The hills of Pattaya to the left and the city to the right – the perfect setting for undersea walking. The day started early, and we already got off to an adventurous start with parasailing off the coast of Coral Island. Despite being dipped in the water, the experience was nothing compared to the 25 minutes of undersea walking. A short breezy motorboat ride to a spot not far from the coast, and we halted to experience what the marine life of Pattaya had to offer.
The feeling I had gearing up in a suit and helmet ready to walk off the boat is exactly echoed in the recent Alive is Awesome campaign. That anxiety mixed with the desire to explore something I had never experienced before, was what pushed me off the edge. The water is just about 15 metres deep and if you think you’ll sink directly after jumping in think again. With my fear for water, my automatic instinct told me to rush to the surface – the feeling of wanting to sink closer to the bottom of the ocean was alien to me. That seemed to be my challenge that day – to maintain a balance, and keep myself from floating up. Thankfully, we formed a chain at the bed of the ocean to keep each other from drifting off. As the rest of the team was brought to the bottom of the ocean, I began recounting the signals they taught us on the motorboat. I don’t think students have revised as much for their board exams as I did the gestures.
Before we could start our undersea walk, I reminded myself not to tilt my head, lest the water enter the helmet. Moreover, I was concerned about the warning we got to not touch anything underwater, lest they attack. One of the things that calmed me down was that my oxygen helmet was directly connected to the motorboat on the surface. Before I was allowed to delve more into those thoughts, we were surrounded by a school of yellow and black fish. For those who’ve had an aquarium at home, you would think that feeding fish was a monotonous experience, but trying it in their natural habitat was something else. They slowly started nibbling at my fingers for the food the instructor handed to us, and while it did tickle, I didn’t feel like moving my hand at all.
There’s something about feeling the bed of the ocean – the clear blue water allowed us to scan the ocean bed and sit down to feel the grains that were so smoothly grinding against our feet. While I will never forget how the fish flocked to our helmets to a point where my vision was filled with fish, my best memory of the journey was the starfish walking on my hand. It was practically like a private performance it had put up for me, and I can’t deny that I enjoyed every moment.
At the end of the day, I was glad that I didn’t let my fear of water rule my mind. It’s an experience to remember for a lifetime and to treasure for eternity – that feeling of being alive and awesome!