The next day in Zanzibar would prove to be just as eventful. Tara and I woke up early to catch the shuttle bus to the North Eastern side of the island where we would be going Scuba Diving. I was actually scared out of my mind. All kinds of questions raced through my mind and all kinds of scenarios popped up in my head.
We had met up with Sabrina the day before for dinner and I had asked her to keep me in her prayers and pray that I live through the day lol. She just laughed and told me it would be fine. I think I even sneaked in a “I love you” message to my family just in case :).
Our shuttle took about an hour to get to the other side of the island. In our boat we had people from all over the world including Finland, Germany and the States. My trip so far had been quite untouristic up to this point so it was different but also nice to me amongst them.
I was nervous though, really really nervous.When I told Simon and Julie ( our friends on the island ) who I had met the previous time I had come to Zanzibar they were taken aback. We had met on the dolphin tour. That trip is a blog on its own but there was no fear in me when we had to dive into the middle of the Ocean with the dolphins without life jackets even though the water was rough. They had to pull me out of the water each time. Every time we saw the dolphins I was the first to dive into the water and the last to come back and now I was scared of going scuba diving. But this was different. This was being underwater for 45 minutes. It was the underwater part that scared me.
They had gone scuba diving before us as they were living in Zanzibar and so recommended a company and we had gone with them. We had spent the previous day with Simon and Julie in Jambiani and anything we had questions about we asked them. They went over a couple of things and sometimes we didn’t know something they had been taught and I got even more scared but they were all there to reassure me. I think it was just me and Tara who were diving it for the first time. She was pretty chill about it – then again she’s jumped out of a plane alone.
But I wasn’t going to back out of this -I figured I would want to experience this once in my life and would have to face this one day and might as well be now. The whole concept that freaked me out was that if your respirator doesn’t work properly underwater it is highly dangerous to shoot up to the surface of the water because your lungs need to expand slowly and it is important to go up slowly. SO …if you can’t breathe underwater and you can’t go up straight away for air…you’re left without oxygen..that’s scary.
We put on all our gear on the boat getting ready for the dive. Apart from our wet suit – which helped you float – everything else worked to help you sink. Ah having faith is a scary thing. Having faith that your oxygen tank would not run out of air or your respirator would not fall out and you wouldn’t freak out and not know which chord to pull on to get it back or that your instructor will be watching you in case something goes wrong. A minute underwater could be the difference between life and death.
I was really surprised at the fact that I was scared of this – I remember watching the movie “Zindagi na milegi doobara“( You wont get life back again) which is basically about 3 guys doing things that they fear and scuba diving was one of them and I remember wondering why he was so scared but at that moment in the middle of the Ocean, I understood. I also think that the fact that I didn’t feel 110 % confident with what the guy had taught us in the pool and felt like he had rushed it all made me even more nervous. Still went on with putting on all the “sinking gear”.
We fell backwards into the water because that’s how you’re suppose to do it. Our instructor ( who was different from the guy who taught us in the pool) went down to anchor. We would go down this rope slowly and whenever we felt pressure in our ears we would have to equalize by pinching our nose and blowing or moving our jaw and attempting to swallow. There was also a little oxygen meter that we would have to look at every now and again to make sure we weren’t running out of oxygen and every time our instructor would ask us how much we had we would have to signal with our fingers. We descended slowly, one instructor for the two of us.We could hear each breath we took – the inhaling and the exhaling and you breathe in deeply to not finish you oxygen quickly- maybe the way we are suppose to breathe in normal life.
The instructor kept an eye on both of us but we were going at different paces ( me and Tara- not purposefully though) and so he would be looking back to whoever was behind and looking forward to the person who was in front. As he swam ahead with Tara I realized I was starting to float to the top. I tried to swim down but I think my suit was pulling me up an my weights weren’t bringing me down and as I got closer and closer to the surface I started getting worried that this was bad for my lungs and kept trying to come down and signalling to the instructor. Since you can’t speak underwater and you’re floating above the instructor – there’s really not much you can do. I watched as he finally looked behind and couldn’t find me. He and tara looked around for me but I was nowhere to be seen. And there I was above them waving my hands trying to signal that I was surfacing quickly. Now that I look back on it it’s pretty funny.Anyways he ended up looking up and pulling me down and giving me an extra weight.
I remember one thing I was totally in love with was the fact that you could see the sun’s rays penetrate the water and light it up from below. I remember being totally surprised with every breath I took. I was amazed at the fact that I could breathe underwater with such facility yet still did not take one breath for granted – every breath counted and every time I took a new one I prayed that my next one would come too. I don’t think I’ve appreciated breathing so much in my life. Even after looking at my oxygen meter and realizing that we had already completed half of our dive – I reminded myself – ok Saara Just because you made it through the first half doesn’t mean you’ll make it through the second. I think I started enjoying the second bit more because I tried to push through my fear and be in the moment. We went up close to the coral and swam amongst schools of colorful fish.I even remember the instructor trying to show me something on the coral and by mistake I touched one or suddenly a fish came out of there and I was surprised and let out a little scream – yeah I tried to scream underwater :). beautiful it truly is. The water was clear which is exactly what you want for a dive. We were diving near the Mnemba Atoll. It’s actually a marine conservation area and people can’t go to the island but are allowed to dive in its reefs.Unfortunately we didn’t take a camera with us for pictures but make sure you google Mnemba Atoll to see how truly beautiful it is.
Soon it was time to surface and as we got to the top I really breathed a sense of relief. I really wasn’t sure that I would make it. On the boat ride back everyone asked me how it was because they knew I had been nervous and I just had the biggest smile on my face and just said – “I’m alive! so it was amazing.” For me, it really didn’t matter what we saw down there, it was the fact that I was alive. Those 45 minutes underwater were the longest 45 minutes of my life because I was just waiting for something to go wrong but coming out alive made me so eternally grateful. I think at that moment I was the happiest person alive and each person who asked me how it went I just replied with a huge smile .
One of the ladies said ” Isn’t it amazing how there is a whole world down there?” And I laughed. As if the world was not vast enough – as if there was enough to see above water – now there was a whole world below water and then there’s a whole world in space. It would take at least a 100 lifetimes to even see half of the world’s beauty.
I remember sitting at the front of the boat basking in the sun and looking out into the turquoise waters.
I thought about how we take the facility of breathing for granted. Down there, in the water, every breath was a blessing. With each breath that went by I wondered if the next one would come and if it did I was eternally grateful.I could hear each breath that I took and it really slowed things down.You could literally hear yourself living. Hearing your breath, being underwater and being completely dependent on a tank for oxygen really puts things into perspective and makes you realize how fragile your life really is.