Rolling in the Deep (…kinda)
I do like the beach. I like a day of swimming or romantic walks. I never thought that scuba diving could enhance my beach experience.
Then, I was given a Discover dive as a birthday gift. On the day of the dive, I felt my nerves knot up. However, the brilliant sunshine, the calm blue waters and the friendly smiles of the guys from Shoal Bay Scuba bolstered my confidence.
After some paperwork and dive theory, it was time for in-water training. Once in the water, my first instructions were to put my mask on my face and the regulator in my mouth. It occurred to me then that I would have to breathe through my mouth into a tube underwater. I have trouble breathing through my mouth when I have a cold! I thought, fidgeting.
I immersed my face in the water as told and immediately emerged, sputtering. After several attempts, I said to the dive instructor, “This is not happening today.” However, I didn’t want to taste defeat. Persistent, I resolved to complete the dive. I visualized success, and within a few minutes, I was breathing underwater.
Twenty minutes later, I had learned to operate my BCD (air vest), equalize the pressure in my ears, and perform the safety procedures. I was ready.
Our dive was in picturesque Little Bay. On my first descent, panic set in. Even though I knew it would happen, I wasn’t ready for the buildup of pressure in my head. I forgot to equalize my ears. I had to go back up.
Once we emerged, my instructor assured me that my eardrums were in no danger of bursting at a depth of 25-30 feet. After taking a deep breath, we descended slowly for the second time. This time, I was completely calm, and I remembered to clear my ears.
I couldn’t feel my weight. The instructor had to hold on to my arm to support me initially, as I struggled to stay level and away from the coral. As we dove, I decided to observe and mimic the other two divers on the trip. They were more experienced and were working toward their diving certification.
Once adjusted to the underwater weightlessness, your body feels ethereal. Life above the surface ceased to exist as I engaged with the beauty surrounding me. There were fish of every colour and size – words simply cannot give a vivid enough description. When the fish moved, they were impossibly nimble. Above the coral reef, sea fans really seemed to be moving through air. Prickly sea urchins – larger than you think – almost got me a few times.
Small and large fish darted in and out of small crevices or hid behind rocks, and the adventurer within me often crept closer to see where they disappeared. For a few minutes while underwater, I became a part of their world. Surprisingly, my mind didn’t conjure any images of the movie Jaws. Perhaps it was because I didn’t see the two-foot-long baby shark the other divers noticed at a distance. They were excited, but I was glad I had been looking the other way.
It was disheartening to think that as an island girl, this must-do experience may have eluded me. I reflected on my numerous beach visits over the years. Each one, though unique, could not come close to the sensation of spending time in the natural environment of the underwater creatures. While there, I felt as though I had been transported to a beautiful place reserved only for the few who had the courage to venture below the surface. I understood then what my one friend who had earned her diving certification had tried to explain to me about the wonder of the experience. I now understand her exuberance after each dive – and, now that I’ve done it too, I can’t completely describe it to someone who hasn’t.
Sadly, it was time for us to surface. I felt disappointed. Who could have foreseen that, in just a few short hours, I would go from being the timid girl, certain that she would never be able to breathe underwater, to the self-assured woman who was excited to do a second dive?
Underwater Anguilla is truly spectacular, and it’s begging me to explore some more. I am excited to do a second dive. Will you join me?