This summer, I grabbed the opportunity to go snorkeling off the coast of Phi Phi Islands, Thailand. It brought back many memories of my first snorkeling experience as a teenager, in the waters of the Pacific Ocean, amid the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia.
This time around we were onboard a large cruise ship on board which we prepared ourselves for the snorkeling part of our trip. Changing into the gear provided and listening to the instructions only served to heighten the sense of anticipation that literally anything was possible once we took the plunge.
Once our ship docked, a few hundred metres from a beach, the ocean was ours to explore. Along with the common spottings like the clown anemone fish (popularly called Nemo) and sharks we were also fortunate to see some giant clams and starfish as well. Luckily we had been forewarned to stay away from the spiky sea urchins in shallow waters since contact with them can cause serious injury. Being a writer, putting down my thoughts is not something I usually struggle with, but both my undersea experiences have left me short of words. I can only highlight some words that flash: Colours. Movement. Surfaces.
One can only come away from such an experience with a feeling of wonder; of being gently reminded of how tiny a part you play in the workings of this great Universe and also a sense of regret that somewhere the human race has contributed greatly to the degradation of the Earth’s natural resources. It has been widely acknowledged that in the last 20 years, constant proximity to humans due to unchecked tourism, has discoloured large sections of these natural wonders all over the Asia Pacific region.
While it is an often said that that the emotions of the first time can never be replicated, I found that was not true in my case. This dip into the Andaman Sea carried with it the same sensation of silently, weightlessly floating and the sheer joy of being surrounded by nature in its glory. The thrill of having a whole school of fish swim past my face, unconsciously reminded me of something so similar happening many years previously. The vivid corals form an entire universe that exists below the water’s surface, and being engulfed by the expanse of it all adds up to an exciting experience, the memories of which are not dulled by distance, by space or by time.
PS: While on both occasions, I have wished that I owned an underwater camera, I hope that the absence of one will goad my mind to keep these images alive.
All photos (c) Sangeetha Solanki