I have only been scuba diving twice. The first time was in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. Perhaps as a result of being a lifeguard while working my way through uni, I have a fear of suffocating. Being deep underwater and at the mercy of a small mouthpiece was a disturbing prospect. However the group I was with wanted to go so I caved quietly to peer pressure.
We had a practice session in the hotel pool. I don’t recall much about the practicing but I know that I didn’t feel prepared when it was over. Once off on our trip we were joined by fellow tourists. We were suited up and given belts with weights, to hold us down on the sea bed. One American man was so obese they had to tie two belts together to fit around him. Funny how, when you are trying not to think about what comes next, you focus on the little details!
We travelled out to sea by speed boat . Once at our destination – a spot of sea that looked much like any other to the untrained eye – we took turns in rolling backwards off the boat and into the water. A guide took us down to the sea bed one at a time, where we were sat in a circle as we waited for the rest of the group. I kept one hand on my mouthpiece at all times – no way that was being knocked out of my mouth.
Once on the sea bed I had time to sit and assess my surroundings and was overwhelmed by the silence. How peaceful – and slightly unsettling. On the one hand, sitting in a bright clear water – we were only about 10 meters below the surface and the sunlight streamed down. On the other, defenceless in a vast open space where we were the interlopers.
A member of the group – possibly the large American now I think back – bugged out. I mean literally as we sat there we could see his eyes growing wide open, almost popping in his panic. He was quickly helped back to the surface by the guides. Somehow that was reassuring – apparently I was not as afraid as I thought. And the surface was not far to go!
At last we were off, swimming gently along the bottom of the sea. We looked at plants and coral, we poked at strange creatures we had never seen before, we explored a whole new world and gradually I relaxed and even began to enjoy myself. A barrel full of cliches spring to mind, most of which would be apt – after all a cliche becomes a cliche because it’s true.
So – here comes the banana story. Did you know fish could smell bananas? Well – I am sure that is factually incorrect and an ichthyologist would soon correct me since fish don’t have noses. But – hold a banana up in the water and the fish will flock (school?) over to have a nibble. Mr G held aloft our banana and within seconds we were surrounded by colourful little fishes dashing about our heads. Too fast to touch but amazing to watch.
I did enjoy scuba diving, enough to have a second go at least. Once under the water it’s calming and beautiful. The initial push to get down to the sea bed is nerve wracking, but like any new experience, you can’t find out if you like it if you never try.
But I still like to keep one hand on the mouthpiece – just in case.