What’s the thought that comes to you when you think about the ocean? Deep and mysterious? Exciting? Perhaps a little scary? I can tick all of the above. As a person who grew up in the hills and away from the sea, I remember my first encounter with the ocean. As a teenager, I landed in Goa and heard this amazingly mysterious sound that had a calming effect on me. I asked my driver what it was and he looked at me questioningly and said ‘What do you mean? That’s just the sea’. I was intrigued.
Love at first dive
As soon as we reached the hotel, I dropped my bags in the hotel room and ran towards the sea in the middle of the night and I instantly fell in love. But my love was limited to the shore. Often during my travels, I would look at the sea and wonder about its vastness and the world of possibilities underwater. But as a non-swimmer, my fear always won over my curiosity. As time passed, I tried to get more comfortable in the water but my progress was very slow, definitely not enough to swim in the deep waters. Then I discovered something magical. I went scuba diving in the Maldives under the Discover Scuba program and was absolutely mesmerised by the world underwater. Even though it wasn’t as smooth an experience as I would have liked it to be, I kept trying in different destinations to get over my fear.
And then, I decided to get certified. I enrolled myself in a dive club in Mumbai (Orca Dive Club), and went to discover the Red Sea in Egypt on a boat. I spent six nights on a boat in the sea, did multiple dives at different locations, swam with dolphins, saw the most amazing corals and the tiny details of the underwater world and got my certification as a diver. I was still a little hesitant. It was in the Maldives again, I absolutely fell in love with the ocean world. This time I was in the sea for six days while exploring different locations of the Indian Ocean as a diver and I just couldn’t have enough of it. I observed the big fish in their night hunts, turtles sleeping, “cleaner fish” cleaning Manta rays, dolphins jumping, octopuses resting, eels hunting small fish, prawns digging sand, and lobsters being curious and swam with the sharks. This is when the ocean started looking like a home rather than just a liquid vastness.
The awareness of oneness
This is when I felt we are all just one. We can’t survive without each other. We are all so cosmically bound to each other at a molecular level. But diving also means being very observant and responsible about the world underwater. It means you’re just there to observe and not to touch. One must learn about the ocean in order to enjoy their time underwater. The changing currents and tides, local flora and fauna, everything varies depending on the location. The more you learn, the more you realise that the world underwater is very similar to the world on the surface. And we must take responsibility and do our bit to protect it if we want to survive on earth as a species. Oceans are home to millions of species as well, we have no right to exploit or destroy them. We must learn and explore, win the battle of fear against the unknown, because this world is our only home.
Must-experience dive spots
If you want to see super colourful corals and shipwrecks with amazing visibility then the Red Sea has plenty to offer. The Maldives has an abundance of Manta rays and different varieties of sharks. The south of Maldives, especially, is filled with sharks. Bali has some beautiful dive spots too. You can expect an abundance of turtles and a beautiful dive spot with a shipwreck called Tulamben. Lakshadweep is incredibly beautiful with its bioluminescent beaches, colourful corals and fishes.
Here’s how you can start your journey as a scuba diver:
1. Find a reliable PADI-certified dive centre. Which means a centre with good experience and knowledge. Even when you’re just trying out the ‘Discover Scuba Program’.
2. Enrol yourself in the basic open water certification course.
3. Learn the process of diving through the study material provided to you and through practical sessions in the pool before you head out to the sea. Trust me, there’s A LOT to learn.
4. Always get a local diver as a guide for navigation because only they would know the changing currents, tides and local flora fauna well.
5. It’s okay to be scared but you must always follow what you’ve learnt. Keep your mind calm by focusing on your breathing.
6. Be aware at all times – of your surroundings and of yourself.
Explore to learn!
I wish everyone a happy World Oceans Day, today and everyday.