“The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish”– Jacques Yves Coustaeu
I’ve been looking at vacation photos on my Facebook recently and I came across our trip to Pandan Island. It was such a memorable experience because It was my first time to go snorkeling and try free-diving! This experience led me to some realizations as well. Let me take you guys to the beach and free-dive with me as I try my best to paint the picture of the island, the corals, and the world under the sea! (*cue music Under the Sea*)
The oceans and seas have always fascinated me. Can you believe that the ocean covers 71% of the Earth and yet 95% of it remains unexplored? So when a group of friends invited me to go on vacation on a remote island resort I immediately said yes!
We got on board a 30-minute plane ride from Manila going to Occidental Mindoro. We were buzzing with so much energy and excitement that we barely felt the 3-hour van ride taking us to the seaport where we’ll take a small boat to the island. The pleasant smell of the sea invaded our noses as we walked on the beachfront leaving our footprints in the fine white sand. We reached the bar and merrily gulped down our welcome drinks. Smiles were flashing across our faces – this is going to be the best summer EVER!
“Ok everyone, let’s gather here early tomorrow and I’ll give a 101 on freediving!” said our friend Sir Mel (nickname for Hanamel). He’s a an amazing free-diver! We then explored the island a little bit and waited for the next day to come.
As the sun greeted us with an energizing glow we headed to the beachfront bringing our masks, snorkels, and fins with us. We did stretches to warm up and dipped ourselves in the cool waters by the shore. Afterwards, Mel taught us the basics of breathing, equalizing, diving posture, safety measures and everything you need to know as a first timer in free-diving. He also warned us not to panic when we encounter dangerous sea creatures like jellyfish, lionfish, sea snakes, and the infamous triggerfish which has a human-like face and teeth that can punch a hole through your suit. I was a bit nervous but I was more excited to explore and try something that I haven’t done before.
We swam out in pairs as we headed to a nearby fish sanctuary. Sea turtles would come near and swim with us every now and then being friendly and hospitable to us – their visitors. There were occasional sightings of triggerfish, and sea snakes but they didn’t pose enough danger. After a myriad of schools of fish, and a showy display of corals we have arrived at the sanctuary.
It was beautiful. When you look down from the surface of the water, you will see the fish as a bunch of colorful lines busily swimming through their day minding their own businesses in the corals. But when you dive deep to meet them it’s like you’ve been plunged into a totally different world that only few know about. The light shines differently down there. You will literally get to see and know the fishes in a different light and perspective. Some fish will shine a pearly white sheen. Some show off a dazzling array of yellows, greens, and blues. The bigger fish would come in and assert their authority and the smaller ones would happily zoom in and out of their coral homes. I wished I had a bigger lung capacity so I can stay down there for more than a few seconds. I was captivated by the beauty of the sea.
“Be careful not to go over the deeper end, and dive more than 30 feet deep. You’ll go into free-fall.” Mel calmly told us.
I was curious about the free-fall. My maximum depth during that time was 18 feet. The deeper end, and beyond that was scary. It looked like a huge abyss where many unknowns live. A world where light also shines differently. A world unexplored – at least by me. At that moment I got why some get addicted to diving. For me, there’s a thrill calling for you to go beyond the surface and see the treasures that lie underneath.
Our five days on the island went by at a satisfying pace. We heeded the call of the waters every day and we just talked about anything in our lives under the moonlit sky every night. The calming sound of the waves and the silence of the island imprinted itself in our ears. I didn’t want to leave the place. On our last day, we said goodbye to the island and went back to the city with sun-kissed skin still hearing the call of the sea.
Diving With People
Looking back at this vacation I realized that diving can be related with people we meet every day. I believe that everyone has a story to tell. From the surface, it may seem like the people we encounter are just perpetually going about their day from point A to point B living their lives best they can. But when you have an opportunity to dive deep with them, especially with the ones close to you you’ll see how the light bounces off of them differently but in a beautiful way. Sometimes if you’re lucky and brave enough, you get to free-fall 30 feet below with them in their abyss and see their well-kept treasure.
Echoing the quote above, the best way to observe a person is to become a person too. It sounds a bit odd so let me rephrase. The best way to get to know people is for you to become a real person with them is willing to dive into their depths and see their own light. Our relationships with others can be as deep as you want to go diving with them.
So let’s go diving! Are you ready to take the plunge?