Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sonya's Praise

We recently received this email from Sonya, who visited us in July:

I was a solo diver with limited experience, looking for a nurturing dive environment where I could gain the practical knowledge and confidence I lacked. I decided on SHBL as part 2 of my dive vacation but did not sensibly plan how I would get there from my first destination, Aware of my dilemma, Jeff Birch, Very Graciiously offered to pick me up as my best other option would have been taking 2 planes approximately 8 hours apart.

Instead of showing my appreciation my first words to him were "where is the rest of the plane", when he showed up in the single engine cessna 182 pictured on the website. Wondering if it would be safer to swim to the lodge, I eventually boarded the plane and there began my relationship with the soothsayers of SHBL. Sometime after takeoff Jeff convinced me to open my eyes and something shifted at that moment. I don't know whether it was his calm demeanor or the the beautiful scene spread out below me, probably a bit of both, but my fear of flying in that "pint sized plane" was replaced by my gratitude for the sublime experience.

One by one, my fears were challenged. While diving, Ashley calmly and unhurriedly coaxed me through caverns that I had initially refused to enter. I set my depth goal at 90 feet and achieved 185. WOW!!! I dove with sharks, and the Back of the Blue Hole is an under water experience that I doubt I will ever surpass. But thats OK, as long as I get the chance to do it again.

I had a personal underwater guardian angel in Alex, always there when I needed him. And Danielle was the angel on land. I began my underwater photographic experience with the advice and guidance of Loren. "Thanks so much, Loren." Chef Renauldo went beyond expectations to accommodate the special requests of his guests. My inability to tolerate those weight belts was no problem for Amanda whose technological prowess had her whipping up an alternative in no time. Tonya is fun and spirited and Moose exhibits such calm and competence that I basically stuck to him like glue during my 185' dive. I hear Mike is "the man", but I didn't have the pleasure of diving with him. Looking forward to it in the future. Congrats to dive master Dennis, who I also look forward to diving with.

The guests are at least as lovely as the staff and interns. The British Padmores and the Mississippi McCalls really went out of their way to embrace a solo traveler and I look forward to seeing them again in the future. What great luck that there was another solo diver, Wes, that became my dive buddy for the rest of the trip.

When I compare my dive competence and level of comfort pre SHBL to post SHBL I can hardly believe it. These people are nothing less than bonafide Dive Whisperers!
I highly recommend Small Hope for a fantastic dive vacation and don't forget to bring your "extra baggage", I am sure you will leave a lot lighter. I did.

Thank you Jeff and the entire Small Hope Staff!

Sonya Preudhomme
@SHBL July 2009

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