The blue is no longer the same when I am surrounded by it, the expanse both smaller and infinitely larger and the lack of a horizon strips me of the only grip I had left whilst still ón the open sea. But I know there's only one way to go and that's down. And so, with the help of an extra two pounds around my waist, I sink down determinedly and a tiny bit too fast. My ears have become my eyes, they know exactly where I am. Too deep, up again, and thank God there are my four fellow divers.
Stay calm now, breathe, yes, I can do that, remember, even though I am now about 25 meters under water in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
Nothing around me but that translucent shade of blue, as if someone has opened the curtains underwater, letting in the light.
Wherever I look there is depth, distance and space. And that's scary. How often do you yearn for space in the busy city-life? For silence and nothing else. How calming that would be. But this immense blue space alienates and oppresses. And doesn't calm my mind in the least. For a moment there is panic, no, this doesn't feel right, what the hell am I doing here and how do I get out?
The sudden sensation of floating in an endless blue sea literally takes my breath away, but thanks to the tank on my back I can take in the missed air just as quickly. I slurp it down, the way you can only breathe underwater, in deep, eager gulps, and the distinctive sound soothes me as ever. And then, coming to a standstill at about 29 meters, there is that liberating feeling for the first time. Here I float, in the middle of the Indian Ocean! And I can't wait to discover what will come from behind that curtain.
And luckily there is Hassan, who knows the way.
He has been diving in this ocean for 35 years, more than 10,000 times he has scoured the reefs of this distant atoll and how I love this completely unknown man right now. I entrust my soul and salvation to him, if Hassan goes to the left, I will follow immediately. When Hassan points forward, my gaze is already there. Hassan is for a moment everything in this infinite nothingness.
And so the four of us float behind Hassan. Down is up and left is right, and where is that hammerhead now? The only sound comes from my breathing, still a little too deep, and the nervous beep of a dive computer when someone goes up or down just a little too fast. The latter is an almost familiar scene when orientation is quite a task.
The hammerhead unfortunately kept lurking in the wings, but the gradual emergence of the reef, like a new piece of scenery wheeled onto the stage for the second act, perhaps filled me with just as much joy. Time and time again it surprises me how great the human need is for something to hold on to, a point of reference, solid ground under our feet. And although I couldn’t quite stand on this reef for a while to recover, to sit quietly on that large piece of coral, take a breather, take just five minutes, recognizing it was already enough. I knew where I was again.
Visiting that other world. Where it is sometimes very busy and I always wonder how it works. Do they know each other here underwater? Does that one blue triggerfish know that there is a companion about twenty meters away? Do they have a home? Well, the anemonefish, anyway. And are there any traffic rules at all down here? Does the little surgeonfish know to give way to the school of angelfish? Do they swim left or right? And why do bass apparently prefer not to swim at all?
Every time it is a feast of familiarity and wonder. It fills me with so much joy to be able to visit this colorful and ever-moving world. But I keep realizing that I haven't seen anything yet. There is always a new experience, a new meeting and without exception they fill me with a blissful feeling.
And this particular dive is like a supersized Big mac menu. It is so wonderfully much, so wonderfully large, but God, how much is it and how are we going to process this?
I don't know where to start. I want to stay with that turtle, but damn there's the first shark. And after the first, the second soon follows and before I know it, I even dare to look away from the sharks because the next 'bite' is waiting on the reef.
So I'm just doing what you're supposed to do with a supersized menu. Don't think too much, just eat. Greedy and fully enjoying, shameless and down to the last crumb. And I don't feel at all bothered when a troop of eagle rays passes by for dessert. Yep, they fit just fine. When I'm back above water, I'll stand with both feet on the ground again.