Little adventures in a big ocean

I looked up at the clear shimmering blue above my head. Around me, my mates floated in place, held still save for the flapping of their flippers and the continuous stream of bubbles from their regulators. Below us, stretched one of the many reefs dotting this region of Amed, Bali and its surrounds; jagged, iridescent coral, sand, and an assortment of creatures that call this world home.

Casual dive site at Amed, under the shadow of Gunung Agung

Until this moment, I had never actually dived before. Sure, I had snorkelled occasionally with mates, along the south coast of Australia, in places in the Barrier reef, and now, in some gorgeous spots here in Indonesia. It was through snorkelling that I first saw sea turtles in the wild, regal and poised, and began to love the ocean not just for the bliss and hedonistic thrill it gave me, but for the life it held.

But I have to say, snorkelling ain’t got nothing on the absolute wig out that is diving.

For one, you’re breathing underwater. If there ever was a superpower to guide humanity towards a greater appreciation of beauty and respect for the natural world, it’s this. Because for a brief moment, you get to be part of a world that as landlubbers we should have no place in, a world that remains oblivious to us in all its serenity, yet is facing the full-frontal assault of the initial consequences of our planetary actions.

If there ever was a superpower to teach us to still our thoughts, it’s this. Because for a brief moment, all that matters is your breath and your eyes*, as you soak up your awe-inspiring surroundings. It’s no wonder that our friend Dan, who as a dive instructor was kind enough to guide us through this dive on his holiday, likens diving to meditation. All you must do is keep calm and breathe. Pretty sweet life philosophy if you ask me.

Like life, diving can be incredibly beautiful but also slightly terrifying. One of the initial exercises Dan made us do underwater was to remove our regulator and hold our breath. Then we had to put our regulator back in, press a button to shoot air back into it and remove the water, and we could breathe normally again. For me at least, after spending my whole life holding my breath and rushing to the surface for a respite of oxygen, my brain had a bit of trouble convincing itself that I could, in fact, breathe again.

But also like life, beauty, joy, and arguably, biodiversity makes up for the terror. In the clear Amed waters, we swam with Sergeant majorfish, aquamarine blue and yellow striped creatures covered in a sheen of violet, Moorish idols, yellow and violet, with deep blue stripes and a long white head fins like curving spires, Whitespotted boxfish, Moray eels, nudibranchs, orange anemonefish and angelfish. One time, our mate Joe, who as I write this is off on his 200th dive, startled a scorpionfish who threw a tantrum and shot away into the sand. We glimpsed a large green sea turtle, gliding gracefully in solitude to the surface of the water. Between these sights, an expanse of pointy, swaying, vivid corals, and the wreckage of ships from the recent past.

As the ultimate inexperienced newbie with pathetic eyesight and an uncanny incapability to sink (Joe had to physically drag me down for a lot of the dive), I had a blast. My enjoyment was heightened by the fact that because we dived with mates, we did it for dirt cheap; all-in-all our gear, regulators and access to the dive site cost us less than 9 bucks (AUD). Not a bad price for an experience of unrivalled beauty.

In the angsty yet eloquent words of philosopher Albert Camus, “Beauty is unbearable, drives us to despair, offering us for a minute the glimpse of an eternity that we should like to stretch out over the whole of time.” Not sure about the whole of time, but I’d sure like to dive again.

*For most people. Without glasses my eyes are practically worthless, merely showpieces highlighting my devilish handsome features, rather than actual functioning organs. It’s a blessing that objects appear closer underwater.

Written by Ro as part of our ©Two Boys One Shoe journey.
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Journey on the Indefinite Road (or, Our Experiments with Truth). Writings and musings of two boys exploring the world. Current location: Indonesia

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Journey on the Indefinite Road (or, Our Experiments with Truth). Writings and musings of two boys exploring the world. Current location: Indonesia