As a devout landlubber, I never thought that I would or could be moved to pen an article such as this, but it took only one Barbados adventure to make me do it.
Being born and raised in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, I felt a natural inclination towards the idea that water adventure sports, especially those done in the ocean, were not the thing for me. Call me chicken or plain old dull and boring, but the thought of keeping both feet planted firmly on ‘terra firma’ was the philosophical equivalent of “nearer my God to thee”. That was the extent of my comfort zone, and I did not intend to depart from there until I vacationed in Barbados.
I am not sure what it is about that island, there is something magical about silver-coloured sand and the white foam of gently breaking waves that caress your toes while you stroll the beaches. There is something alluring about the incredibly fresh air that tickles the nostrils, fills the lungs and energizes the body.
Then there is the wonderful, penetrating sunshine that transforms the ocean into a giant translucent infinity pool. I Will never know if it was one of those things, a combination of them or all of them put together, coupled with the irresistible charm of the people who populate the island.
Whatever it was, they made me lower my guard, throw caution to the winds and do that which I thought I never would or could.
And so one morning, after taking a stroll along the beach in front of my hotel, I returned to sit poolside and sip on an incredibly refreshing fruit punch. While doing so, I watched some people in the hotel pool being trained to scuba dive. I was a bit skeptical at first, but the guys doing the coaching appeared rather professional and knowledgeable and made the whole process of instruction extremely interesting. Eventually, my curiosity got the better of me, and before I knew it, I was sitting on the water’s edge, and without having had any prior appointment or having paid any fee, I had been welcomed into the conversation and invited to participate.
I guess that the warmth, the casual nature of the instructors who were willing to include me ( seemingly without a care for their financial interests). They were willing to accept my promise that I would make good on my intrusion and education by doing a formal supplemental lesson and first dive on the following day, all serving to convince me that this might just be worth a try. And so, that night I read up on the informative notes that they gave me and I slept with thoughts of masks, regulators, o-rings, depth gauges and buoyancy compensation on my mind.
Our dive the next day was not an extreme adventure but a simple one, in 30 feet of water off Carlisle Bay, a phenomenal 2 km long crescent-shaped silver-coloured beach, with waters so calm that reminded me of a large lake. My instructors took me down along with the three others who had trained with us the day before, we knelt in a circle on the ocean floor, and I absorbed my first opportunity to view life underwater. The bay was amazingly clear and calm, and I could see forever into the distance.
One of those instructors reached into his dive vest and pulled out a piece of bread, and as he rubbed it between thumb and forefinger, I suddenly saw the tiniest of little fishes start to appear. Some were single-coloured some were multicoloured, and some seemed to be every colour of the rainbow. None of them were longer than my forefinger, but they appeared it seemed, by the thousand. They were remarkably gentle and were attracted to the pieces of bread now floating slowly to the ocean floor. The instructor handed each of us our own slice of bread, and as we knelt together in a circle, we each crumbled our piece. And the more bread we crumbled, the more the fish emerged, multi-coloured schools that nibbled on your fingertips with tiny little mouths. There were so many that at one point it was impossible to make out the person in the circle kneeling next to you, every colour of the rainbow was on show in our personal, majestic, ocean aquarium. The penetrating sunlight bounced and danced against their scales, and it was arguably, the most beautiful experience that I’ve ever had.
The simplicity of nature and the beauty of the ocean flooded home to me that day and for as long as I live I will always remember that day in Barbados when, that which I had thought I would never do, became that which I regretted not having done before.