There I was, in a wetsuit for the first time in my life walking towards the shore in the searing heat of Dubai. Every step on the sand sent a fresh sensation up my spine letting me know that my soles were burning. So, as soon as the waves touched my toes, it was as if I had dissolved into the water. Suddenly, it didn’t feel like I had a 15kg oxygen cylinder strapped on to my back, suddenly the wetsuit wasn’t suffocating anymore and suddenly the heat didn’t seem to sear all that much.
A few weeks back, when my cousin had asked me if I wanted to go Scuba diving over the Eid Holidays my response was an impulsive “yes”. I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was that my swimming skills, meaning my ability to paddle my limbs in the water, was not going to be enough. Turns out it was.
The folks at Bermuda Diving Centre proved that one does not need to know swimming to be able to scuba dive.
The first 30 minutes after our arrival at the meeting point, Leo, the dive master, had given us a brief introduction on the basics of scuba diving, the gears that are used and a mini session on how to communicate under water. After the introductory class, the group was asked to change into their swim suits. Wetsuits were also lent to those who didn’t have a costume of their own.
The next thirty minutes were spent at the shore, where theory was put into practice. Instructors touched upon useful under-water hacks, breathing techniques and hand gestures used for communicating where our voices would be of no use. They asked us to completely immerse ourselves into the water and get acquainted with our breathing devices. How and when we strayed away from the beachfront is a mystery to me. It was only when a crab on the sea bed caught my eyes that I realised that we were already scuba diving.
It is a completely different world in the vast blue sea. A new ecosystem that we’d read about but never quite knew of, until now. Getting a glimpse of the marine life; watching a baby lobster crawl out of its shell, feeding a school of fish, watching the starfish and seaweed dancing in sync with the water current, it was something right out of a fairytale. I could do this everyday. For a first-timer like myself, this was magical.
There is so much life around us, so much that we miss out on in our daily lives. Watching some fishes pick a fight with a crab wasn’t something I’d expected to see, ever. Neither had I thought that there would be such a day when I’d be holding a sea urchin in my hand and watching colourful fishes huddle around me for a feast. There I was, petting a starfish, exploring the seabed, collecting shells and marvelling at everything around me. It was all so beautiful and being there made me so happy, I was almost overwhelmed with joy.
Our group of twelve had been split into small parties and each team had a professional scuba diver supervising them. Aster from Bermuda Diving Centre was leading a group of three girls and I was one of them. He was with us at all times. He made sure that we were following the correct procedure, were safe, were having fun and he saw to it that we all stuck together.
One of the girls that I was paired with had no prior scuba diving experience, she didn’t know how to swim and her anxiety had gotten the best of her. Aster made sure that she was alright and having the time of her life through out the duration of our scuba diving session. He calmed us down whenever one of us started to panic over issues such as the water getting into our masks or in our mouths. The communication between the girls and Aster was constant, he even showed us cool underwater tricks and captured some of our picture perfect moments with his GoPro.
My body felt a sudden pull upon reaching the shallow end of the beach and that was when the realisation came rushing back to me. I had forgotten about the cylinder on my back. It seemed heavier than when I had first put it on.
At the beach front, I was welcomed back by my cousin and his friend yelling my name and frantically searching for me because they thought that they had lost me at sea (drama queens, I tell you). I could tell that all the twelve members of the group who had entered the water together, walked out of this experience as completely different individuals. They were somehow, wiser. They couldn’t contain the feeling of accomplishment, it reflected on each and every one of their faces almost as much as their tan lines.
Welcome drinks awaited us back at the meeting point. While people changed into fresh pairs of clothes and sipped their juices, the team assisted everyone with transferring the videos and photos from the day, onto our phones. We went into the water as strangers but the shared experience of scuba diving together had turned us into friends in that moment. We exchanged our stories and told each other about the creatures we’d seen. We spoke about how we felt and what we’d like to do next. That was the adrenaline in us talking.
Gradually, everyone started to disperse. As we were leaving, a new batch had gathered and replaced us. New faces were sitting on seats that we were on two hour ago, receiving the same training that we did. Some friends who didn’t know that diving into the depth of the sea together was going to deepen their friendships and some faint hearted people who didn’t know they were going to be a little more brave, in about 3 hours.
All of this for AED 299. It just does not get any better than this. I’ve heard that Bermuda Diving Centre has a branch in Fujairah. I have also been told that the Emirate of Fujairah has a richer marine life. So, now you know where I’m headed next.