SCUBA diving is not something I ever had a desire to do. In fact, i never even considered the possibility until recently. I mean, I love nature, and animal; I also enjoy learning about such things. That’s probably where I went wrong: too much information, or rather the wrong kind of information. You see, I am a dedicated follower of shark week, in addition to reading all sorts of books and articles on sharks (though they most often highlight attacks on humans). These rare and, let’s face it, moderately exaggerated, accounts of attacks contributed to my bordering on phobic fear of sharks. I frequented beaches and forced myself into the waves, but never in enjoyment. Rather, always in anticipation of the inevitable fin slicing through the surf.
For this reason, it remains a mystery to me as to why, when offered to try out scuba diving, I said yes. Which brings me to my first Discovery to Scuba Diving experience. All geared up and floating at the surface, my fear remained, try as I might to suppress it. But, under the water, surrounded by friends old and new, I was struck by how peaceful it was. Here I was exploring a whole new world that I never imagined I’d get the opportunity (or, let’s be honest, have the guts) to view.
Almost immediately I was given the shark signal. ‘Here it is, the moment of truth,’ I thought to myself. And as I followed the group to Shark Rock I was still deciding how I was going to react to my first encounter. Was I going to panic, hurriedly swim to the surface, and jump back onto the boat? Was I going to have a heart attack and die (as I had so often imagined I would if I ever really did spot a shark)? These are, obviously, overly dramatic courses of action; but I had thought extensively on this subject and was pretty sure my reaction would be one of these. However, as I approached the peak of Shark Rock and finally rested my gaze on the object of my most terrifying nightmares, and unexpected thing happened: all my fears faded away, giving way to a new fascination. There, just chilling and hanging out and paying absolutely no attention to the 10 divers surrounding them, were 3 White Tip Reef Sharks.
At this point your probably thinking, ‘Really, White Tips?! That’s it? Those are harmless!’ In which case you would be right, they are virtually harmless. For me this was a healthy reminder that most sharks are quite inoffensive and even those that aren’t are highly unlikely to attack a person. It was at this moment that I decided I really enjoyed diving and set my heart upon getting my Open Water Certification.
Since a month ago, when this initial diving experience took place, I have succeeded in becoming a certified Open Water Scuba diver. My mind has been opened to many more beautiful undersea creatures such as octopus, rays, moray eels, parrot fish, and even paternal sergeant major fish protecting their eggs. I have seen White Tip Reef Sharks on two more occasions and each time I find them more appealing. I could literally spend my whole dive just perched on that rock, watching them; so great is my new-found awe for them.
Of course, sea life isn’t the only benefit of scuba diving. Another is meeting new people, as the PADI motto suggests. Getting to share such an awesome experience with others really brings you closer to such ones and I feel privileged to have made so many new friends along the way. A warm thank-you goes out to those at Rich Coast Diving Center here in Playas del Coco, Costa Rica for taking the time to teach me the SCUBA basics. I can not wait to continue my learning process as regards diving, as well as expand my knowledge of local oceanic life.
To all those who have never considered SCUBA diving because of fear of sharks, fish, the water, swimming, or whatever it may be: I encourage you to try it anyway. You may find that your fear has been sadly misplaced all these years. You may even develop a new obsession; I know I have!