By: Staff Writer, 11 Jul, 2018
The space race is heating up. There are so many players in the game now, all trying to be the first to set foot on Mars – or, in the case of a certain Mr Branson, the first to take willing millionaires up into orbit. For centuries, we’ve gazed skywards, wondering what mysteries lie beyond the reach of our sight and yearning to experience the wonders of galaxies far, far away. My own fascination with space has totally been fuelled by pop culture, and just like many others, I too dream of hitchhiking on a Vogon ship to unknown universes. Or, at the very least, looking down at the little blue dot we call home from a spaceship in orbit.
And while some people might be able to pay their way to space, one glance at my (pretty darn dismal) bank statement keeps me in check. I’m sadly nowhere close to being in line for a space ride anytime soon, and neither is the technology to make it open to the masses. It’s a great dream to have, but till then there is a whole other world to be explored, waiting patiently for our curious eyes.
Yep, I’m talking about the ocean and the crazy, weird and beautiful beings that inhabit it. Think about it – two-thirds of our planet is covered by waterbodies, and while I’m pretty sure humans travelled over most parts of it, how much of what lies beneath the surface have we actually seen? This is the reason I gave myself to get dive-certified, and, man am I glad I was able to come up with it!
Diving for me is a powerful, almost spiritual experience. You’re weightless, floating with the currents – and if I were poetic, I’d make a reference to a mother’s womb here. You learn, very early on, to focus on your breathing, to stay calm, and to get comfortable in the new environment. You’re also taught how to respect this world you’ve invaded and how to take care of yourself in pretty much any situation, and then it’s time to go explore!
Sure, there’s going to be a bit of panic as you adjust to the hyper-awareness of your own breathing; it’s all you hear, as you’re immersed in the big blue. But soon, you’ll get swept away by all the incredible little lives playing out around you. Brightly coloured coral, with jewel-hued little fish darting about. Swaying seaweed and slug-like sea cucumbers, lying about on the seabed. The larger predators, on the lookout for their day’s meal. Your dive buddy might tap you excitedly on the shoulder, gesturing towards a massive turtle paddling away.
You know what’s even more amazing? Every patch of the ocean or sea has completely different dive experiences to offer. You might go to South Africa and dive with great whites. Or swim with Orcas in the Pacific. Australia, of course, has the Great Barrier Reef, and there’s plenty of fantastic diving to be had off the Philippines Malaysia or any ocean-bound country, basically.
Closer to home, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, as we all know, have some of the best diving around, but there’s also dive sites off the Goan coast that are worth exploring. Plus, some fantastic work has been done to repopulate the waters off Pondicherry and make them more attractive to divers. There are so many options out there, all of which are infinitely more accessible (and affordable!) than space is – at least for now!
Forgive the cliché, but there’s something magical about being able to explore a world us humans are clearly not built to survive in. It in turn gives me hope for space travel, actually. But until that becomes a reality, you’ll find me in an ocean, communing with the sea turtles.