In March 2003 I went to Majorca with my best friend to chill out before her wedding in the May of that year. Whilst I was there one of the activities was free “try scuba diving” sessions in the pool. The idea had interested me ever since my Dad had been diving in Turkey and told me how cool it was. I loved fish and though swimming with them sounded amazing! Anyhow my husband and I had a go and it seemed like fun so we signed up to have a go in the sea.
£70 and a tight fitting wet suit later and we were in the Mediterranean sea being briefed on the basics. Before going off on the dive we first had to complete three “simple” exercises:
1.Remove the regulator from your mouth and put it back in (that's right the piece of equipment which enables you to unnaturally breathe underwater is to be removed – whilst underwater);
2.Remove the regulator and then let go of it, retrieve it and then put it back in your mouth!!!
3.Let a small amount of water into your mask and then empty it again, whilst remaining underwater – without doubt the worst of all three tasks for a girl who cannot abide water in her eyes (even in the shower – let alone salt water)!!!
So 3 simple tasks demonstrated on land and kit bestowed upon us we got into chest deep water with the intention of sitting down to carry out the three “simple” tasks. Well it seems it was not all as straight forward as it had been in the pool. Lesson 1 in fact should have been - “how not to hyperventilate when the water is covering your head and you are sat on the bottom of the ocean”. Panic did not quite cover it. With the husband having completed the task with ease in about 30 seconds, I am pretty sure that my instructor felt he had drawn the short straw. He was however extremely patient and after around 30 minutes I had completed the three simple tasks and off we went on the underwater adventure. Lets just say that all my dreams from The Little Mermaid did not come to fruition!!! It was cold, grey and there was very little to see other than silver coloured fish. The most exciting thing we saw was a cuttlefish and that simply wasn't sufficient to make me forget the trauma of “choosing” to pour salt water in my eyes!!! We emerged after about fifteen minutes which my husband had said he thought it was amazing – with my considered response of “I AM NEVER DOING THAT AGAIN!”. Afterwards we signed their “guestbook” and I read lots of comments along the lines of “I wish I had had the courage to complete the dive” - doh – note to self – read the comment book first – I didn't realise quitting was an option!!!
Fast forward a year and my (not quite by that time) husband and I have a wedding in Sri Lanka planned with a honeymoon to my dream destination – the Maldives. All my life I have dreamt of an island paradise where the sand is white and feels like talcum powder under your feet and the sea is turquoise, warm like bath water and you can still see your feet when the water is at chest height (I know – not that deep when you are 5ft tall!!). When I looked at the brochures as a young girl I realised that my dream was the Maldives.
So here I am dreaming of reading books and spa massages when my husband confesses his secret dirty thoughts to me. It goes something like this.... Apparently the Maldives is one of the best places in the world to dive and whilst there I would like to have a go. Now imagine my dilemma, having vowed never to put my self through that hell again, I now had this little monkey on my shoulder saying “what if he sees something amazing and you miss out...” GRRRR!!!
So I decide I am going to give it another chance. I do not want to do any horrid studying or “simple” skills on holiday so I look into doing it before we go so when we get on holiday we can just enjoy the diving! I got in touch with a fantastic and very patient instructor and we did a PADI referral course. When we got to the Maldives it really was the paradise I had always dreamed of and getting into the sea was like getting into a bath with visibility of 30 to 40 metres (much more then my my 1.52 metres in height). On our first dive we saw a manta ray and thereafter an array of colours and shapes including clown fish, turtles, sharks, rays.... it was like being on the set of “Finding Nemo” and was all my Disney dreams come true. With those surroundings salt water in my eyes seemed like a small price to pay. Since that holiday I have now logged about 140 dives. Following all of my reservations I have can now say with great conviction that there is no sound more memorising than a pod of wild dolphins coming to swim with you, nothing more awe inspiring than seeing a whale shark (the biggest fish in the ocean at up to 13 metres in length) gracefully swimming towards you, nothing more peaceful than sitting on ocean floor and watching a prehistoric looking Dugong graze on sea grass, nothing more breathtaking than a school of over 100 hammerhead sharks circling around you with shy interest and nothing that can make me smile like a playful seal pup nibbling on my fins.
Through diving I have experienced the mysteries of the ocean from shipwrecks that tell a thousand stories to some of the most interesting creatures on the earth. This is something which I never take for granted and something I am always humbled to have experienced which largely depends upon being in the right place at the right time. Having once said that I would never want to place my face underwater again there is now no place I would rather be.