Ever wondered what it feels being like Ariel? (from the Little Mermaid). Just imagine, fishes swimmin’ all around, seaweed waving about, a shark, if you’re lucky, so I guess, you get the idea. Except, you can’t sing. Nope not even a little. Don’t try it because if you do, all you’ll get is a burst of salt water in your mouth! Besides it’s real best to maintain silence down there as you may not agree now, but that’s the fun of scuba diving,
Deep down under (the sea, I mean) You can’t do the three basic things which we humans do shallow, up and over (on land, c’mon!) You can’t walk, you can’t talk L and you can’t breathe with your nose. It’s a totally different world down there.
The first time I ventured into this world was during my summer vacations.
The exact date was the 5th of April 2017; Venue: Tarkarli, Malwan, Maharashtra.
At first, I was excited to try, it as it had looked quite fascinating in movies. Besides, being an ardent ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ fan, I couldn’t help but believe that, the Kraken existed and Davy Jones might just send it after us. (I exaggerated the last part a bit J)
The day before the dive, I was a bit butterfly-tummied (I’m not sure if that’s correct) as I had never explored something as vast as the sea.
On the 4th of April, my parent and I went to Dandi beach in Malwan. It was a nice, big beach filled with seashells (on the seashore which she doesn’t sell as the seashells on this sea shore are absolutely free!!!)
At first, I got a bit preoccupied collecting shells and dead crabs but I was roused by the sound of the motor boat. I looked up and saw a blue and white motor boat with four people wearing blue t-shirts with a swordfish printed on it. The swordfish made my thoughts tingle. I started daydreaming of an underwater fencing match as I climbed onto the boat. My thoughts came to a standstill as soon as I saw the tanks. By that I do NOT mean war tanks (Although I admit that would’ve been cool). I mean oxygen tanks. It was crazy equipment, seriously! There was this huge cylindrical tank (or tanks) as there were six of them, strapped on like a backpack with two tubes hanging out of it.
I was so mesmerized by the tanks that I literally shot forward when the motorboat suddenly started. It was a long short ride to the Sindhudurg fort where we were supposed to have an ‘orientation dive.’
I leaned over to look at the sea and I saw a huge cluster of green seaweed like things. I wondered if they were sponges and my mind went into flurry when I remembered that those things were living. I mean they came under Kingdom Animalia and Phylum Porifera which means they were very much not ‘not living.’
My gut did a gymnastic flip thinking about the fact that in another 10 minutes’ tops, I’d be plunging down under.
The motor boat suddenly came to a halt making me shoot forward, again (I absolutely fail to understand the deal with the motor boat shooting me forward!)
Then, one of the people on the boat came up to us and said, “Hi, I am Yogesh, your trainer.” Now, what I expected with ‘training’ here was a one hour session and we wouldn’t be plunging in 10 minutes. Do NOT blame me. I’ve been in 3-hour training session and at least an hour of training is literally everyday work. So, I didn’t expect this one to be 10 minutes (literally!)
The first two minutes was the explaining of signs to be used to communicate under water. The signs were
– Going up
– Going down
– Not Ok
– Air gauge
Then the next 8 minutes was on how to equalize as pressure increases with an increase in depth, how to breathe, how to remove the water from the mask and how to check the pressure. We also got this instruction that even though there would be an underwater camera carried down, we were NOT supposed to smile as that makes the water enter our mouth.
After exact 10 minutes, we changed into our Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA) diving apparatus. When it was finally time to strap on those tanks with two jelly fish like things hanging out of them (incidentally called Octopus), my heart skipped three beats. It skipped another one and a half beat when one of the trainers put a belt of weights around my waist. “It’s for taking you further under water,” said the trainer reassuringly.
After everyone was ready, the trainer told us that only two people could dive at once. My mom and I went in first. There were two trainers (one for each) waiting for us in the water. First, we had to practice breathing. For me, I hadn’t ever been completely dependent on my mouth for breathing. Besides, I had to put the ‘octopus’ in my mouth (um……eww. But it wasn’t literal) as that was the supplier of oxygen. On my first, inhale I got this urge to take a deep breath through my nose but I resisted. The second inhale was better the thing comfortable and at the fourth one, I was ready. The next thing I knew, I was sinking into a green (GREEENN!!) abyss. My trainer signaled to me to ask if I was OK. I signaled positive and we plunged deeper. For a second everything just stopped. The action began when a shoal of all-yellow fish shot out towards us. There were so many. I also felt one of them brush past my cheek. This happened while I was being photographed holding a dead coral. There was one peculiar thing that I noticed which aroused the feeling that I may be superhuman. Underwater, there is a need to equalize by gently blowing your nose by pinching your mask. The trainers told us that equalizing is required every time we go deeper as in liquids pressure is directly proportional to depth and if we don’t equalize, our ears may burst. One more important instruction was that we must equalize only when we feel heavy (like in airplanes) in our ears. Now the peculiar thing was that even though we went about 18-20 feet deep, I equalized just once and that to at the deepest point, while my parents had to equalize at least ten times and so did the trainers. I asked my dad about this when I got out and he said it was because I am young and my ears can withstand more pressure. Personally, I feel it is because I have superpowers but then again, that’s just me. The rest of the orientation dive was a lovely glide through a Piscean wonderland. I felt right at home (I’m a fellow Piscean)
There were corals and fish swimming around. It was really that simple but still so enthralling. I didn’t even realize that we were just in for 20 minutes. Time seemed to stop. Surprisingly, when we came out we weren’t one bit tired in fact, we were totally relaxed. The boat ride back was a quiet one. I felt a mix of feelings. I was happy to achieve my first orientation dive, relaxed as I said before, nervous for the big dive the next day and a bit far away, from everything.
The next day, we were up at 7am sharp (Well, I took 5 minutes extra). We had to eat a very light breakfast as eating too much is NOT good (for SCUBA diving). To, be on the safe side, we didn’t eat anything. (It wasn’t a bad decision either) We got ready and went to the beach on which our hotel stood (Sounds like a “Once upon a time” story). I wanted to crash into the waves but I was controlling myself as I knew I had to get in far deeper.
After 5 minutes, our motor boat from the previous day, zoomed in. It stopped in a shallow part. We got on and drove or sailed or motored towards the lighthouse at a far distance (almost like ‘in a galaxy far, far away’). We were told that the dive was going to be 35 – 40 feet deep. The boat ride was a quiet one. I was looking and looking down at the emerald green sea and reaching out my hand to feel the lukewarm water. There was an instance where I looked up and all I saw was a vast expanse of sea stretched out in front of me. There was no sign of the coastline. As we came closer to the lighthouse, the waves of the sea got stronger. It was as if they tossed the boat at their own will and the boat obliged. It was another ten minutes before the boat came to a halt. When it did anchor, the waves kept crashing against it, calm but menacing, encouraging yet threatening, all in all, strong. That’s the word.
Even though the halt was full of activity and last minute instructions, I could hear my heart beat with the waves crashing, jolting the boat from side to side. It was like a continuous flow with which we got into our gear. After what seemed like hours, the trainers motioned us to get into the water. The waves crashed against us, shoving us around from side to side. Personally, I felt lucky for the ladder and the fact that there was a whole, big motorboat to support it as the waves were, well a bit too strong.
Everything, seemed to be moving on in slow motion. Starting from the five breaths taken to test the apparatus to my feet being shoved into two gigantic, black fins to letting go off the ladder and slowly sinking into a green, fluid haven. It was a few moments before I realized that my trainer was holding my oxygen tank and maneuvering me through the water. After a while of gliding ahead and sinking further I saw something which looked like a sunken ancient civilization. Except, it was just a sea bed, naturally conjured up. The trainer pointed out to some green, spiky ‘moonball’ like things which turned out to be sea anemones and were extremely dangerous (to touch). After a few more turns, we came to what seemed like a market-place in the civilized city. The only difference was that instead of being sold, the fish were the ones doing the shopping. It was a huge variety. There were all types of the Piscean community (me excluded) some were blue, some were yellow, some had eyes bigger than their bodies, some looked like pencil pouches floating in the sea. I was anticipating a shark or something like a shipwreck but nevertheless, the fish were great. The following 35 minutes was a dream-venture into a colorful wonderland. The sea, as I now knew it, was more than just water with more density where an iron ship would float whereas an iron nail would sink. Once, we were back on the boat, reliving the dive, taking in the silence into which we were engulfed, we were treated to a nice surprise. One of the trainers came up to us and said, “I hope you enjoyed your first dive in the shark domain of the Arabian Sea!”
All of us stared open-mouthed. What if we did have an encounter?! Well maybe next time. To make things more interesting, the first thing I did when I came home was watch ‘Jaws’. Now that my friend is a story for another time. Bye!