scuba diver in costa rica

Costa Rica: PADI Open Water Certification Part II

Read part I here

The sleek white bow of the boat cut through the choppy waves of the pacific ocean as the early morning sun danced across the surface. A cool breeze made the blazing sun bearable as sea spray blasted off the sides of the boat.  The engine roared as it sped us towards the first dive site of the day: Tortuga, just off the coast of Playa del Coco, Costa Rica. Images of every undersea documentary I had ever watch were playing through my mind as we prepared to do our first open water dive. My heart rate increased and I noticed I was gripping the lip of my seat tightly, probably a good thing as the boat was swaying about rather erratically. I heard the pacific was a different beast than the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean and looking into the emerald green depths I wondered what lurked below the surface. The worst part is I forgot to bring a GoPro!

Geared up and ready to rock!

Small islands dotted the coast line and the boat slowed as we neared a small cluster, waves smashing across the jagged rocks surrounding them, sending sea water 15 feet into the air. Martin’s voiced  snapped back my attention and he went over the dive objectives and skills we would be practicing. I listened carefully, well as carefully as someone excited to go scuba diving for the first time can. We would be descending down a line due to the current that was common in the area and once settled on the bottom would do a tour of the reef, practice some basic skills and see what wildlife we could find. With all the logistics sorted, it was time to gear up! I grabbed my wetsuit and dived over the side, easily slipping it on in the water. Right away I noticed the current and had a small swim to get back to the boat after only a few seconds. I hauled myself back on board and clipped on my BCD and weights. Lincoln and I did our buddy check, BWRAF (Buoyancy, Weights, Regulators,Air and Final check) was easy to remember with a little saying Martin taught us “Bruce Willis Ruins All Films”  I still have that run through my head to this day any time I am getting ready to go diving.

We would be doing a back roll entry for this dive and even having practiced it in the pool the day before I was a little nervous, there is a big difference between a 2 foot tall wall at the pool and a 6-7 foot drop off the side of a large boat. A little burst of air into my BCD to keep me afloat on the surface and I was ready. I watched Lincoln splash back into the water and give the OK sign and steadied my hand against my regulator and mask and let myself slip backwards off the boat. I looked up at the sky for a split second before I crashed into the swirling sea of bubbles and my view was filled with the bottom of the boat for a moment before I bobbed back up to the surface and made my way to the mooring line we would be descending along. Once the group was all assembled Martin gave the signal to do a 5 point descent and we began our adventure under the waves.

Visibility was about 25 ft, not amazing but I didn’t mind, I was having too much fun. I slowly descended and watched the line disappear into the depths. I was the last to reach the bottom, where everyone was waiting for me. I signalled what was up and Martin nodded and gave the sign asking if I was ok. I gave the affirmative back and we started off on our dive, Linc next to me as my dive buddy. Immediately I was blown away by the sheer amount of life surrounding us everywhere we looked. Large schools of fish darted in between the craggy rocks of the reef, large puffer fish milled about looking inquisitively at us as we swam past and several spotted eagle rays glided past us effortlessly and disappeared off into the haze. I was amazed and felt sea water creeping into my mask and realized I was grinning and causing my mask to leak. I quickly cleared it using the skills we had learned and went right back to soaking in the incredible scenery.

Spotted Eagle Ray

A large moray eel was lurking in a large crevice staring out at us, its mouth open in what I assumed was a snarl (this is actually just how they breath). My mind flashed back to the stories I had heard of people losing a finger or having a chunk taken out of their arm by these powerful creatures and I respectfully kept my distance. A good lesson to learn, nothing in the ocean is out to get you or hurt you, as long as you are respectful of each animal. You are a visitor in their world after all. We continued along the reef and came across several lion fish and martin pointed out a couple extremely well camouflaged scorpion fish. I would have simply passed by them thinking they were rocks. Every creature was so unique and well adapted to its under water world, predator and prey alike. This was exceeding everything I had always dreamed about.

a cheeky little puffer fish

The skills we would be showing off that day were mask removal and regulator recovery, something I was hoping would go smoothly. In the pool it was fine but with 20 meters of water above you its a different story. Lucky for me they went off without a hitch and gave me a big boost in confidence in my ability to not drown myself. With the official business out of the way we were able to continue our tour of the reef and enjoy all the crazy sights it had to offer. There is something special about the feeling of floating weightless watching all these micro stories unfold and I knew I was hooked for life. It boggles my mind to think all this life exists over 70% of the earth’s surface most people never get to experience first hand. As we ascended back up the mooring line, doing out safety stop at 15 ft for 3 mins, I had a lot to contemplate and a new found level respect for the ocean and life in general. This to me is one of the biggest benefits of scuba diving, it makes you realize just how small you are on this planet and how lucky you are to be here to experience it, even if for a short time.

A cheeky little puffer fish

I broke the surface with a huge grin plastered on my face, swallowed a mouthful of the sea while switching to my snorkel and paddled my way to the boat. Climbing the ladder was a little shaky as the boat swayed side to side and I flopped down on the seat and unclipped my gear. I turned to look at Linc and saw a big grin that mirrored my own. Scuba diving for the first time (and every time since) was an amazing experience. And it was only the first dive of the day.

A day and 3 more dives later we broke the surface as fully certified open water divers. Martin’s easy to follow instruction had made the entire process a blast and I was eager to continue learning new skills. As the sun set over Costa Rica we clinked our beers together in appreciation with all the staff of the dive shop and eagerly listened to tales of various lessons learned and some cautionary tales from all the experienced divers around the table. My log book had so many more pages to fill and I couldn’t wait to get back in the ocean. With 5 days left on our trip Lincoln turned to me and said “SO, think we should do our advanced open water?” I just smiled in response as the warm evening breeze flowed through the open air bar bringing with it the smell of the sea. He already knew my answer.

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scuba diving inspiration

Inspiration Between Scuba Diving Trips


Since this video was posted 6 months ago, I have loaded it up every few days to receive a constant stream of motivation to further my scuba skill set into a full time passion. PADI is always putting out great content and this particular clip really speaks to me on a personal level. Leaving daily life behind to slip into another world beneath the waves gets my heart pounding. Not to mention the local beer 😉 It’s stuff like this I send to my friends to motivate them to get their PADI certification. Check’er out:

I love the idea of travelling around the globe exploring anywhere and everywhere with great scuba diving. The current goal is to head to Cozumel, Mexico in August 2015 to go scuba diving with whale sharks. My dive buddy and I have been chasing them around central america with no luck on our last 2 trips and I’m eager to be dwarfed by the biggest fish in the sea. That’s an experience that should leave the ol’ jaw hanging no doubt. When it comes to travelling, it’s important to remind myself that the benefits far outweigh the  financial costs if you do it smartly. For example, staying in hostels while backpacking  around Costa Rica to get my PADI open water certification saved me a boatload of cash and also helped me meet some amazing people. A far richer experience than being locked in an all inclusive resort compound.

Surrounding yourself with inspiration to travel is a great way to avoid getting caught up in the daily grind if you work any type of office job, and with so much great media out there it’s really not hard to do. Speaking of which, above is another fantastic video I load up whenever I am in the mood to go travelling. So pretty much at least once a week 🙂 Probably the most effective advertisement for a travel company ever, and I stumbled across it completely by accident. Great words to take to heart from Alan Watts.

Scuba diving is a passion of mine and I am glad to share my sources of inspiration with all of you 🙂


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scuba diving in costa rica beach

Costa Rica: Open Water Diver Certification Part I

The plane’s wheels bounced off the cracked tarmac of the runway as we touched down with a jolt on the San Jose landing strip. I looked out the window and off into the thick jungle surrounding the airport. Everywhere you looked it was green and lush. “Welcome to Jurassic Park…” I thought to myself as I soaked in my surroundings. Costa Rica would be my home for the next 2 weeks as me and my best friend Lincoln backpacked around the country. We had a rough outline in place of where we wanted to stay, with the last half of the trip scheduled to do our open water PADI certification. Finally I was going to get the chance to go scuba diving! After years of dreaming about it, it was time to actually explore under the waves.

We bounced out of San Jose almost immediately, everyone we met warned us it was pretty sketchy and I was eager to get out of the big cities and on the road. We spent a few nights in Jaco, a smaller, albeit extremely touristy  surfer town and I immediately fell in love with the local food, pretty cheap and the fish tacos were amazing. Given the spirit of the town, I decided to give surfing a try having never done it, and spent an evening falling off my board and splashing about under one of the most gorgeous sunsets I have ever seen. The sun was back lighting the water as the waves crashed around me, pummelling me into the shallows. An cool place but it was time to move on.


Our Hostel in Jaco Beach

Next up was Montezuma, a sleepy little town with dirt roads full of potholes and on the verge of being engulfed by the dense jungle surrounding it on all sides. We met some awesome fellow travellers from the US, and a couple Brits who were making their way across Central and South America over 6 months. It was in this place, a musty old $10 a night hostel I was overcome with a sense of wanderlust that sticks with me to this day. The feeling of being on the road with your backpack, meeting like minded people and experiencing sights you have never seen before was wonderful. I vowed to never again go to a all inclusive resort, this experience was so much richer.

The whole trip diving was still in the back of my mind and as we made our way towards Playa Del Coco the excitement was steadily mounting. After a few hours on an extremely rickety old schoolbus that was used as local transit, we arrived at our destination. I could almost feel my fillings still rattling about in my teeth for the next hour or so but quickly surmised that for about $6 to travel halfway across the country it was well worth it. We made our way down the long main street and stopped by the dive shop to confirm for the next day. After searching around on Trip Advisor for a while, we had settled on Rich Coast Diving. Everything was set and after bite to eat at one of the local bars, I headed to bed imagining what the lessons would have in store for me.

The blinding sun came streaming through the windows, covered only by a few wooden slats. It was 7AM and already sweltering hot. Since about 5 in the morning a rooster had been shrieking at the top of its lungs and I was ready to get out of there and into the water.

Upon arriving at the dive shop the  we were informed we would be being trained by a PADI course director, which was a pretty cool opportunity. Everyone was super friendly and the only students that day were Lincoln and myself. After filling out the required forms and a little basic review, we grabbed our gear and loaded it into the back of pickup and set off to the local pool to learn some skills. Sitting on the side of the trucks bed while it bounced over the shattered asphalt and not being thrown overboard or taking a low hanging branch to the face was a skill on its own. Ahhh adventure!

Heading out to the pool for our first lesson

A quick rundown on the gear and how to properly set up our kit followed and after squeezing into a wetsuit for the first time in my life (Protip: get into your wetsuit in the water, it’s 10x easier) and strapping on my BCD it was time to get wet. I plunged into the water via giant stride entry and watched the bubbles explode around me as I took my first breaths underwater. Even in a pool this was a cool experience. After learning some basic skills such as mask clearing, regulator recovery and buoyancy control we had time to practice what we learned and become more comfortable in the gear. Martin (our instructor) was extremely patient with us and answered every little question and expanded on the answer. By the time we left the pool for the day I was already hungry to get in the ocean, but we had another pool day ahead of us. As the sun went down and I sat munching away on a delicious plate of diced chicken and rice I knew I had made the right choice in learning how to scuba dive. This would be something that would stick with my for the rest of my life.

Confined water lessons make learning easy

Day 2 involved more pool training and the last little bit of theory. Having done our e-learning online was great for saving a ton of classroom time. The 400m surface swim was a little taxing at first and I began to worry as my muscles started to feel starved of oxygen, that is until I saw Lincoln breeze past me in a lazy back crawl, flipping onto my back made it much easier. After some safety training and practising the CESA we were wrapped in the pool. The next time I descended it would be in the open ocean.

Part II 



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padi certified scuba divers

Why I Became a PADI Certified Scuba Diver

Ever since I was young I have always been fascinated by anything to do with exploring the ocean. Most of my Lego sets were some form of underwater base, I was in love with the Lotus that transformed into a sub from the old Bond films, and most of all I was in love with sharks. For years I firmly believed I was destined to become a marine biologist and spend my days adventuring under the waves.

My favourite Lego set ever…

Reality turned out to be quite the opposite and I ended up fulfilling my other dream job of become a 3D artist in the video game industry. A far cry from being out on the open seas on  a daily basis, but pretty cool none the less. My interest in anything to do with sharks and underwater documentaries remained strong however, and learning to scuba dive was constantly at the top of my to do list. The unfortunate thing about to do lists is….90% of the time, they never get done. Those dreams often slip into the realms of “Oh, I’ll do it next year.” or “That’s going to be so cool someday!”

Cut to 2014 and I was growing restless with my sedentary lifestyle, spending 8+ hours a day staring at a screen. Around the start of the new year I began playing with an idea in my mind I coined “Project Lifestyle”. Basically, any opportunity that arose to do something amazing, exhilarating, out of the ordinary or interesting, I would force myself to do it. I felt the need to flesh myself out as a human being and make the most of my late 20’s. I was lacking life experiences and needed to break out of my shell. I learned to snowboard and pushed myself to go every weekend, quickly falling in love with it and using it as a way to get through the seemingly never ending Montreal winters. I taught myself how to DJ and spent the summer cranking out tunes on one of the best terraces in Montreal as the sun went down, another cool experience I only dreamed about before. I was becoming more outgoing.

But still in the back of my mind was scuba diving. My curiosity about what lay in the deep waiting for me was fired up every time I would see an episode of Planet Earth or chat with my friends about their experiences travelling about the globe, something else I had not done much of. Their stories of diving on a reef in Thailand or off the coast of BC always captured my attention. I had a severe case of wanderlust brewing within me and felt the need to get out there and explore for myself. I had done the typical all-inclusive experience in Cuba and the Dominican Republic, but that was it. I was hungry to get into the backpacker experience and travelling around diving in various parts of the globe seemed to fit the bill. I viewed it as an opportunity to join a cool community of like minded travelers and a fun way to quickly make some friends wherever I went.  And most of all, I wanted to feel that rush of being a kid dreaming of underwater bases and deep sea expeditions to find whatever beasts were lurking down below.

Sharks were at the top my list to encounter…

About halfway through the year I was determined to get out into the world and managed to rope my best friend into the plans. He had gotten certified 10 years back but wanted to re-do it and when I brought up the idea of going to an exotic locale to do some diving he was in as soon as the words left my lips. After a bit of deliberation, we settled on Costa Rica. It seemed like a cool place, not too common of a travel destination, and somewhere that could offer adventure on land and sea. I was eager to avoid another tourist resort. We powered through the e-learning part of the course in a couple evenings before we left, looking to save time and not be stuck in a muggy classroom for an extra day.

A week later we were touching down in Costa Rica and I was stoked to get in the water and start diving to say the least. I didn’t know it at the time, but that trip would be the catalyst for a new major component of my life and end up leaving me to re-evaluate my current lifestyle. I was about to become a scuba diver after 27 years of dreaming about it.

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Mares Matrix Dive Computer Review at a Glance

mare matrix dive computer review picture

Mares Matrix Dive Computer Review: Compact powerhouse?

Read our in depth Mares Matrix Dive Computer Review here.

The Mares matrix has a boatload of features packed into it’s compact unit. Our first impressions were, this is a slick looking dive computer that also looks great as a daily watch (analogue or digital). 4 well labled buttons and an intuitive menu, make it extremely easy to program for anyone who picks it up. Lets talk about the screen. For providing so much info at once it amazingly remains readable. This is in part thanks to the reverse highlighted no deco area that helps break the critical info into separate areas and is instantly readable. We wish more dive computers took this approach as the contrast makes it easy to check your no deco with only a quick glance. The N2 Bar graph is also easy to read, unlike some of today’s dive computers where they are too small, with large chunky visuals for quick reference.

There are a ton of options to customize this dive computer before you set out, you can toggle the audio alarms on and off, set 2 timezones, and you can program up to 3 different gas mixes in a single dive. The Mares Matrix Dive Computer calculates the decompression schedule accordingly, so that you can take advantage of decompressing with high oxygen concentration mixes, which makes it great for extended deep dives or tec diving. Of course there are Air and Nitrox modes as well as a gauge mode available.

mares matrix dive computer review watch
proud scuba diver even on the surface

Falling on the mid to high range dive computer spectrum, it comes equipped with a built in compass which is always a great tool to have. The nice thing about this one is it looks and behaves like a physical compass which makes using it extremely easy, while at the same time there is still room to display critical info. This makes it great for divemasters leading groups or anyone doing underwater navigation on a regular basis, and hands down the best compass in its class. Another very cool feature is Mares unique In Case of Emergency function (ICE) which can be programmed to display your personal info, emergency contact numbers, insurance policy info and even allergies. A feature we all hope to never use but very cool to have should the worst happen. As far as we know this is one of the few dive computers on the market to have this feature.

A rechargeable Lithium Ion battery means you can quickly charge your Mares Matrix dive computer up at the start of a dive trip or in between dives so you can dive with confidence. Speaking of diving with confidence, the Matrix leans towards a more conservative algorithm with multiple altitude settings and 2 additional optional safety levels. Did we mention it looks slick as a wrist watch? The polished metal bezel and scratch resistant tempered mineral glass display are extremely durable and held up to quite a thrashing over the course of our testing. This high end dive computer was one of the teams favorites when we got to try it out in several dives in Costa Rica. So much so one of our team visibly grimaced when he had to switch back to his Cressi Leonardo.

One drawback we have heard divers experience is a shortened battery life after a while, much like a phone or any lithium ion based battery device. This can be cause by either constantly plugging in the computer, or recharging it after only using a small portion of the battery, just like your phone. It does have an off function you can use to save battery life while not diving but in our testing it for our mares matrix dive computer review we did not encounter these issues.

Don’t just take our word for it, see what other divers have to say in their own Mares Matrix dive computer user reviews .Click Here

Final Thoughts

Thanks for taking the time to read our Mares Matrix Dive Computer review, and hopefully you found it helpful. We highly recommend this to anyone looking for a feature packed, advanced diving computer. You can read our full in depth Mares Matrix Dive Computer Review HERE


  • Packed with features
  • Easy to read display
  • Fantastic onboard compass
  • ICE (in case of emergency) function
  • 3 Programmable gas mixes
  • Durable bezel and glass
  • Looks slick


  • Some users reported shortened battery life over time
  • Rubber wrist strap given the price (stainless one is available though)
  • too complex for beginners
  • No air integration


mares matrix dive computer review score

Click HERE to find the Mares Matrix Dive Computer on Amazon with Free Shipping

Similar mid level dive computers:

Suunto D4i Dive Computer

Oceanic OCS Dive Computer

Back to all Dive Computer Reviews

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