“The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish”- Jacques Yves Couousteau
So I agreed to a trip to Andaman Islands with the highlight of itinerary being snorkelling at Elephant Beach.
I felt as buoyant as the boat that rode over the inky blue ocean, the improvised motor reverberating noisily over the waves, leaving a frothy trail in its wake. The incandescent sun let its rays dance on water forcing its colour to change from inky-blue to blue-gray to inky-blue again as the shore neared.
The silver-gray sands on the beach were cool, despite the sun blazing with its full heat, prompting the kids, too young to snorkel, to frolic, build their sand castles, play mermaids and turn into mini Picassos on the huge sandy canvas while we awaited our guide who would introduce us one by one to a colourful world that existed under those ebbing and rising waves.
Huge tall trees that had long ago stopped being alive laid dotting the beach but somehow they never looked lifeless instead looked like sentries guarding the vast shoreline and the marine life. Rustic as those fallen trees looked, I was much attracted to capture them on film before it was my turn to try my hands at snorkelling.
Deep waters scared me to death, even of a swimming pool. Whenever we spent time at beaches, I would venture out in the sea but till a distance where water was only waist-deep and I could feel the earth beneath my feet. I was content combing the beach for shells and pebbles.
On our last vacation in 2009 to Andaman Islands, something changed however. Before we left for our vacation, I had forced myself to step into the tamed waters of the huge swimming pool to learn the basics of swimming. I was hardly comfortable in the floating technique, when my husband declared that he had booked all flights and accommodation for our vacation at Andaman Islands.
Excited and overconfident of my new floating skills, I forgot all about my fear of deep water. And on a crisp January morning after a delayed flight from Pune, a rushed boarding at Chennai, we finally reached Port Blair at six. After catching up on the missed sleep, we were finally ready to explore the small islands, historical cellular jail, the marine museum, the beach and to binge on freshest seafood.
A day-and-half at Port Blair later, we shifted to our tents at Havelock Island. Next day was planned for a boat ride to the Elephant Beach and snorkelling afterwards.
Feeling upbeat about the whole swim-in-sea adventure, I donned the almost new swimwear and applied a generous amount of water-resistant sunscreen. I was pretty excited for a novice swimmer!
But sermons and ‘Lifestyle Gurus’ don’t help; some lessons are learnt in life only after one experiences certain situations first-hand. And I learnt mine while snorkelling at Andaman Islands.
- Will to change
Change is definitely scary but once we embrace the change, it is quite refreshing. I was always missing the fun everybody else had during our beach vacations because I wasn’t going in the water. But in my heart of hearts, I did want to feel the water. I wanted to change myself from a scared onlooker to a participating fun seeker.
If I wouldn’t have had the will to change, I wouldn’t have gone for swimming lessons, wouldn’t have courage to face fear. I would have then missed the fun yet again.
- Conquer fear
At the beach, I started having cold feet again. After much coaxing from dear husband and assurance from guide, I finally decided to face my fear and wore the snorkelling gear to wade into the water. Initially my body refused to even float but as the guide pushed me further into the blue-green water, I was mesmerised. My fear gradually dissolved in the salty ocean introducing a beautiful breathtaking view of the hidden world.
Had I sat back and let my fear control me, I would have never agreed to snorkel, guide or no guide and the vacation would have been just like any other beach holiday with me collecting the seashells while everybody else enjoyed.
Fear is in our mind; an obstacle that stands in way of progress. We just need to look into its eye and then it liberates us. One step forward and we are free of our fear forever.
- Get out of the comfort zone.
We become so habitual of the everyday things and create a comfort zone around us. It becomes difficult to get out of this zone to try something new and the fear creeps in.
As soon as I wore the snorkelling breathing contraption, I was uncomfortable, I felt gagged at first. But, once in the sea face-down staring at the ocean floor, I saw the most exquisite creatures with fins and fronds, shoal of some tiny colourful fish some transparent, some striped swimming past me. I saw the corals of all shapes and sizes; long and branching like twigs of a tree, some like pock-marked small rocks, the seaweeds growing among the corals…. the most beautiful shades of blues, sea-urchins, star-fish and seashells all in vivid yellows, warm reds, bright oranges and striking greens. It felt as if I was walking inside an aquarium. It was so surreal. Had I refused to wear the breathing gear, I would have never known the beautiful world under the sea.
There are thousands of things to see and explore in the world, we just need to get up and go!
- Faith on self
When I first put on the snorkelling gear, I kept telling myself ‘I can do it’. I didn’t exactly take to water as fish do and I was scared too initially but I had faith on myself that if I kept pushing I would eventually enjoy the sea. The faith kept me going, I relaxed and let the guide steer me deeper into the ocean.
“I can do it” are strong words that influence our brain into doing almost everything. Nobody knows us better than ourselves. We can achieve our hearts’ desires only when we trust ourselves and have faith on self.
My adventure in Bay of Bengal opened my eyes to a beautiful water-world and life just as Robert Wyland says:
“The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul.”