After completing my open water certification course it was time to show off those new skills and finally accomplish one of my long-awaited goals. My instructor informed us that we would complete three different dives each day and after the second day we would be Open Water Certified. I was so close to my certification that I could taste it… or maybe that was just the neoprene…
For those of you who don’t know, Utah is practically a desert. Yet, in the middle of this desert there is a miniature ocean known as the Bonneville Seabase. Okay, so it’s not so much of an ocean as it is three different salt-water bays (White Rock Bay, Habitat Bay, and the Abyss) and each bay has a naturally occurring ocean-type environment allowing for an abundance of tropical marine life to thrive–including the famous Seabase shark. A shark? In Utah? Yes my friends, you read that right. Of course I’m no stranger to swimming with sharks, so being able to swim with one basically in my own backyard had me instantly intrigued, and to be honest, I couldn’t wait to drop down into Habitat Bay and see this shark for myself.
On our second dive we dropped down to one of the platforms in order to practice our skills and we just happened to be right next to Bonneville Seabase’s most famous resident. With a slight nod from my instructor I was able to reach out and pet the tail of this 9-foot long nurse shark. (This goes without saying, but I feel like I must say it anyways: obviously I would not recommend petting a shark in real life, nor any wild animal for that matter. Be courteous, respectful, and responsible my friends). I’ll admit that I would not have pet him without the presence of my instructor next to me, and of course, permission from Seabase.
Looking back at my many encounters with sharks in the wild I never stopped to consider what one would actually feel like. And as I brushed my hand along its tail the scales felt rough, almost like sandpaper, and his body felt incredibly sturdy, similar to the rubber on a car tire. I could barely contain my excitement as we got back to the task at hand and completed our scheduled dive.
Seabase may be in the middle of nowhere, however they have pretty good facilities to use: private–and very spacious–changing areas, lots of room to hang out during your surface intervals, a (limited) snack bar, gear to rent, and a friendly and super adorable dog that roams the grounds looking for attention.
When Sunday afternoon rolled around, I got into my car with a huge smile on my face. I was so incredibly proud and extremely elated; I had finally obtained my Open Water Certification. As I started the long drive towards Salt Lake City, I called my parents and said, “You’ll never guess what I got to swim with today…”