Costa RicaCosta Rica

Day 5: Rescue Diver Certification

Destination: Puerto Viejo

puerto viejo beachThe mellow ambiance of Costa Rica's Caribbean coast really takes the concept of "pura vida" to another level. Nevertheless, I wasn't in Puerto Viejo to relax -- I was here to advance my diving career and explore the area's famous dive sites. Today I would begin the next step in PADI certification: the Rescue Diver course.

Roch, the French-Canadian owner of Crocodive facility in Playa Chiquita, had invited me to experience their unique program. He explained that the five-star dive center prides itself on providing state of the art equipment and exceptional dive courses -- both assertions that I found to be true over the next few days.

crocodive center

As I entered the shop, I was hit with a delicious blast of cold air. Air conditioning is a priceless commodity in these parts. High-end diving equipment of all shapes and sizes was stacked neatly along the walls. From the mark 16 regulators to the weight-integrated BCD jackets (which eliminate the need for a clumsy weight belt), the dive shop just screamed luxury.

I particularly appreciated all of the comforts specifically designed for women -- I would be diving with a special suit designed to fit the curves of the female body.

learning cpr

Even the goggles were high-tech, with soft cloth around the headpiece to avoid hair tearing. As a new diver, I had no idea that such deluxe equipment existed -- and little did I know just how much of a dive snob I was about to become. We hadn't even hit the water and I was already spoiled.

Before we could complete the rescue course Roch explained that I needed my EFR certification, or Emergency First Response. While I thought this sounded tedious, it only took a few hours -- and surprisingly ended up being one of my favorite aspects of the course. I learned about what to do in case of an emergency, if there is blood, or if the victim is not breathing. It turned out that I have a knack for CPR, although I did break a few of the dummy's ribs my first few tries -- whoops!

sea horse

Most fun of all was learning how to use the defibrillator. When a person's heart beats irregularly, or fibrillates, a defibrillator is necessary to jolt it back to its normal rhythm. I felt like I was on Grey's Anatomy or ER, and it took all of my self control not to dramatically yell "CLEAR!" as I pushed the button that administered electric shocks. I walked away that afternoon feeling like I could really be useful were I ever in the middle of an emergency situation -- that I could perhaps even save a life.

After a few videos and workbook quizzes, I walked 20 minutes back to my hotel just as the sun set. When I arrived, Louis was waiting to take my order at the Magic Ginger Restaurant. He served up a stupendous Bombay chicken salad, with shredded chicken, sliced figs, almonds and tomatoes. I couldn't wait to emulate the recipe in my kitchen at home -- the sliced figs were a brilliant touch.

magic ginger's bombay chicken salad

Next came a fresh fillet of tuna sashimi, served with vegetables and a sweet sauce (since I do not like spicy food, this was custom-made to substitute for the ten spice "African Hot Adobo"). After my meal, Louis sent me off with a hot mug of lemongrass tea with a touch of molasses and a spoonful of ginger. Not only was the food spectacular, but it was homemade, just for me. I went to bed with a full stomach, excited about tomorrow's plans to explore the coral tunnels in Puerto Viejo's "Parquecito."

Day 5: Rescue Diver Certification in Pictures