I step my flipper off the stern of the boat and splash into the teal blue Caribbean water, donning my scuba diving gear. The water is warm, entirely comfortable, and I whet my appetite for what we will see below as I peer down from the water’s surface, waiting for my dive buddy to join me. On this scuba diving occasion in The Bahamas, I have chosen to dive with Bahama Divers on Nassau Island. And I have chosen well! The dive instructors and dive masters are highly knowledgeable and experienced, anticipating my questions and concerns before I ever have to worry. They exude both the effortless confidence of divers who have gone under so many times that they have lost count, and the relaxed energy of island natives that won’t be hurried by the tourists’ eager sense of rush.
The dive boat takes us to different locations around the island, choosing the wreck or the reef based on current conditions and local know-how (i.e. when the hoards of snorkelers will take over a site). We have just plunged into the waters of the Shipyard, a double shipwreck that’s been taken over by the sea. These formerly buoyant vessels are now at the mercy of coral and algae, parrotfish and lionfish and lobsters. The ships are a breeding ground for sea life, an extension of the collection of reefs that draw divers to this island.
As we descend and equalize, descend and equalize, slowly moving down the reference line, the reef comes clearly into view. We are treated to over 80ft of visibility, the crystal clear Caribbean waters affording us the chance to see further than I was expecting! And as I swim up to the reef to get a better look, I’m greeted by a school of fish. They engulf me in the blue and yellow striped pack, treating me like one of their own. They’re not afraid of me, they’re telling me. Rather, I’m an object of interest. They like to follow me around, perhaps because my silvery tank attracts their eye, or perhaps because divers before have offered up a bag of fish food and they’re hoping I come bearing the same gift. Either way, I’m pleased at the hospitable welcome because I instantly feel at ease, not needing to worry about my impact on this habitat.
I don’t touch anything and I don’t take anything or leave anything during my dive of course, but the opportunity to peer into this underwater world that for so long was inaccessible to humans, is an absolute treat. What draws me in to scuba diving is the allure of the sea. The world is covered three quarters by water, and yet we as humans have seen so little of it. It’s the most grand and diverse habitat, and a beautiful one at that. Averaging 12,000ft of depth, much of the ocean is still unreachable. A beginning diver can go down 60ft, I have gone as far as 100ft, and I don’t know anyone that has dived deeper than 300ft. And yet the chance to glimpse this underwater world, to unveil the mystery that for so long evaded me, is stunning.
I see more fish than I have ever seen in any aquarium, and better yet I get to swim amongst them! When the school of fish swims opposite my path, I get some fish occasionally bumping into my facemask. But believe me, I don’t mind! My dive master nearby finds a baby stingray and entices it to swim into his hand. The waving motion of the stingray’s body flaps in his palm as the stingray explores the hand and arm of the diver. Like a dog sniffing a stranger on the street, the stingray checks out his new friend and then moves along, there’s much more in this ocean for him to explore. And similarly for me, there is much of this ocean I have yet to see. The sport of diving is relatively new to me still, but I instantly love it and crave more always. Giddy, I spin my body around in a spiral, releasing a coil of bubbles into the water around me, before reorienting myself and catching up with the group. When I dive I feel like a fish that’s made her way back to sea, back to the fun and free environment that I love to explore.