Day 2 [6:35 PM, 4/5/2018] I did sleep for a while. But I woke up with nightmares too. Too tired even to get up. Jaw aching due to holding the regulator for so long. I had a strong urge to miss this first dive. But Kris had already planned it, made changes in groups. It would be too disrespectful to say no to dive now.
I always took a couple of minutes to myself before every dive, lock myself into the bathroom, take deep breaths and ease out the jitters in my stomach. I am planning to do the same after breakfast. But while having breakfast, Kris tells me that we had to dive in two minutes. We wouldn't even stay for the briefing. So I quickly finish half a sandwich and run to kit up...
We dive at a different place than the other groups.
We go to a dead coral reef and practice older skills as planned. Mask clearing, regulator recovery and the most important, hovering.
He then takes me for a swim over a number of corals, with ups and downs.
And by what magic I don’t know, I manoeuvre them quite well. I don’t kick any of those corals, don’t bump into any, I ascend exactly enough when we have to cross a coral and descend enough when we are beyond it.
In last two dives the earlier day, there was improvement. I was aware of what’s happening around and what’s happening to me, unlike in the first two. I was able to swim at least for some distances without shooting up, sinking or bumping into something.
But this one was magical.
We didn’t see much, didn’t even care about finding fish. Just swam.
After this, I thought I could do anything.
I am still tired and want to sleep.
But we have to finish the chapter for drift dive, as the next one was going to be a drift dive. So I stay up after breakfast, finish reading and answering the questionnaire. Chris briefed us on it, what to do what not to do etc, corrected the questionnaires. And by the time we finish, it’s time to dive again.
We do the negative entry for this dive, meet below the water and then start. The dive is going well, Chris, Jamie and me. Chris showing us some interesting stuff along the drift. Around halfway through the dive maybe, he points behind me. I check out. I see something flat, slightly white large disk. Looks like a small boat? Maybe some special purpose vehicle. Something looking like a UFO. It’s moving towards us. Fuck, a shark? Nah, big fish so soon seems impossible. I brushed that thought away. And in a couple of more seconds, I realise what it was. It wasn’t moving towards us, it was swimming – or rather flying – in the current. Right in the middle, slightly above us and at a distance. There were many smaller fish taking refuge on it, below it, behind it. Or maybe tagging along for a faster ride. Like a VIP parading with his entourage behind him.
It was indeed a big fish. It was a Manta Ray. The one for which people come dive in these islands. The one after which our boat fleet was named – Manta Queen.
We watch it until it disappears from sight far down the current. I am still in an awe. Feels like half the purpose of my pilgrimage is fulfilled.
Watch the Manta Ray video here
We keep drifting. I have been consuming air much faster, unlike in my open water course.
Rest about today later.
Let’s see what kind of dreams I get today.
Day 3: [6:15 AM, 4/6/2018]
I know I haven’t finished day 2.
But for now, there is something more important.
First dive of the day. Richelieu rock.
And we see the second god. Or the god’s baby. A small (probably juvenile) whale shark.
In this dive, we were doing the last exercise of our Advanced Open Water course for a deep dive. Kris tried tricking us showing us a cherry tomato and saying (I mean implying), “See, how compressed it is!” After the coursework was done, we were swimming around the rock looking at fish. Suddenly Kris changes direction abruptly. I also see more people suddenly swimming in the same direction. And then all excited, he points somewhere in the blue.. Whoa! There it was. Swimming away from us.
We tried swimming towards it. As if it was going to stop and pose for us. Of course it was an effort in vain. It disappeared quickly.
I was thinking later on. It must have felt weird with so many people chasing him/ her. Thank god they haven’t invented a pepper spray.
We were absolutely excited. For some time, we just keep signalling each other about how awesome it was and then we go back to the dive.
Not sure if this was before the first darshan of the whale shark or after. We saw a cute small seahorse camouflaged in the small yellow corals. Guess it was slightly below 30 meters and then Jammie’s camera shut down. So no pictures.
Like every time, I reach 70 bars first and then we start ascending. Before we reach 5 meter for our safety stop, the God’s baby makes another appearance. This time we get a bit longer airtime with him. And this time we get a top view.. of its beautiful dotted back, as if a starry night.