Nicaragua, Part Three: Scuba Diving Corn Island

We ended up in Nicaragua essentially by accident, but a happy accident it was: Little Corn Island offers some of the best scuba diving in the Caribbean.

I got my open water certification through PADI last summer, and ever since, I’ve been obsessed with diving. Living in landlocked Atlanta limits chances to dive. However, I’m determined to make at least one trip underwater per year. Right after my checkout dives last year, we went to Key Largo, FL. It was really amazing. Over the course of five different dives, I saw an eagle ray, a sea turtle, and a nurse shark! Not bad for the first few dives. Little Corn, however, took the cake.

Although there are at least two or three dive shops on Little Corn, I opted to go with Dolphin Dive. Price-wise, they were the best. We could combine an advanced open water course with three nights in a hotel. When I emailed them to set things up, the manager, Adam, wrote back to my emails quickly and very helpfully. He also suggested that we add a trip to Blowing Rock. Although it would cost a little more, he said, he would be worth it.

Okay, we’re in.

So what was the diving like when we got there?

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The shop staff helpfully laid out all of our gear before dives, labeled so we’d know whose was whose.
Signs in front of Dolphin Dive
Signs in front of Dolphin Dive.. and a local pup snoozing in hard-found shade

Before our first dive, we were fitted for gear. (They have everything you could possibly need, and the equipment rental is included with the cost of diving). The team kept track of which item went with each diver, and they helpfully had all gear in order for each of the dives. Divemasters held group meetings before each dive to let us know the plan. As you can see, Brendan was an awesome artist!

Dive plan
The dive plan – this one for Blowing Rock
Accidental shot
Accidental shot of gear on the boat
On our way to Blowing Rock
On our way to the dive site

I’m still learning that every dive shop does things a little differently. These guys were very relaxed and laid back, but incredibly helpful. After a dive, I loved being able to hand my weights, BCD, regulator, and tank over the gunwale to the captain. (At other resorts, you climb up the boat ladder wearing all the gear – not exactly a hardship, but it’s nice to avoid doing that).

And the dives? Beyond words. The last time I dove was in Key Largo, FL. We saw a nurse shark once, and it was the highlight of the entire weekend. Diving off of Little Corn,I saw nurse sharks every single time I went under. Multiples, even. I saw octopii (three of them!). Puffer fish. So many rays I lost track. Divers regularly see sea turtles and even dolphins – reason enough to go back.

Now let’s talk about Blowing Rock. Imagine you’re on a little dive boat, shoulder-to-shoulder with your fellow divers. The little boat has spent 45 minutes bouncing over waves, and you passed the last island a while ago. There’s no land in sight. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, you see a group of rocks jutting out from the ocean surface.

That’s Blowing Rock. Long-ago volcanic activity in the region left this gorgeous underwater rock formation, and now, a variety of marine life calls it home.

One of the reefs at Blowing Rock
One of the reefs at Blowing Rock

One of the first things we saw upon our descent was a nurse shark, hiding under the reef. It’s hard to discern dimensions here, but the little dude was at least my length – that’s five feet.

One of the first things we saw was a nurse shark
One of the first things we saw was a nurse shark

I got up closer for a photo that turned out grainy, but you get the idea.

A nurse shark
A nurse shark

My favorite fish of the day was this porcupine fish, also known as a puffer. He was huge – twelve inches at the very least. Since I used to have one of this dude’s cousins in a freshwater tank in my Philadelphia apartment, I was psyched to see one in its natural environment. He was really cute. They always look like they’re smiling.

Porcupine fish
Porcupine fish

When you see the antennae of a spiny lobster peeking out from underneath the reef, you can’t help but think of how delicious it would be on your dinner plate. But we were there to observe, not hunt, so this lobster went free.

A spiny lobster
A spiny lobster at Blowing Rock

The most amazing thing about scuba diving is being weightless underwater in the most surreal environments you can dream of. If you’ve ever been to an aquarium and gazed into a huge tank teeming with fish, you know how it looks. Imagine being inside of that. If you see something interesting – such as this juvenile damselfish which is dark in color with gorgeous electric blue spots – you can simply swim over and look closer.

A juvenile yellowtail damselfish at Blowing Rock
A juvenile yellowtail damselfish at Blowing Rock

And being surrounded by fish is one of the coolest feelings in the world. You just float and take it all in.

Swimming with a school of fish
Swimming with a school of fish at Blowing Rock
Looking across the reef at Blowing Rock
Looking across the reef at Blowing Rock

Every time I dive, I think again that I need to spend more time learning to identify fish. But the truth is, you see so many kinds that it would be impossible recognize all of them.

Another impossibility while diving? Taking a flattering photo. When you’ve got crazy hair and a regulator in your mouth, all of your selfies will look like this.

Xavier and I underwater
Xavier and I underwater

Although we look a little freaked out in the photo, I loved my Little Corn Island scuba experience with Dolphin Dive. During each of six total dives with them, we had a blast. I would highly recommend their shop to anyone thinking of visiting Little Corn for diving.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any photos of it – but we went on a night dive that was incredible. I’ll describe that a little bit more in my next post. Suffice it to say, I was a little nervous about diving at night, but the second I saw an octopus glowing under my light, all anxiety vanished and was replaced with utter wonder and amazement. Did you know that when you fin-kick at night, you leave a trail of glowing green stars? It’s true. Do yourself a favor and sign up for a night dive.

Are you a diver? What is the most exciting dive you’ve ever completed?

(I have to give a shout-out to Xavier for contributing photos to this post! The guy is great with a camera).

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