September 11, 2019
MY FIRST SCUBA DIVING EXPERIENCE AT GOA
I have lived in Goa all my life and was vaguely aware that the state is home to a coral reef. I remember seeing a few newspaper reports and pictures on social media. Then, post my graduation in 2013; I joined the National Institute of Oceanography, in Dona Paula. Though I worked in the area of Physical Oceanography, I learned so much about other work that’s going on here. I learned a little about corals as well.
So there are all these beautiful corals in my backyard? Whoa! Did I want to dive there and experience it for myself? Of course, I did! I discussed this with my friend Vishwanath a.ka. Vish, a Dive Instructor and the Founder of Scuba Evolution India, and he recommended trying out a fun dive.
“However, I do not know how to swim,” I said.
“That’s all right! The instructor will take care of you,” he assured me.
My opportunity came on 11 Feb 2017, to be precise. A new swimsuit brought, frantic googling done, and I was ready to dive! A bit anxious though.
I reached Scuba Evolution India early at 7 AM. Divemaster Elena, gave us a briefing and a brochure to fill out with some basic dive theory and a medical form.
We trained in the pool for about half an hour; this included familiarization with the Scuba Diving equipment, some basic underwater skills, and hand signals to communicate underwater.
The Instructors, both Sanjay and Ashwin, took excellent care and were patient with me. Diver safety was always a priority, and the team ensured that each diver was comfortable. After the training and familiarization, we went to the island by boat. The boat ride was about an hour and a fun experience too.
I’ll admit I had cold feet till the time they pushed me into the water. It is a new experience once you are in the water. I was breathing too fast, but eventually, I calmed a little, and the Instructor Adam took me down slowly. Once I descended, I could see a new world here. It is such a thriving, beautiful ecosystem. One can’t help but be in awe and be amazed! So many different kinds of things- corals, fish, and seaweed surround you. I thought of how beautifully they have adapted while I had to strap myself to a scuba gear to breathe underwater and see all of this. The time I spent exploring around there was like a slow dance in a trance. I was in love already!
Sadly, I also discovered other things that don’t belong to the ocean realm- carelessly discarded bottles, and trash. Known as marine debris, improper disposal of waste is one of the major causes. At present, there are about an estimated 5 trillion pieces of plastic in the ocean. If we continue to treat the sea as a dumping ground, it will cause major havoc in the food webs and ultimately reach back to us humans. We need to acknowledge that the health of the ocean is the key to our survival.
I spent about 45 minutes under water. However, once underwater, I found that it’s just not enough. I wanted to stay there longer. It was a journey to overcome my fears and explore, and even to understand the threat this beautiful ecosystem is facing.
The team at Scuba Evolution India is very professional, motivated and patient. They have a robust safety culture and took excellent care of a novice to make me a diver! Any medically fit person not suffering from asthma can dive. You don’t need to know how to swim to experience the underwater world. Vish later told me that Scuba Evolution India undertakes underwater clean-ups on each dive and that they ran an ocean clean-up campaign at Goa with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) on Earth Day.
About the author:-
Viola Rodrigues worked in the Physical Oceanography Division of NIO as a Project Assistant from 2013- 2017. She later joined the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR) in 2017. Here, Viola works in the area of Paleoceanography. Her work led her to embark on cruises and expeditions onboard research vessels. Viola’s hobbies include bird watching and quizzing, among other things. She resides in Goa.