Wearing a dark stinger suit, flippers and mask in hand, I show up on the back deck of the boat a good ten minutes early for my dive time. My other friends, Rob, Lauren, and Janie look identical to me as the dive instructor fits us all with weight belts and makes us sit on the platform to wait for our air tanks. Once outfitted with the right gear to go under, we splash into the water to meet our diver, Kelly. We swim over to the metal bar, the metal tank heavy on my back and water already seeping into my facemask. Lauren quickly diverges from the group and back to the boat. I have the same feeling of panic on the inside, but I will not let it win today. Kelly checks all of us on our skills- breathing in the regulators, draining our masks of water, and equalizing the pressure in our ears. Janie’s ears won’t pop. She cannot dive because the pressure might damage her eardrums. This leaves just Rob and me with our instructor.
In scuba diving, bubbles are good. In fact, they are great because it means you are breathing. This took the longest for me to get used to while practicing the skills on the side of the boat and even under water I would have to remind myself, “You are breathing.” After completing the skill set check, Kelly released the pressure in our vests so we could sink and then she linked arms with Rob and me. We rapidly descended into the water and I forced my ears to pop the entire way down.
Life under the water is completely surreal. I felt in a dream like state while swimming amongst the wildlife. The coral is bright hues of orange and deep reds. The fish were darting every which way as we swam by them and I felt nervous that I would accidently kick one with my flipper. Quickly into our exploration, Rob found Nemo. He spotted the orange and white stripped clown fish hovering above a small bush shaped coral piece. In this moment, I realized I am swimming at The Great Barrier Reef. Entire movies are made about this place and it is a big item on bucket lists. And here I am, scuba diving the wonder.
Kelly guided us along the reef and over a giant purple clam. The clam, a regal purple hue outlined in much lighter shade must have sensed our presence. As we glided over his giant being, he open and closed his shell. I jumped. Kelly felt my jolt and the two of us looked at each other through our plastic masks and began to laugh. Bubbles burst through my regulator for the next few moments as I continued to giggle as we wound away around more coral.
Schools of fish swayed around the mountainous structures of coral and underwater plant life. The life forms under water are nothing like anything I have ever seen before and I was having trouble believing they were real. This world below the surface thrives just like any other community and in our ascent to the surface, I felt grateful that I had been able to be a visitor in such a vibrant environment.