I am not exactly a water baby. I have this inherent fear of water and have been trying to overcome it for quite a while (and when I say quite a while, I mean possibly a decade).
There have been times that I would think of going swimming in the sea when on holiday on beachy places and would have held back to near the shores. This has been kind of frustrating specially when the people you holiday with are great swimmers and dive head on in the waters.
So, a few years back, I decided to experience an adventure water activity that didn’t really need me to have any swimming knowledge but did need me to be full on under-water.
I am talking of “Underwater Sea Walk”. This particular activity basically needs you to wear a headgear that supplies oxygen and then, you jump in water. Once you reach the ground level of the sea – usually just about 4M to 5M under the sea, you can walk around the sea bed and experience the marine life and corals there.
For me, I saw it as an attempt to rid myself of my fear of water.
We were in Pattaya. I decided to try this out one sunny morning.
So, I headed out to this place that conducted the underwater sea walks and signed up.
Once registered, we made our way out on a speedboat to this location near the shore between large boulders. The water was absolutely clear and sparkling and the sun rays shone thorough.
I was made to wear this headgear – (more like a helmet that is placed on your head and reaches unto your shoulders) and It was kind of heavy. I think mine weighed about 3-4KG or maybe I thought so. There was an oxygen line connected in there that supplied air. The feel was cramped and kind of suffocating at first feel. Shoes were worn.
Next, basic Hand signs were taught – “If I wanted to stop and go back to the surface” or “Don’t touch this fish or coral”, those kinds and then, it was time to go underwater.
My fears poked its head up and panic set in. The guide stepped in first via a ladder connected to the boat and I was next. I stepped on the lowest rungs of the ladder that were in the water, the sea-water up to my neck. I had to just let go and jump into the water but I simply couldn’t.
Attempt one – I let go of hand bars on the ladder and felt nothing below my feet except the sea. Head halfway underwater, I fidgeted and scrambled back up the ladder.
Attempt two – the guide thought I needed a push to actually get in and deliberately tried pushing my helmet once I was on the last rung of the ladder. Turned out, I couldn’t be pushed (even in normal life, people find it extremely difficult to push me around..Call it an inherent trait) as I desperately fidgeted and clambered back up the boat.
Attempt three – I realized that if I didn’t jump in at that point, I probably would always nurse the fear of water and would never overcome it. Thought struck – after all, what was the worst that could happen? Well, I didn’t really mull over it because at that point, I just thought of letting go and stop thinking. So, third time around, I just let go of the ladder and clung onto the guide’s hands underwater.
We reached the sea bed and I realized the fear was actually pretty real. Underwater, you have absolutely no support to cling onto. There is only water around should you want to hold onto something or grasp something for support. This kind of scared the lights out of me. I kind of lost sense of direction too – mostly out of fear. I couldn’t really understand which direction was I supposed to walk around or how would I go back to the surface if something happened at that point. The worst fear being, what if the oxygen supply ceased in my headgear and what if water would start gushing in? I couldn’t swim anyway. What would happen then?
But then, I was distracted by the guide. There was a bit of sunlight coming in from the top – it was kind of dark though because the water was about 5M deep. I came across some interested corals and plant life. I don’t really know which kinds were they but hey, it was an experience. Suddenly, a school of fish came in from my back. They didn’t really touch me but I think I felt a couple of them. I was given a bit of bread to feed them and believe me, it’s kind of fun (even when you are scared). The fishes came by and picked up the pieces.
About 15 minutes into the distraction of observing corals and fishes, the fear started creeping in and I decided to make way to the surface again. The guides helped me back to the boat. Being back in the sun was a relief and I felt safe again.
While the aim of undertaking the experience was to overcome my fear, it taught me a lot more things. It made me realize the efforts that people who deal with the sea on a regular basis make. Like fishermen or the naval guards to name some. The sea, while a beautiful wonder can be rough and a difficult place. You can never take it for granted. It isn’t easy being underwater and a few minutes taught me that.
Would I undertake this experience again? Well, maybe someday but the next time, I will make sure I learn how to swim to stop myself from overthinking once under-water. It would make me feel more confident.
To others who would like to experience it, well, if you don’t have a fear of water, it’s a wonderful experience and I would definitely recommend. Quite safe and enjoyable – especially when the fishes whizz by and you just stare at the wonder that they are.
If you do , well, try it out. You need to face the fear once at least and say proudly, “At least I tried”.