OK: when I was little, I was obsessed with the Disney movie, “The Little Mermaid.” I wanted my parents to change my name to Ariel, and I hoped that by spending heaps of time in the local swimming pool, I might actually grow gills and a fish tail.
Aside from just being a weird kid, I was actually drawn to the mysterious world that exists underwater. How could you know for sure if there weren’t half fish/half human creatures swimming about singing show tunes without seeing for yourself? And how could you? No gills means no air supply….
It comes to me as no surprise that, as an adult, the Great Barrier Reef quickly became a fundamental reason why I had to be in Australia and absolutely had to live and work in Far North Queensland. It was when I snorkeled the Reef on a brief holiday that I connected with something — a sense of peace, wonder and excitement. And I had finally gotten a peek at life just below the ocean’s surface.
After spending 7 months in Carins, I had snorkeled the reef a handful of times but only decided to try diving not before leaving the place — I blame irrational fears of drowning and shark attack for this. Anyway, I immediately regretted not attempting an introductory dive sooner as well as not having the means to learn to dive and get an open water diving certification before continuing with my travels.
Why is all of this relevant?
Well, everything happens for a reason — one of my closest friends often reminds me of this when I call her from time to time to ask why my life is so bizarre. So, let’s return to my adventures in the Yasawas, Fiji:
At Mantaray Resort on Nanuya Balavu Island, I went for a snorkel — from the beach, no less, — and experienced the most spectacular reef and marine life I’ve seen to date. I knew in my gut I was meant to get my open water certification then and there. It just made sense. I was ready to set aside any lingering fears, and ready to discover the world’s singing fish.
So, I marched into the dive shop and signed up for for the open water certification course, and mentally stomped all over my “why-did-I-stay-in-Cairns-so-long-and-not-learn-to-dive?” regret. Six dives later, having witnessed breathtaking reef sites (no pun intended), I passed my snorkel test (chugging a beer through the snorkel) and the slightly more important written exam.
While I wish I had been able to record every bit of coral and every sea creature I saw while achieving my open water certification to somehow share with the world now, it just wasn’t possible. But I can at least share one of the highlights, a happening not to be forgotten as it may be a once-in-a-lifetime event: seeing a 4 meter manta ray glide through the crystal-clear water just ahead of me. (Photo below is form the Web, but you get the idea!)
Short of growing gills, I am slowly exploring the world’s Oceans. And, in a way, I have succeeded with my strange childhood ambition of becoming a mermaid when I grew up.
1) Dive Julian Rock in Byron Bay since it’s in my backyard, so to speak.
2) Dive Nigaloo Reef, Western Australia, and swim with the Whalesharks.