Scuba Dive-day unplugged at Kovalam in Kerala: Sangeetha Nair
As an experienced swimmer, I’ve realised that there are two ways to approach the sport of scuba diving. I prefer not to begin at the beginning, the anticipation of what will wriggle past you under water is up to nature, so I want to start at the end and swim upstream, backwards to when I found myself bobbing on the tropical water of Kovalam beach looking at the blue expanse above. There was not a dot of cloud in the sky. The sea was slightly choppy; it churned the sand and made the waters somewhat murky.
My instructor, Subin, safely unclasped the scuba gear from me and let me sink in the experience of the 20-minute dive, my first. If you can put the fear of water behind the ocean can teach you wondrous things. It takes away your abrasive edges and leaves you calm, your mind still coming to terms with having pried open a window to the watery world.
The art of scuba taught me to revisit my conditioned approach to swimming. As a swimmer I am used to holding my breath underwater. But as a diver, you must breathe through your mouth apparatus. The mask creates a seal around your face as you submerge; it doesn’t allow you to draw air through your nose but helps you get a clear view of the world below.
The tanks, your only lifeline, are bulky, and you wonder if it is difficult to manoeuvre, but the sea takes away its heaviness. Scuba is a buddy sport and as an uncertified diver I was accompanied by Subin who periodically checked to see if my ears were popping to equalise my breath. If you have a sinus problem, it’s advisable to wait it out. If it’s manageable and the pressure building inside your eustachian tubes don’t hurt, you can go down about two to three meters and ascend to pop your ears every now by pulling a cord to inflate your jacket. But doing so often would cut your dive time drastically because it depletes the oxygen from the tanks.
Learning underwater communication skills was another one of those moments when I realised that icons from Facebook had rewired my brain. The all-accepting like button, “thumbs up”, has a whole new meaning in Scuba parlance and to be used only when wanting to go back up to the surface. Needless to say, as an enthusiastic diver, thumbs down shows more promise.
The international PADI certified Dive Instructors and Dive Masters at Bond Safari Kovalam, have explored oceans of the world. And they bring this experience to India for the first time. Standing on hot brown sand at a small stretch of beach flanked by the iconic architecture of Charles Correa (now a five star hotel) on one side and a rocky outcrop on the other the thought crossed my mind: How can I see in the murky water? But after the dive I realised that spotting creatures was just a part of it, and there were many fish in the sea. For me, diving was a calm balm, a soothing feeling that stayed with me for hours after. It was magical when schools of tiny sardines, some 80 of them, their translucent blue, green and silver catching the last rays of the evening sun, encircled me for a while. It was fun not to disturb a sea urchin sitting on a rock or following a pair of puffer fish that are slowly developing a symbiotic relationship with the divers, allowing them to be patted. There is simple harmony in shallow waters and I came away with the words Subin said in his two-hour orientation programme: “We are guests of the sea. We don’t take anything from it or leave anything behind. All we take back are memories.” And to help secure those memories for posterity, Bond Safari’s dive team will follow you with a go-pro cam and give you a DVD with videos and photographs. I can’t wait to post mine and laugh when I get thumbs up/likes, and go diving again so I can become a calm creature of opposing habits.