Anxious, excited, nervous, scared, as a mixed bag of all these emotions, I waited patiently with my instructor, at the back of the boat, preparing myself for my first dive.
“What am I supposed to do! Oh God, please save me under water! You can do it! After all, you were attentive during the briefing session and the training dive!”
I could hear my brain telling my heart in a feeble attempt to pacify me!
Branded a ’Water Baby’ by family and friends, I should not have been so worried! However, the anxiety was compounded by the fact that my maiden attempt at SCUBA diving was in no easy waters! I was at ‘The Great Barrier Reef’- the world’s largest coral reef system, located in the Coral Sea, off Queensland, Australia.
I was expecting our boat to take us to a beautiful, idyllic island from where I would be expected to swim to the scuba diving location. To my disdain however, as most of the reefs are not along the coastline or in the proximity of visible landmass, we were right in the middle of the ocean – nowhere near any landmass!
SCUBA, or Scuba is the acronym given to swimming underwater for extended periods using Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus! Once, having dove under water, I was relaxed and felt the experience actually ‘beginner friendly’. Five minutes into SCUBA diving, I realized that I had learnt to dive far faster than I had picked up any other water trick! Although, proud about my fitness and stamina, it dawned upon me that SCUBA diving is also suitable for people with physical disabilities. The key to success seemed to be the ability to use the breathing equipment efficiently and being able to propel oneself underwater! Fortunately for me, I also had had ample rest and was not jet-lagged.
Once under water, after I had found my bearing after the initial hiccup or two, I began observing my surroundings! The scenery is indescribable and has to be personally seen to be believed! Still let me make a tepid attempt at narrating what I witnessed! I was transported to the movie ‘Finding Nemo!’ Remember the popular animated movie, set in the backdrop of the Great Barrier Reef, where the story revolved around the escapades of a father Clown Fish, who sets about to rescue his son, who has been swept astray down the east coast of Australia to Sydney. I was completely astounded by the myriad of colors, the strong visuals of the ocean, the variety in marine-life! The reef seemed endless with schools of fishes around me. I was so taken in by the energetic, continuous, buzzing aquatic life around me that it was not difficult to lose track of time.
I felt as if I had blended in a fresco painting amongst the vibrantly colorful corals! Though coral reef may seem to be a collection of rocks and boulders yet they actually are colonies of tiny invertebrates called coral polyps. Over millions of years, extremely ancient animals have evolved into modern coral reef building forms.
The visibility, surprisingly, for me, seemed to be improving with depth – the deeper I waded, the clearer my surroundings became! As I swam through the corals, I was tempted to go deeper and deeper but was quickly reminded of my limited skills as a novice!
To imagine that I was in ‘The Great Barrier Reef’, amidst the world's biggest single structure made by living organisms, which can even be seen from outer space, it is dream-like, almost surreal!
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