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Thursday, August 13, 2009

A snorkel experience

Wednesday morning.. Janice, Cora and me boarded a boat to finally sail out to the Great Barrier Reef, with around 50 other passengers. The Reef is the most famous in Australia, and is one of the top diving locations in the world.. apparently. It starts off the North East Coast of Queensland and runs along the coast, down towards Brisbane. When I was here in Cairns first, with Jason, I wanted to go out on a boat to see what all the fuss was about. But we never got around to it. So when the girls said they wanted to do a daytrip, to both snorkel and dive the reef, I jumped at the chance.

Now, this trip was going to be a big one for me. Because me and the water, aren't the best of friends. I can swim perfectly okay, I love to look at the ocean and being on boats gives me such a thrill. But I still don't feel too safe, when I'm out in the ocean, surrounded by nothing but water. No matter how calm the sea is, it's still a powerful and unpredictable thing. Especially taking into consideration that being in Australia, could mean the possibility that absolutely anything could be swimming beneath, is always there. But I was going to be okay. I was with friends, and this was the Great Barrier Reef! What could go wrong..? I've snorkeled before, (even though it's been nearly 3 years) and the diving should be pretty straight forward. I was so determined to give it all a go.

First of all, we sailed for around 2 hours, out to sea, to a particular part of the reef, where there would be unspoilt coral to see, and fish admire (not to eat unfortunately..) - even fish that look like "Finding Nemo".. How cute!! Anyhow, after sailing, we got an introduction lesson for diving. I was excited, and it all seemed too easy. I never thought in my life that I'd be getting the chance to dive. I never really wanted to, because of my "fear" of the vast ocean. But this was going to be my day to give it a shot. It was only going to be a short dive, of around 20 minutes. The instructor was real nice and the group we were going to be diving with was pretty small. I was ready to go!!

First we got the chance to snorkel, before the diving. The ocean was so beautiful, so blue. I couldn't believe that I was gonna be swimming in this water!! This was amazing. The weather was gorgeous, but we were told that the water could be cold. So a wetsuit would help, if you were someone who considers a water temperature of 24degrees to be cold.. That was me!! I got into a wetsuit, and was off..

It was so much to take in though, as I entered the water off the end of the boat. So many people around me, the sea was so choppy because of the wind, the water was freezing because I'm very coldblooded, the wetsuit made me feel so heavy even though it was keeping me a float at the same time. I had to do this though. When I was out in the sea, it took me ages to calm my breathing down, to relax, and to feel secure with the snorkel, the goggles and the ocean. I kept my distance from everybody and was talking to myself like a mad one.. convincing myself that nothing was going to happen. I didn't care though. I was temporarily like a child in that water, so I didn't give a damn what others were thinking.

Once I had finally calmed down and got the knack of the snorkel, I remembered why I was actually in the water..: Niamh, you're snorkeling to see the life underneath this beautiful deep blue ocean so open your eyes and look around underwater, that's what the goggles are for too!! I had totally forgotten the reason for my being there, so I was so caught up with my panic inside. But then I opened my eyes and suddenly seen so many beautiful things.. The fish, the coral, the life.. I don't know the official terms for what I saw, but it was amazing. I'd never seen anything like it. Now and then the panic set in again, but I was able to control it.

After a while, I started to get so so cold. It suddenly hit me. I just didn't want to move at one stage, but I was so far away from the boat, that I needed to swim. The waves suddenly seemed to be getting bigger and rougher and suddenly I seemed so alone in the ocean, even though people were around me. It was so scary.. But I stayed out there, and was so eager to see as much as possible that I just let the feeling go of being icy cold in this relatively warm ocean water. I would be fine.

I don't know how long I was out there.. half an hour, or maybe a whole hour. I can't say. But when I finally made it back to the boat, I stepped out the water, and felt suddenly so awful. I could hardly walk and felt 10 times colder than I did before I got out. I took off my wetsuit and Cora was there to help. I started to feel sick, I was shivering like someone with hypothermia and couldn't speak. The thoughts of having to get back in the water, for the dive, within the next half hour, scared the life out of me.. I panicked, I was in tears, and I didn't know why. I was a mess and didn't care about anything that was going on around. I was put in the sun up on the deck to get the heat back into me (it was around 28 degrees..to look at me, you would have sworn it was the icy Irish sea or something, in the middle of winter!!).

I wanted to dive though, but I could hardly walk and felt so ill in my chest.. I was going to give it a shot; I was on the Reef, and this was my chance to dive. Just a little bit of coldness wasn't going to get the better of me. But as soon as I went up to do it, I looked at the water and I wanted to cry again. DRAMAQUEEN!! It was the strangest thing I've ever had. I couldn't speak again and didn't give 2 sh*ts that this was my chance to dive. If the water was making me feel that way, then there was no way I was getting back in. At first I was kicking myself.. But then once I was feeling better I was so glad I didn't put myself through it. It wouldn't have been worth the panic and anxiety that being under water so far, would have given me. Cora and Janice gave it a shot, but weren't too impressed. Apparently they saw the same as they saw when snorkeling. So I didn't miss too much.

Instead I sat on the deck for the rest of the afternoon, soaking up the rays and drinking some wine.. In the evening I still couldn't say what happened to me when I got out that water after snorkeling, but it doesn't matter now. Yesterday wasn't my day to try diving.. Maybe I'll give it a shot some other time. But until then looking at the ocean is a far more rewarding experience.. No matter how beautiful and magical that ocean life can be..

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