The colors are what surprised me the most.
Whenever I have gazed into the ocean -- even when the water was clear, or only tinted with a wisp of turquoise -- the creatures and terrain that my eyes could pick out under the waves looked muddied. I would have told you the fish and rocks and coral were a fuzzy brown, grey or muted green. I had no idea that looking into the ocean from the vantage point of an ordinary human is like looking at it through sludge-colored glasses.
That is, I had no idea until I tried scuba diving at the Islamorada Dive Center in the Florida Keys.
I signed up for a ‘Discover Scuba’ class, which some folks call a Resort certification. Though I had no experience whatsoever, I was working with an instructor on basic skills in the pool within the first hour. But that afternoon was when the real magic happened.
I got to go out on a boat and do two shallow coral reef dives along with my instructor, my first ever dives.
Underwater, the fish that had looked ordinary before were transformed into breathtaking works of art, striped with vivid yellows and blues and blacks. Mainly, they were unafraid of me. It seemed I was just another one of the gang, a big, slow, clumsy fish that had to wear a lot of gear and was a pathetic swimmer.
I listened to the sound of my breathing as I floated in an utterly alien universe, filled with wonder at the sharks that silently glided past me, at a ray winging its way across the ocean floor, and at the coral, alive and strange and dancing with the rhythm of the sea.
To say I’ll always remember it is an understatement.
I hope if you’re visiting Florida, that you’ll Discover Scuba too. It’s the experience of a lifetime.