By Fatima Shaheen Niazi
Scuba diving is the sort of adventure many crave to be a part of, unfortunately, most of us are too frightened to go through with it. I belonged to the latter category till I went underwater for the first time and glimpsed heaven!
Here’s my story.
In theory, I always wanted to scuba dive. Who doesn’t? It’s just that we never find the time. But after years of going to coffee houses as the only medium of ‘fun’, something inside me snapped and I decided to go on a scuba adventure with three of my friends – and a group of strangers.
Yes, I know how this sounds. I felt the same way before the trip. Who travels with strangers? You can only have fun with your own group of friends, right? Wrong! Sometimes, this dependency on friends deprives us of great experiences – a shell I wanted to break out of.
And I was right! It’s not the company that matters, it’s the experience.
The group met at a meeting point and we all travelled to Mubarak village in a bus. We then hopped on to a boat to reach Charna island. The whole process took around two hours, but the strenuous travel wasn’t the challenge – it was going underwater.
The failed attempt
The boat stopped at what was considered the best spot for marine life interaction and we were asked to get into the provided scuba gear.
The trip in charge handed us the equipment which included the oxygen tank and goggles. I had to wear a life jacket too since I can’t swim. This wasn’t a problem though since a guide was going to lead us underwater whilst holding our hands.
We quickly got into the gear and came to realise how heavy the tank was. That’s when I started to freak out. How could I carry all this underwater? Before I could grasp the entire situation, the instructors asked us to move out of the boat to practice for the dive.
I hesitantly stepped into the water and put the googles on. The goggles came on top of my nostrils and I realised I couldn’t breathe.
“You are supposed to breath from your mouth into the pipe connected to the oxygen tank,” explained the instructor. “You can’t breathe from the nose.”
I nodded and pushed my head underwater only to immediately bounce back up. I felt suffocated and trapped. The biggest task for me at this point was learning how to breath only from the mouth and into the oxygen tank.
Ten minutes into the practice run, I panicked and decided to quit.
I climbed up the boat and lay down panting. Just the thought of going underwater began to make me uncomfortable. Around me, I saw other people experience the same fear.
The only thought in my mind was, “I have to do this. I have to try.”
After around 20 minutes of meditation, I was able to convince myself. I stepped down the boat and quickly grabbed the instructor’s hand.
“I’m ready,” I said.
He nodded and we both pushed our heads underwater.
The minute I went subsurface, the world changed. I couldn’t feel the weight of the tank anymore, nor was there any fear. Instead, I felt free.
Since I can’t swim, I simply followed the instructor’s lead, and to be honest, the beauty of the underwater ecosphere had me so mesmerised, I could hardly think. All I could do was aimlessly float as hundreds of small yellow and blue fish quickly swam past me.
Suddenly, the instructor pointed downwards. He wanted me to stand still. As I looked down to search for a place to stand, I saw the most beautiful colourful coral reef. I don’t know for how long I just stood glancing around in bafflement – all I knew was, I wanted to be here forever.
I would have kept looking around in awe if the instructor wouldn’t have pulled my hand. I looked at him and he pointed upwards. It was time for us to leave.
Halfheartedly, I did as I was told and let him pull me up to the surface.
When I finally broke out of the water, I was laughing with joy. I rushed towards my friends and screamed “It was AMAZING! Why didn’t we do this before?”
They too, felt the same way. Just one dive underwater had changed our perception of the world. We were at peace.
For days after this adventure, I kept dreaming of the underwater world. The beauty I experienced had changed me forever – it had made me realise how blessed we are to be alive. No work stress mattered, nor did my future. All I wanted to do was explore.
Because at the end of the day, money can’t buy happiness can it? Only experiences with nature can.
However, I do wish I had received proper scuba diving training before I had gone underwater. Maybe then I would have felt safe enough to explore more of the sea. So folks, though it might seem easy to go through a ten minute training, I would highly recommend you become certified before you go for a dive.