By Gib Owen
We could barely see him in the distance, his heavy shuffle almost hidden in a cloud of grey muscle and fins. The diver took a deliberate path toward our kneeling group, bringing with him a swarm of swirling sharks. The trail of apex predators following him like puppies eager for a treat gave him an air of the pied piper, but the folds of chainmail that draped his frame make him appear more a grail knight returned victorious and mobbed by the faithful. Still this steel-clad diver was neither knight nor piper and yet he was bringing us one of the best dives I have ever been on, quite the feat with thirty-five years of diving experience under my weight belt.
This fantastic dive was part of my recent dive trip to Grand Bahama with Patriot Scuba. From the moment we arrived I felt welcomed and looked after. We were met at the airport by our local guide, a woman known simply as Ms. Paddy. Now, Paddy is not an ordinary guide, she was a singularly talented woman who was had clearly found her niche in the universe. Not only did she somehow seems to know everyone on the islands, but she also took impeccable care of us during our stay, always ready to meet our every whim. Plus, her ability to track our trip leader, Jeff, bordered on supernatural. At one point we were sitting at a local restaurant when the waiter sidled up to the table. “Excuse me, sir. There is a phone call for you,” he said to Jeff.
Jeff replied with transparent surprise, “Me?”
“Yes, sir. It’s Ms. Paddy,” the waiter responded, calmly gesturing in the direction of the bar.
“How the hell did she know we were here?” Jeff mused to no one in particular as he stood and followed our waiter to the phone. We couldn’t figure it out either at the time but we would come to learn that Ms. Paddy seemed to have eyes and ears all over the island giving her an almost omnipotent vibe and making our stay all the more seamless.
The accommodations at the Pelican Bay resort were wonderful, even with the late night fire drill sparked by another guest’s burned popcorn. The rooms were beautifully decorated and furnished. Personally, the most important and appreciated feature was the large, comfortable bed, the kind that was perfect for the sun-drenched to sink into for a post-dive nap. On top of that, the local dive operator, Underwater Explorers Society (UNEXSO) did an incredible job at working to meet our needs. The dive boat crews, in particular, were a group of outstanding professionals who really went that extra nautical mile and did a great job at making our dives a lasting memory.
As a diver who has had the opportunity to venture into some pretty interesting dives over the last three decades, I have to admit that the Shark Encounter dive was one of my top 10 dives. I am not sure I possess the words to fully describe to you how it felt to just sit on that sandy bottom while those iconic creatures fed mere inches away. The kind of power these animals possess is simply mind boggling and yet they wield it gently and with such grace, delicately taking fish from the diver. If nothing else this dive was overwhelming proof that sharks aren’t the terrors of the sea they are often portrayed to be. Honestly, there aren’t words to describe how incredible it was. Just go watch the video on the Patriot Scuba YouTube channel. Here’s the link: Patriot Scuba YouTube. Still, that was just one dive out of a week’s worth of spectacular dives including beautiful reefs, awe-inspiring s, and even hilarious dolphins. In fact, you should check out some of the pictures from the trip here.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not point out that Patriot Scuba did an incredible job in planning and executing this trip. From the day I signed up for the trip, Merial was on top of the situation and orchestrated the event like a grand master. Jeff was attentive, but not overbearing, which is quite the feat for a Retired Navy Captain who is used to getting his way (at least on the boat). We completed 12 dives during the week and experienced it all with time to spare. The schedule left us with plenty of time to do other things, such as explore the area, or in my case, eat. If you are looking for an adventure that is relatively close and offers a first class experience, then Patriot Scuba Grand Bahamas trip should be on your bucket list. Thanks again to everyone at Patriot and all my fellow divers. Keep diving, everyone!