taking the plunge

Updated: Aug 23, 2019

I grew up with divers. My folks started in the mid to late 80's, my uncle also around the same time, my husband in 2010 & my cousin around 2016. I always wanted to try but by the time I was old enough, (there was no Junior Open Water back then), my folks had traded the hobby for sailing & that was that. When my hubby qualified, he always wanted me to dive with him but money was tight & I just wasn't bothered - up until 2018 when I woke up one morning & decided that I needed to take the plunge. I've never looked back.

Diving is an interesting topic & it seems the polls are firmly divided when it comes to who's willing to try breathing underwater & who's not. You usually get one of two reactions when you tell non-divers about your hobby:

- "That's awesome, I've always wanted to try"

- "I'm claustrophobic, I could never do it."

I'm a firm believer in different strokes for different folks & would never push anyone who's uncomfortable to dive because that's how accidents happen, but let me share my top 5 reasons for blowing bubbles with you & you might just give it a go!

under pressure Underwater there is no pressure. Well, technically there is a lot of pressure & it increases the deeper you go, but I'm talking about the pressure of life. There's no mad rush, no sirens, no nagging kids, no hooting coming from the guy behind you. Everything goes into slow-mo. Seriously, I'm not even kidding - watch a dive video & check out how slowly everyone moves. It's like sloths on the green stuff; same facial expressions too.

the face of pure euphoria

the sounds of silence I discovered for the first time in March 2019 that reefs crackle... like Rice Crispies. I'd never heard it before but the more I dive, the more I start to absorb my surroundings & I was in awe that there was a distinct popping throughout each dive. I learned later is the sound of all the little creatures on the reef communicating & is a sign of a healthy reef. Crabs, shrimps, fish - they all perform in an underwater symphony. It's fascinating.

ghost shrimps are notoriously difficult to find on the reefs but well worth looking for

all creatures great & small I was so excited to see "the greats" when I started diving: manta rays*, sharks, whales, whale sharks, turtles... you name it. I learned pretty quickly that those sightings are few & far between & it's more rewarding to focus on the little things on the reef like nudibranchs & shrimps. There are so many beautiful & fascinating little creatures who call the reefs home & watching them go about their day is the highlight of every dive.

the circle of life The reefs are teeming with life & everyone is at risk of being everyone else's dinner. While this sounds horrifying, it's not like you're diving a killing field but it's interesting to learn about the behaviour you witness & the alliances that are formed. For example, peacock bass will team up with an octopus to hunt - the bass will point out the location of hiding fish to the octopus who can reach under rocks & shelves with his tentacles & drive them out straight into the bass' jaws. Then the bass will reciprocate by pushing fish out from larger areas right into the arms of the hidden octopus. Teamwork makes the dream work & this is only one of hundreds of examples of underwater friends with benefits.

comfortably numb

Possibly the number one reason I dive is that it helps me clear my mind. Under the water I have no thoughts other than what is happening in that very moment. Air checks, buddy checks & taking in the scenery - that's all my mind is consumed with for the 50-odd minutes that I'm submerged & it is absolute bliss for someone like me who's mind never stops racing with random thoughts.

I learned a lot about myself, my limits & my abilities when I first qualified & even if I'd never set foot in the water again after that, that self-awareness gained is in itself invaluable. I choose to continue diving because of the joy it brings & the euphoria you feel in that wonderful, weightless world. I promote diving because everyone should be given the opportunity to try!

Chantelle has developed somewhat of an addiction since first hitting the open water & will find any excuse to drop everything & shoot down to Sodwana Bay to blow some bubbles.

*On the fifth sea dive, I got to see a massive Manta Ray - there are no words for what I felt in that moment but it felt as though all the pennies dropped all at once, our existence finally made sense to me & I was breathless & felt a peace unlike anything else I've ever experienced. We spent almost an hour with him cruising around us &, at the risk of sounding cliche, it was life changing.

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