When the better half suggested a scuba diving adventure, I couldn’t find a good reason to refuse. My adventurous bone being alive and well, this sounded like an interesting enough activity to indulge in. Submerging oneself many feet below the sea and watching colourful marine life pass you by – sounded like a slightly scary but a totally good idea.
So packing our bags, along with our sense of adventure, we left for the sunny shores of the Andamans. As the plane touched down at Port Blair, we could see the beautiful blue green waters shimmering in front of us. And we were looking forward to our few days exploring the treasures under the sea.
I have always been fond of the water. Harboured dreams of becoming a world class swimmer. Still do. And considering that the earth is actually 73% ocean, it seems like a feasible idea. But on the other hand, we’re running out of water and I can’t find a decent swimming pool (which doesn’t leave you feel chlorinated over afterwards); so the dream has remained a dream.
It turned out to be a really good decision. I wasn’t prepared for the whole new world under the sea.
I’d caught glimpses. In fact, I had just watched “ZNMD” (the scene apparently sparked off a lot of interest in diving!) where Hrithik came out of the water transformed (remember?) by what he’d seen. I could relate to it afterwards.
What lies underneath is simply beyond words. How do you describe the feeling of being suspended in water, gliding in slow motion, watching some of the most amazingly beautiful fish, not even blinking, as they pass you by.
I have to admit though that getting into the water and the first lesson were far from easy. For one, I panicked. With the “regulator” firmly in my mouth, under a few feet of open ocean water, I still got a feeling of “claustrophobia”. The ocean water was slightly foggy. I couldn’t see anything. I decided to try the next day.
The sun shone down and it was beautiful and sunny as the boat was anchored somewhere in the middle of the sea, for our dive on day 2. I tried for the second time to get under water. The all-knowing instructor, decided to take me on a “fun” dive first. He was smart and had probably tackled many more of my kind. With the mask firmly in place, taking big gulps of air through my regulator, I tried to stay as calm as possible.
Interestingly, as soon as I saw the colourful and many hued fish and marine life, I was so distracted, and I completely forgot about my uneasiness.
It’s quite a feeling, trying to emulate the fish, swimming like they do. Is this how they feel, I wonder as I try and work on the perfect gliding movement. Not as easy as it looks, of course, suddenly really envious of fish. The instructors are perfect, they move effortlessly, using minimal air. Breathe calmly, they advice. I take large gulps of air, like I’m running out of my last breath.
There’s a whole cylinder full of air. But the fact remains that breathing in and out through the mouth is an alien experience and not one that comes easy. You’re intensely aware of every breath you take. Does your breath make so much noise? In fact, even after a few dives, the sensation is foreign.
It’s fascinating to watch fish and other sea animals in their natural habitat. I watch an octopus from close range, not actually realizing it’s identity. My instructor is quite patient, making me hold on to some dead coral or rock gently and encouraging me to watch the marine life go by.
Huge shoals of yellow and silver fish glide past, as the sun filters through the water creating a rather magical moment; I can only watch in amazement. It’s not just forgetting to breathe, sometimes, I get excited and smile widely at the sight in front of me, forgetting that I have the regulator in my mouth.
While I enjoy taking in the surroundings, the “skills” take some bit of effort. Losing the regulator and retrieving it. Running out of air and signalling a buddy to share air. Losing the mask and getting it back on (and then blowing out the water in the mask). Once this is done, we’re back to the more pleasurable part of the dive.
The instructor demonstrates neutral buoyancy in water. I feel I’m hitting the bottom, but not really, because we’re weightless under water. The breathing is what regulates the movement. To move in a particular directions, one needs to look at that point, regulate breathing and glide towards this point of reference. Sounds easy? Try it next time someone invites you scuba diving.
An hour later, it’s time to surface. I realize that the “panic” disappear once I decided to open my eyes and see what beauty lies beneath and enjoy it. I was thinking less about myself and my fears and enjoy the external environment instead – that’s the key. And what rich vibrant life – between rocks, under the corals, between, on the bottom of the ocean floor and just about everywhere. I try and note everything I see, though it’s a difficult task. From scorpionfish, to sweetlips, from wrasse to lizard fish, it’s been quite a parade.
As it’s time to come up, I spot two orange and white fish, aptly named “clown fish” because of the way they look. Swimming between the anemones they make for a rather cute picture. I point to them excitedly, while the instructor makes the “ok/great” sign. I am breathing faster now and quite excited to have finally found “Nemo”!
Once I surfaced, we were already thinking of our next dive and what we would spot when we went down again. I’d already found Nemo. Now, we were filled with anticipation about what next the deep waters could have in store!
MORE ABOUT HAVELOCK
The island of Havelock is quite small and we stayed at DiveIndia where we also did our basic and advanced SSI course in the time we were there. It’s a lovely place in Havelock Island run by Vandit Kalia and a motley crew of instructors. You need 11 dives to complete the advanced course, which we did over our 10 day stay. Most days, you can do two dives at the least. There’s also an exam you need to pass. The accommodation is basic, but clean and the food is decent. We didn’t get out much as we were way too lazy, so we landed up spending most of our time at the Full Moon Cafe with cats, dogs and assorted visitors.
Havelock is around a 2-3 hour boat ride from Port Blair and has quite a few diving schools.
– Top 10 Dive Sites (Guardian)