Diving 101 in Guam

‘Turkey Fish’
(AP Photo/Guam Visitors Bureau & Oceanic USA, Keith Ibsen)

In an article on CANOE Travel, Audrey McAvoy of the Associated Press wrote an article called, “Even beginning divers can see bounty of tropical fish,” about diving in Piti, Guam.

She wrote, “Wetsuit and flippers on, oxygen tank strapped to my back, I steadied myself for the underwater descent.

“Look below you,” my scuba diving teacher said. “There are some fish right there.”

Breathing carefully through a mask — a skill acquired just minutes earlier — I gingerly dipped my head into the shallow water to see several black and white striped butterflyfish darting between our legs.

Welcome to Diving 101 on Guam. This small island, about seven hours west of Hawaii by plane, offers great diving opportunities for beginners as well as experts.

In two outings as a beginner diver and snorkeller, I swam among schools of elongated purple trumpetfish, tiny red arceye hawkfish, and multiple varieties of boxy butterflyfish with shimmering yellow scales. More experienced divers can explore dozens of shipwrecks, a legacy of intense battles for the strategically located island by Spanish, German, Japanese, and American navies over the past 450 years.

As a novice, I enrolled in an introductory scuba class to learn the basics of inhaling and exhaling.

My teacher, Michael Bass from Guam Tropical Dive Station, showed me how to pinch my nose and breathe so my ears would adjust to increased pressure during our descent. He also taught me hand signals for “I need to surface now” and “OK.”

At Piti Bomb Holes Marine Preserve, a common training ground for beginners, we swam among rich varieties of purple, yellow, and blue fish just yards from the shore.

I got to hold a red and white striped creature called a banded coral shrimp on the palm of my hand after Bass nudged him out of his hiding hole. The shrimp, with spindly white legs and striped body that made it look like a colourful spider, danced on my hand for a few seconds before scurrying off…”