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First time Scuba Diving in the Ocean

I have always enjoyed the water since I could remember. Getting excited like any other kid going to the swimming pool, or playing in the river. I was fortunate enough to try snorkelling when I was seven years old. We used to live in Labuan for a little bit and I remember trying it out near the shore. When we went on family island vacations, my dad would take me snorkelling. To this day, I still snorkel from the shore even when I'm on diving trips.

Snorkelling in Lombok

There was once when I was nine, we were in Pulau Tioman or was it Pulau Perhentian when I saw a family of clown fish at its home, sea anemone. I was just staring at it, mesmerised by the beautiful colours and these cute little fishes. I thought it was so funny that the ‘dad’ clown fish actually went ahead of its family and started babbling to my face. It looks like it was angry at me for staring. I laughed. Time seemed to stop for the moment, and when I came back to reality, I couldn’t see my father. I didn’t want it to end but I knew we had to go. We were heading back to shore thankfully so I snorkelled ahead until I caught up with him.

I was fine with the depth we were going, just at the surface. I didn’t think much of life deep underwater. It wasn’t until I was a teenager when I saw an article about diving with whales. The sheer size of the whale was comparable to a bus and us being so small next to it, it seemed surreal. My cousin actually shared about it, and just like that it became one of my dreams in life. The ocean excites me. There was so much wonder, so many marine species to see, with different shapes and colours. From the tall kelp to sponge corals to lionfish and sharks. It was like a completely different world, almost alien to us. There is just so much to explore. According to the NOAA, only about 226,000 species have been identified, with close to 90% still undiscovered.

Since I turned 18, I kept telling myself every year that ‘this year, I will take on my scuba diving licence.’ Years went by. It wasn’t until I was 24 that the opportunity presented itself. I went ahead with 4 friends, doing the confined water at the swimming pool, and then to Pulau Perhentian. At the island, we were going to do two shore dives and two boat dives.

Before our shore dive

I had trouble equalising the pressure in my ear when we did the shore dives. It was only up to 5-8 metres. To get rid of the pressure, you should pause where you are, hold on to your nose, and swallow your saliva. Like you would when you’re on the aeroplane. If you still can’t release the pressure in your ear, slowly ascend slightly and do it again, until it’s cleared. I remember signalling to our instructor, Uncle Syed, about the problem. He brought me to the surface, asking me to equalise at the surface first. I thought it was so funny that he asked me why I didn’t equalise after about a minute passed. It looks at is if I was just enjoying my time at the surface. I told him that I could equalise without holding on to my nose and swallowing my saliva. I could just do it on command, like a ‘click’ and the pressure is out. Now I do it subconsciously whenever I go diving. But at the time, as we descended, for every breath I took, I ‘clicked’ until there was no pressure.

With my friend, Sya

The next day when we were going to do our open water dive, I was very nervous. We were going into a different territory altogether. We were going up to 18 metres deep. The ocean seemed so mysterious and there were so many things unknown, and beyond our control. Uncle Syed reminded us to pray for ease, and give Salam to underwater creatures that paid us a heed. When we reached the dive site, the water was a bit choppy at the surface. We could have gotten carried away by the current. Thankfully, there was a mooring line so we could hold on to that while we waited for everyone to enter the sea before descending.

On the boat, to the dive site

As I waited for others to enter the water, I looked down in the sea. I was surprised. I saw nothing but blue on blue on blue. Just different shades of blue, with the ray of light. It's harder to describe. It feels like something you have to experience for yourself. I couldn’t see the bottom of the ocean, I didn’t know how deep it was. I was getting even more nervous and anxious. Thinking scary thoughts like what if I got lost from my group. What if I panicked underwater. But this was my dream. This was what I have wanted to do for years. There’s no stopping me now. I’m already here in the water. So I put on a brave face. And when it was time to descend, I held on to the line one hand after the other, going down slowly, equalising with every breath. There was nothing I could see but the diver in front of me and that shades of blue.

Shades of blue with the ray of light cascading down the bottom

Then suddenly, really just suddenly, we made it close to the bottom, and a huge wall of corals laid in front of us. "MashaAllah" I said to myself. And there at the bottom a moray eel with its infamous mouth gap out of a sheltered coral, looking at us. It was as if it’s saying hello and welcome to the ocean. There were so many colours in the water. The corals, the fishes. Red, orange, yellow, green, purple, blue, a rainbow of colours. It truly seemed like a different world. It was then that I fell in love. And ever since that first open water dive, I have fallen in love over and over again with the ocean. I enjoy searching for nudibranch or just taking my time in one place looking at the corals or fishes. It’s like when I went snorkelling as a little kid with the family of clown fish. Time just seemed to pause. I've come full circle seeing clown fish at its home, in the deep water.

Family of clown fish,taken during my first sea dive trip. Doesn't the 'dad' clown fish look angry? Sorry dad!

Holding on to the line during safety stop at 5 metres for 3 minutes

Completed my PADI Open Water certification

I thought that was the end of getting my scuba diving license, and look at where I am now, a PADI Divemaster. Life is funny like that. I would love to share that joy with others. Share the magnificent creatures underwater, the life-changing experience and importantly to spread the care of the ocean, so our descendants could enjoy it too.

To quote Sebastian from the Little Mermaid, Let me take you ‘Under the Sea.’

Until then,

Coach E

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