The story of my first scuba dive is a mix of mesmerising images still floating through my head. I can remember everything clearly now, but at the time when I was actually swimming among the fish, it was a heady intoxication-almost unreal experience. Nothing quite registered yet everything was so brightly beautiful, deeply embedding itself in the deepest recesses of my mind. Growing up on “Finding Nemo” and “Free Willy”, I think all of us at some point have entertained the idea of going underwater and seeing aquatic life for ourselves. And as the epic Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara proves, you do not have to know swimming to enjoy the dive! So this summer, as I headed south to the Andamans, Scuba Diving was on top of my to-do list and it was amazing.
Let me start at the beginning. They scare you. A lot. The agency that handled all these water sports made us sign all kinds of paper-detailed questions of medical history, reactions to pressure, head problems, ear problems- at one point I was pretty certain I should not do scuba diving. We also had to sign a paper that attested any accident or death that resulted under water would not be any one’s fault. Well, how do you react to that! I half fainted there and then. But then they assured us to try the 20 mins training and if after that I was uncomfortable, I was free to leave. At this point I should add, Scuba diving is a fun but risky sport. Before you go ahead, do make sure that it’s a PADI certified company handling your dive. Also, you have to wait at least 12 hours if you were on a flight and ideally 12-24 hours before your next flight. So that’s how it started, with all the diving gear and oxygen tasks. Safe to say, our group of beginners-all of us jittery, giving nervous smiles to each other had no idea what to say, what to do and where to look. Each of us was assigned a trainer and that helped a lot. Individually we were taught sign language, how to breathe and what to do in cases of emergency. 20 mins passed like the blink of an eye. I knew then that scuba diving was something I simply had to do.
The Andaman and Nicobar islands have lots of dive centres- some at Port Blair itself, others at Havelock and North Bay. I am guessing they are all pretty awesome, I did mine at North Bay. We were taken to the middle of the sea and after some small talk to calm our nerves, we plunged down 40ft. How do you put that feeling in words? The clear blue sea, so many colourful corals, so many many kinds of fishes-some shone like rainbows, some glistened grey in the pale sunlight and some camouflaged in the sand beneath us. There were clown fishes and sea anemones, sea urchins and sword fish, there were fishes whose shape and size so unfathomable, it was all I could do to stare in awe. There were times I forgot to breathe, shocked by the myriad stimuli in front of me. There were times I almost inhaled from my nose, but my trainer was exceptionally kind and friendly-reminding me to relax and enjoy the scene.
When I came back to the surface, it was like day break- a whole new life spirit was running through my veins. One by one, we popped our heads out of the water and we were widely grinning at each other. I saw my sister in the distance and waved. Later on, we would sit and compare who had seen more fish. Strangers before, the whole group huddled now, chattering with enthusiasm, laughing and care free. Monsoon had already started in the Andamans and that afternoon in North Bay, it rained cats and dogs. Standing under the shed and waiting for our ferry to arrive, I remember looking at the deep blue sea that held so many mysteries. There was sadness too and immense pain looking at the vast sea. Some day all of this is going to die. Corals grow an inch every 10-12 years and due to rising temperatures, these corals were dying very fast. Looking at the infinite beauty around me, the clarity of its finite existence shone profoundly. That day, I took away with me something that will always remain close to my heart and comfort me in times of distress- beauty that is surreal and calms the heart in times of chaos.
We are fortunate to live in a country that gives us the opportunity to try so many fun adventure sports. I am certain some of these are on everyone’s itch list. If you haven’t already, it’s time to start scratching them off your itch list!
You can make you own itch list here and find information, buddies and inspiration to get going on them!
Which of these have I inspired you to scratch?
Story by Sainico