📓 Entry #17 — The time I couldn’t breathe under water.

Maeghan Smulders
A Little Detour
Published in
5 min readApr 18, 2018


April 18, 2018

🤦‍I know.

I know you can’t breathe under water unless you have some sort of technological help… but here is the story of how I was breathing under water... then not.

Oli and I became certified open water scuba divers back in December while in Corn Island, Nicaragua! It took some time to get certified because we got to the island right before a level one hurricane wind storm and couldn’t get into the water for almost 7 days. But when we did, we both really enjoyed being under the water and found a new travel hobby we could share.

Since then, we’ve been so lucky to have dived in some world class spots including: Belize, Mexico, Australia (GREAT BARRIER REEF YO!) and New Zealand.

Since the beginning, it was Olivier’s dream to swim with a whale shark but even though these fish are the size of a school bus… they are really hard to find. Everywhere we’ve been, we missed their migration season by a few weeks. So when Oli heard that in Thailand’s Koh Samui they are often spotted — he made a point for us to come visit.

Fun fact: I’ve completed 20 dives and been under the water for a total of 854 minutes! For the most part, nothing bad has ever happened to me. I mean, water gets in my mask so I have to take it off and clear it, or my tank has unclipped from my BCD (jacket thing) one time and had to reattach under water — but nothing too crazy.

That brings me to today.

We booked a double dive at “Sail Rock” which is between a few islands (most notably, the island where the Thailand Full Moon Party takes place) and known as scuba diver’s paradise.

Thailand maps by me!

We ride out to the dive site, jump in and heck yes…the water is 30 degrees! 🙌

You dive along a very large mushroom shaped rock, it has a hole in the middle so you can swim right through (kind of like a chimney!) and see HUGE schools of barracuda fish, angel fish, yellow tail fish and more.

Left: Sail Rock Right: Oli swimming through the chimney

Our dive guide noticed some fishline tangled in the coral and told us to wait for him while he collected it so no divers would get tangled in it.

So Oli and I are waiting and looking around at the fish, when all of a sudden something feels wrong. But I don’t know what.

I felt like I was still breathing.. to be honest, it is not something I am actively aware of, after you dive for a while you forget you have this thing in your mouth that allows you to breathe.

No water was coming into my mouth, but I started to feel out of breath.

I look at my depth gage…we are 18 meters under water (too deep to just swim right to the surface and risk getting the bends!), I try to take one large breath when I realized I couldn’t…

The first thing that ran through my head was the number one rule in scuba diving: Don’t hold your breath… because your lungs can explode.

I can’t breathe….

but I didn’t do anything…

I panic.

Just for a moment, I realized I needed air... but couldn’t get to the next step.

Oli was right beside me and I wave my hands and barely signal that I am out of air. He rushes over and hands me his octopus (back up air supply — we are now sharing a tank) and my mind is racing “Holy shit, I don’t have any air”.

I purge (get all the water out of the mouth piece) and slowly start breathing again using Oli’s air.

My heart was racing — in that moment, my instinct was right to stay where I was...and find air…. and that is where my thoughts stopped. To be honest, this whole thing maybe lasted 4 seconds… but I was so confused to what was happening. How did it happen that all of a sudden….I was not able to breathe?

Our dive guide comes back to us after seeing a flail and hand gesture suggesting I was not okay. He looks at my regulator and turns out, there was a malfunction in the main tube and the mouth piece snapped off with out me even realizing.

He grabs my arm, and I switch to his air supply. Normally, we can dive for 45–55 minutes, but because we were sharing air — we had to head up to the surface at 25 min.

I felt so bad for Oli.. he really wanted to see a whale shark and we hardly spent any time under the water to try and look!

So we slowly start to surface when around the corner… we saw all the other divers swimming in a speedy single line…

We followed them to see what they were chasing while slowly moving up to the surface.

Then out of the blurry blue… a 4 meters long whale shark swam right by us.

This picture is from our second dive.

Wow. It was incredible.

We got out of the water and back in the boat to change our gear (as well as properly waited for our surface interval) then dove back in.

Maybe 10 minutes later, we were joined by TWO(!!!) whale sharks gliding through the sea.

It was by far my scariest moment underwater, followed minutes later by one of my most incredible ones. Man, nature is lit! 🔥

As Oli says… he can die happy and complete now.

As I say… how lucky are we (and me x2). 🧜‍

See more on our website www.alittledetour.ca🌏✈️👫



Maeghan Smulders
A Little Detour

Hi! 🙋 I'm a tall, homeschooled, well traveled, terrible speller, who loves ice cream, building things and can be hilarious at times 👉 www.maeghansmulders.com