picking us up in the boat about 10:00AM.

Me: How much is it to rent a smelly wetsuit?
Terry: You won’t need one, the water is very warm .

Me: How long is the vomitous and bone jarring boat ride?
Terry: There’s no real boat ride, we’re diving straight behind our house.

Me: Wait. What? Let me get this straight – We’ll have time to sleep in a bit, eat breakfast at home because they’re coming to pick us up, we don’t need wetsuits because the water is warm and there’s no vomity boat ride because we’re diving in the backyard?

Mahahual just keeps getting better and better.

Terry: Oh, and we’re going to spear lionfish and use them make ceviche during our surface interval. Which will be on the back porch.

Freaking amazing. We were getting everything that is fantastic about diving without any of the stuff I dread, we would be clearing the reef of an incredibly destructive and invasive (yet delicious) species and using the catch to make fresh ceviche on our back porch. Folks, I think we just described my perfect day (well, at least one version of it, I’m still tweaking a bit), which means something was bound to go hideously wrong.

Maybe the boat wouldn’t show up?

mahahual dive boat
Nope, no problem. There’s the boat right there.

The boat pulled up just before 10:00AM with all the gear on board and anchored just past the surf. A rinse of the breakfast dishes and a quick wade out to the boat and we were on our way. “On our way” for about the 7 minutes it took to get to the dive site. Sure enough, straight behind the house. In fact, our dive guide Luis named the site “Terry’s Backyard.”

Sure, the dive site is close to home but I’ve never seen boats out there. How good can it be?

divers okay
Here Luis is saying “Okay” but he’s not talking about the dives – because those were fantastic!

The second largest barrier reef in the world runs right behind our house so we didn’t need to worry. Pick a spot, it’s going to be a good dive. The reef was great, the fish were plentiful and friendly and the only shark we saw was heading the other way. Fantastic.

Okay, what if the lionfish don’t show up? What would we do for lunch?

lionfish on spear
Five minutes after we hit the water we had our first lionfish and lunch was on its way.

Unfortunately (for the reef dwellers, great for us hungry people), lionfish are plentiful in this area so finding them was no problem. This area rarely sees divers so in a matter of minutes we were able to harvest enough lionfish for lunch.

Yeah sure, there’s plenty of lionfish but what if someone gets stung while we’re cleaning them?

Our guide Luis is not only an expert lionfish hunter, he's also an expert lionfish cleaner.
Luis is not only an expert lionfish hunter, he’s also an expert lionfish cleaner.

Lionfish stings are no joke so extreme caution is recommended when they’re around, even the ones being turned into lunch. Luckily, this wasn’t Luis’ first lionfish rodeo and he snipped off the poisonous spines as he speared the fish, making them much safer to handle. That being said, we still left the cleaning to the experts.

The last hurdle to the perfect day was the ceviche. We’d had door to door service, great dives, good luck with the lionfish and it was time to sample the “fruits” of our “labor” (sorry but “fish we caught while having fun” just doesn’t have the same ring to it).

lionfish ceviche
Turns out, Luis is a fantastic chef too!

Holy mother, that ceviche was good! It was bright and citrusy with just the right spice and crunch. There’s just something special about eating ceviche on the beach and this ceviche was the best I’ve ever had.

I’m not sure if this day of diving in Mahahual was my perfect day or not but it certainly had all of the elements – The ocean, conservation, fun with friends and eating delicious food with my toes in the sand. I don’t know if that’s perfect, but if it’s not, it’s close enough for me.