Every little kid wishes they can fly. It was always the most popular choice in the “if you could have any superpower, what would it be,” debate. Some children have such vivid imaginations, they end up breaking a leg after “flying” off a roof. I would have dreams about soaring through the clouds, ignoring the rules of gravity. In my dreams I felt free.
The same feeling of freedom returned while Scuba diving in Grand Cayman a few weeks ago. But this time, I wasn’t sleeping. When you scuba dive your goal is to be neutrally buoyant. That means, you don’t sink or float under water. YOU control where you want to be. Maybe that’s down in a cave at 100 feet or 20 feet below the surface. Either way, there’s no strenuous activity involved. Moving around becomes close to effortless.
And once I became comfortable in the water..I felt like I could fly.
I took pool lessons with Scuba Shack in Rocky Hill. They were great! (And no they are not paying me to say this.) Six pool/classroom sessions later, and you’re ready for phase two. PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) will not give a person their scuba certification unless the diver can complete all their skills in open water (instead of a pool). I was a little awkward at first. I alternated between sinking like a stone or floating at the surface like a buoy, unable to submerge. I would think ‘why am I doing this sport where drowning seems imminent? I can’t even play a round of tennis without falling on my face.’
But all those thoughts fade as you begin to trust your equipment and yourself. You also learn that all the emergency situations you prepare for in the pool are probably never going to happen unless you’re a complete idiot. Yes, that means checking to see if you have enough air to breathe. Seems simple enough. But you would be surprised.
Speaking of surprises…I was shocked that most fish are not scared of divers. They will swim by as if you’re not even there. Some fish will even approach you with curiosity. It’s almost as if there’s an unspoken trust. The nurse shark I saw trusted me to keep shark fin soup off the menu that evening. In turn, I trusted the nurse shark would not make me his midday snack.
Sharks, eels, turtles…I watched all of these swimming in the wild. You never know what you will see underwater because you’re not at a zoo. But I guess I got pretty lucky! It’s amazing that aquariums spend hours and hours of time (not to mention money) maintaining the PH levels of the water and feeding the fish. But in the wild, Mother Nature doesn’t need our help. All the fish and the most beautiful coral in the world exist without any human assistance. Amazing.
Most of the vibrant colors and corals are below the surface to around 60 feet. But my final day diving (day three, after getting certified) we went on a deep water dive. Amazingly, being in 100 feet of water doesn’t feel any different than 20 feet down (as long as you’re equalizing your ears on the way down). It may not feel different but it looks different. Colors become muted, and the surface of the water fades away...it's so peaceful and at the same time you feel a sense of adventure.
The deep dive was called Trinity Caves. Here’s the quick description: You pass through a series of bright colored coral caves which are not completely closed at the top. Light beams in and illuminates the champagne-like bubbles from the diver who passes through before you. As we exited the third cave, a diver showed me his depth gauge. 97 FEET!? I had no idea we were already at the maximum depth. I was too busy looking at the coral and small fish gliding by. Then after checking my gauge, I saw something that made my heart beat audible.
I looked below me..into infinity.
The Cayman Wall. Thousands of feet almost straight down into the most infinite, stunning blue, the bottomless yet beautiful abyss. Next stop, 3,300 feet. The wall, studded with corals and fish, fading with depth, just staggering. I just was stupefied. I almost had to force myself to breath again. Call me dramatic…But it was like looking into the soul of the ocean.
To me, popping out of the cave and peering into the vastness below, was just beyond anything I ever expected, and ever hoped to experience. From there we slowly spiraled up to the surface around a coral pinnacle, waving to turtles as we passed.
I guess you could say I recommend scuba diving. If you're interested, take the plunge! Bad joke.