What would you do if you meet 101 of your biggest fears in the world and have to face them all at the same time?
I’d prolly run far, far away.
What would you do if you have no idea what fears you are going to face to face with until mere minutes into the mission?
I’ll go into stress which may lead to heart attack.
What would you do if your mind is guessing a billion possibilities what the mission will be like and how you are going to achieve them?
I’ll stop guessing and hope to high heavens that I will live to see Jojo Tiger at night.
What would you do if you were given clues such as 3 metres deep, wetsuit and two hours as clues? What would you think it was?
I was thinking either jetski-ing, swimming with the dolphins or a water-based massage (I know, strange guess) as a dare by my BFF #3, Jo.
The location: Siloso Beach, Sentosa.
The bewitching hours: 1500 hours – 1845 hours.
The mission / dare:
Hell yes that is one heck of a 101 fears jumbled into 1 when Jo brought me to Underwater World and handed over to me the brochure. I turned whiter than a sheet of white paper, I swear I could feel my tummy churning and doing roller-coaster effects to my just-digested-15-minutes-ago-LJS-Mango-and-Fish-Wrap, which was actually very nice. I immediately felt sick, I wanted to run or something. Good golly, what the heck did I put myself through? Why did I say yes to her dare?
Sadly, it was pre-booked many months ahead of the day today thus I can’t back out. The only thing I could do was to postpone it to a later date should I chicken out today and if I don’t show up for the next available date, the cost of the diving will be borne by Jo. No way am I going to make her pay God knows how much for a diving trip which I chickened out of. SO I tried asking her if it’s possible for me to get her instead to go for the dive. She flatly rejected the suggestion, citing the fact that she wants to be the photographer for the day and that the name has been signed to me and it was non-transferable.
Seriously, waiting for her to finalise the payment etc felt like eternity. I tried to push her to take me there on another date using the fact that my period is expected to arrive anytime soon but she refused to budge. She mentioned I have the same look when I tried prawning for the first time last year. You are kidding me Jo, that was prawning. It was in no way at all, a dangerous sport. This is diving; diving with sharks and sting rays and whatever other living sea creatures in the planet. If I am not lucky, I may get eaten alive by the sharks or get stung by the barb of a sting ray like the late Steve Irwin! For the record, he died doing what he loved doing and he is a living crocodile hunter legend! He already has a legacy when he passed on, what do I have? I am not even anywhere near being a legend damn it!
Trust me, the usual sweaty hands, restless eyes, uneasy feeling were all present the minute I stepped into Underwater World. For starters, I can’t swim. Secondly, I am swimming with sharks. Thirdly, my period may just come knocking in my body and there will be human blood of course. What is the shark smells my blood and comes after me like in Finding Nemo the movie? I am not prepared to have my face plastered over every daily newspaper in Singapore or the region for being the first human to lure a shark to her using her period blood. Gosh, that will be so gross.
I was greeted by an Indian diver, (I can’t recall his name as I was too nervous to even register my name into my numbskull brains) and he briefed me about the to-dos and not-to-dos during the dive all while he brought me through countless steps around Underwater World. He led Jo and I to a password protected door and I walked into a place which resembled that of a fish market. I am not kidding you. I don’t see any fish, just neatly arranged basins capable of putting at least 10 turtles or 2 manta rays. I was told to fill up an indemnity form and I had to confirm twice that I was above 21. The questions in the indemnity form ranged from, do you have a popping ear disorder when you ascend / descend while in a plane to do you have claustrophobia or agrophobia. Seriously, I was laughing in between answering the 20 odd Yes – No questions in that form.
After that, I was instructed to change into the full-body wetsuit and booties (Haha, I know) before I am briefed at greater length. Here’s a peek! By the way, excuse the under-eye panda eyes and dull skin, I wasn’t wearing make-up for obvious reasons.
That’s me going through the debrief with the dive guide for the day. In the picture above, I am testing out the power and non-power lenses to see which on is more comfortable with my eyes.
I picked the power-lenses.
I am not kidding you. The footwear I was wearing was called booties. I actually thought I will be wearing flippers. Apparently they don’t need flippers when diving in Underwater World; there are more walking, light-swimming and floating and leaping only.
I must be a rare find in the diving place. All the divers surrounding me were males and they took a double-take when I walked down the stairs and walked towards the assembly area.
The total weight of whatever I was carrying before I went in for the dive tipped the scales at 50kg. See, the oxygen tank weighed 10kg and that weight was able to sustain enough air for me to breathe for at least an hour. On top of that, I had four weights which resembled giant-sized silver belt buckles. Each weight was 10kg so if you do the math, I had 40 kg of weights strapped all around my waist. I had a hard time walking on land with the entire suit and tank ensemble as I was basically carrying my own weight! I weigh 53kg and I am carrying 50kg of weight on top of my own weight! I am no ant, I can’t carry twice of my own weight you know? However, the minute I stepped on a platform to go into the waters (which leads me to the underwater world), I felt light instantaneously; so light, I literally “float” despite weighing a grand total of 103kg on hand!
It took me a lot of guts to face my fears and having an Indian guide and another Caucasian diver who is going for his virgin dive in there did help a little bit. However, the fact that they both are certified divers did not make me feel good. They are pros while I am a literal virgin in diving etc. The Caucasian man was telling me over and over that I will enjoy the experience but I smiled weakly, not knowing what to expect when I go underwater.
I descended and was underwater within seconds. I had to constantly pinch my nose with each step that I made into the waters as my ears sort of hurt from the pressure. I wasn’t allowed to breathe through my nose thus I had to breathe in and breathe out of the oxygen tank and that was real hard for a first-timer like me. Trust me. I was doing fine when I kept on gulping seawater through my mouth-piece. I remember Raj’s (I remembered this diver’s name!) words to “blow” the water back into the mouth-piece if I encountered any seawater in my mouth and I did but more and more seawater kept going into my mouth and was getting nauseous from the taste of it. So I signalled that I wasn’t okay and waited for further instructions. By then, my head was blank, I was very close to panicking already. Trust me when I say that all that I wanted to do was to remove the mouthpiece and lenses and just breathe properly. I was already feeling sick by then. Thank God I was sane enough to not do that as if I didn, I wouldn’t be alive writing out this post. But Raj was telling me to keep calm. Gosh, given such a situation, all that I could think of was how far away I was from the platform to climb out to breathe and I just wanted to breath properly from my nose. How on earth do you expect me to keep calm?! But Raj did helped me calm down my nerves and ascend to the air properly.
Upon reaching the top of the platform, I removed the mouth-piece and finally got the much needed air to breath naturally. I told Raj about my problem with the oxygen device and how the seawater kept going into my mouth-piece and he told me that I needed to grip the mouth-piece harder. For your information, the mouth-piece looked something like this:
Yes, it resembles that of a wrestler’s mouthpiece. The only difference is that the mouthpiece is fixed to a long tube which is attached to the oxygen tank.
So I started gripping as tightly as my mouth could and descended to the bottom of the Underwater World again, attempting not to ascend until I finish the entire mission. As I was descending, I was being greeted by real playful manta rays which swim around your legs and somewhat have a “smile” on their faces. Raj also added 2 weights (!) on me to keep me from floating. That was a grand total of 123kg on my own!
That was the point when my adventure of a lifetime began.
I signalled okay to Raj, composed myself and made sure I gripped the mouthpiece with all my might as I was adamant on enjoying myself and not quitting half-way again.
Oh yes, there were like a billion sea creatures in the Underwater World. You will literally feel small against them. Plus, they come in such a variety of sizes, shapes and color; you have to be in the water to believe it!
Oh yes, after a while, I got the hang of breathing through my mouth and being surrounded by a billion sea creatures. Honestly, it was real cool to be able to witness the sea creatures going around with their daily routine and to have them swim around you like your own pet. You can come close to them and pat or stroke or brush against their bodies. The small ones tend to shy away while the huge ones like the eagle rays and manta rays are uber, uber, uber friendly and they love mingling with you!
After a while, gripping of the mouthpiece got tiring as it reallywas hard biting on some silicone which is not moulded to your mouth. So I went on with the diving expedition with one hand holding on to the mouthpiece to keep it from falling out and another hand was busy touching the sea creatures.
I think I grew famous over time that I was underwater. I managed to get alot of gawkers / spectators / audience watchingmy every move in the water. I guess I was the only friendly diver in the water and I think people loved that interaction I have with them. I wish I was much more daring and swam up towards the glass panels to let people take a closer shot of a diver (like me), but I think I was more caught up trying to breathe and staying alive, while breathing oxygen in and out of the mouth AND checking out the marine life in the Underwater World.
Jo was telling me that there was debate as to whether I was a girl or a boy diver since my hair was as short as that of a boy and my bosom was covered by plenty of breathing equipment. But what kept me looking like a girl was the fact that I had hot pink fingernails on my hands! Haha 😀 That was real funny.
I got two to three close encounters with the sharks but they were more interested in the feet of the divers than to swim at our chest levels. But the best part of the diving was the fact that I managed to feed the manta / eagle rays with live cockles. Live cockles, I kid you not! Actually, I was pretty lucky to be able to feed the manta / eagle rays as you need to be a certified diver to be able to feed them and I managed to feed one with two live cockles! Trust me when I say that it was a whole lot of fun waiting for the gigantic manta rays to swim slowly towards you. After all, they were like at least two-metres in width and the have the barbs still on their bodies! I managed to feed one and at the same time, I encountered first-hand how cockles (with the shells) are eaten alive by the rays. The rays are real smart marine animals. They feed only on cockles and when they get the cockles, they actually grind and bite the cockles (with the shells) long enough until you see the fragments of cockles’ shell flowing out of the ray’s mouth. In water, you can hear the loud sounds they make when they eat and that was real cool! The sounds of them eating the cockles were definitely much louder than the sounds of people tapping furiously on the glass panels.
After 40 odd minutes in the water, the fairy-tale had to end. I was all psyched up after getting out of the water but at the same time, the gums just completely went numb. Matter of fact is it went numb all night long! But on a serious note, I would be lying if I say I was all brave and gung-ho about going through this mission. I was real scared, I swear I could have peed in my pants. But I soldiered on and made sure I enjoyed myself. I learnt to trust complete strangers and put my life and well-being in their hands and they in turn taught me how to keep calm and collected when I am on the verge of going intoshock / panic. All in all, it was definitely the experience of a lifetime which was definitely something out of my comfort zone. WAY out of my comfort zone. But it was a worthwhile experience and a good way to celebrate my 21st. I have been daring myself to do something daring for each time I turn one year older ever since I was 16 and this definitely takes the cake.
The best and most daring birthday dare, ever. Even more daring than to go through a brazillian at 16!
Thanks Jo, for sponsoring me to an underwater trip of a lifetime. It was an out-of-this-world experience and I am real thankful you were there at every step of the way from coaxing me to go through with it and “celebrating” it with me after that at Marche.
I think I really should resume my swimming or else I will be nowhere near learning the ropes to diving or my first water love, wakeboarding!