By Michael Kundu
Pffssssst! The regulator bubbles off, as I drop 40-feet down into a cerulean blue sea. My wife Nola and our teenage sons, Erik and Lars, hover below me, waiting over a colorful, sun-dappled coral head.
My gauge reads 81-degree Fahrenheit; no kidding! Twenty minutes earlier, I was wading to the dive boat, eager to get out of the 90-degree+ Caribbean sun. But now, captivating ledges, arches and coral cave openings quickly take my mind off the surface heat.
With our boys turning 15 and 16 this year, Nola and I calculated that we only have about three more years left, before impending University careers permanently crimp our established tradition of family skiing, kayaking and canyoneering adventures. Certainly, with a history of swimming with sharks in the Florida Keys, stalking grizzlies close-up in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, or kayaking with orcas off the British Columbia coast, the boys had become pretty hard to please – that’s why the prospect of a Jamaican scuba vacation (something we hadn’t done yet) piqued everyone’s interest.
Digging around the Internet, the boys researched Caribbean dive sites: one that particularly fascinated them was a 70-foot underwater coral cavern called ‘the Throne Room’, located near Negril, off Jamaica’s famed Seven Mile Beach. Combined with Nola’s requirements for a posh, all-inclusive resort, and my demands for a professional, and on-site dive operation, Beaches Sandy Bay emerged as our target destination.
On this particular dive, Nola is the first to spot the entry to the Throne Room; a small, dark, keyhole-shaped crevasse in the top of the coral. A surge of fatherly pride runs through me, as my boys, without hesitation, drop head-first 20-feet downward, under a dark coral ledge. Following them into a murky, sponge and fish-filled cavern, we all hover suspended, mesmerized, in a submarine space only a few feet high, enclosed inside a 500-ton coral reef.
Later on, after visiting a sunken Cessna airplane and stirring up a stingray the size of the plane’s fuselage, my air gauge reads 800 p.s.i. – time to surface. The boys break the surface first, and float on the gentle waves.
From the looks of their million-dollar smiles, this has been precisely the kind of memory I hoped they would have, one they would carry with them to university and beyond.