Story and photography Romona Robbins
On the last day of summer, my family suffered a tragedy—the loss of our two best friends. My husband and I had planned a diving trip to the Bahamas on a liveaboard in late September, which was only just a week after their celebration of life. I didn’t want to go. I felt guilty and fearful, especially having to leave our six-year-old behind. When young life is lost, it is a heavy reminder of how fleeting life can be. And that scared me. My wonderfully sensible husband and my dive tribe at Emerald Coast Scuba convinced me to go—and I am so glad that they did!
This trip was our first liveaboard experience. In the diving community, liveaboards are boats that cater exclusively to diving. They can be anything from a luxurious yacht to just a boat with a bed. Ours was a quaint sixty-five-foot sailboat with all the necessities (and damn good food!). We basically “camped” out at sea for a week with our feet never touching the ground, diving day and night all around the waters of Nassau, the Exumas, Little San Salvador, and Eleuthera. We did a total of eighteen dives, and each dive site was unique. There were high-speed drift dives, sheer cliff wall dives, a giant sinkhole known as a blue hole, an occasional swim-through, and—my favorite—a shark dive.
Being immersed in the sea and surrounded by all its beauty gave me moments of escape from all the pain in my heart. The shark dive, in particular, was healing. I was apprehensive about diving with them, but seeing these curious and majestic animals up close was breathtaking. The water that day was unusually calm and crystal clear; it was like being in an aquarium. When the air in my tank ran low, I couldn’t wait to get back in the water and just free dive with them. It was amazing!
The key to diving is to relax and control your breathing; you want to conserve your air so you can stay down and play longer. Fun fact: you burn a ton of calories per dive as well, which is a nice perk! But most importantly, diving has helped me with the healing process. It’s the only time that my mind can shut out all the sadness from my loss and the stress from daily life and truly live in the moment. If only I could do it every day!
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Romona Robbins is a Northwest Florida photographer and dive master who specializes in travel and underwater photography. Over the past decade, she has worked on many network, commercial, and independent projects in over thirty-five countries for clients such as National Geographic, Travel Channel, Lonely Planet, and, of course, VIE.