I had a momentary lapse towards selfishness yesterday, and the Ocean wasted no time in whacking me back into humility and appreciation.
We were out on a snorkel & dive day trip to Atauro Island, and I was excited. It was the final day of the year, and I had one dive student to finish off – his final 2 dives of the course had to be postponed when I caught a bacterial infection and had to stay out of the water for awhile. So yesterday I was happy about being able to send 2016 off doing what I love best – being in the ocean and taking yet another new diver to explore the wonders underneath the blue.
On the last dive of the day, and basically my last dive of 2016, the weather started to turn a little and made water visibility drop down to a mere 6-8 meters (which is not very common for our dives on Atauro – we’re usually spoiled by 20-30m viz!). There wasn’t much sun in the sky either, with rain clouds starting to build up above us, so as soon as we descended onto the coral reef, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Dang it, this is going to be a cold and shit dive. I don’t want a shit dive as my finale of 2016!”. Yes, I am ashamed to admit, I sulked a little.
You see, under normal circumstances I would have typically been thankful just for the fact that I was spending the day in the ocean. But 2016 was a bit of a rollercoaster ride for me. My ever-optimistic, ever-positive side who hates to dwell on the unavoidable downsides of life is of course always focusing on all the amazing, great things that have happened for me in 2016. Things like the holidays and meet-ups and trips I’ve made with people I love at various points of the year, and the months I spent on my ever-favourite Perhentian Island with my favourite “dive family“, and getting a new job opportunity here in Timor Leste diving in waters filled with whales and dolphins galore, and many many more uncountable good, happy things I am truly blessed with. It is still however a reality that I did get dealt with a few horrid blows this year – barely a handful but each one hitting hard enough to make a deep dent I can’t ignore. So on the last day of 2016 I guess I just wanted it to end well, as a symbolic way to assure myself that things are fine after all. Closing it with a crappy dive to remember the day with was not what I had hoped for.
And then the ocean jolted me from my self-induced self-pity, giving me a huge cold slap in the face as a wake up call and reminder to not allow myself to fall into this trap of negative thoughts, to just live and savour every moment, and to just TRUST LIFE, whatever it brings me. As I was diving along this murky reef, sullenly trying to cheer myself up by focusing on the marine life and corals I love, when barely 20 minutes into this dive that I thought would be subpar and uneventful… A BEAUTIFUL, 3-4 METER LONG BABY WHALE SHARK EMERGES FROM BEHIND ME AND SWIMS BY, RIGHT NEXT TO ME!!! If I had extended my hand out, I would have been able to touch it. She was the most unexpected thing I thought to encounter on that dive, mainly because we were diving on our house reef, in a bay a mere 200-300m from shore (note for the non-diving readers : a ‘house reef’ is usually an easy dive site , fairly protected from the elements, that is located right in front of where a dive center/accommodation is situated, making it readily accessible at any time, and a typical go-to dive site when conditions anywhere else that is more exposed to the elements gets unsuitable for diving).
I have had my fair share of whale shark encounters during dives, but trust me, with a gorgeous, somewhat magical fish as big as this, seeing them never gets old. Especially when an encounter is least expected, like yesterday. Needless to say, as soon as my brain processed what was happening and I got over the initial wide-eyed-heart-skip-a-beat shock over this huge hulking shape I was seeing swimming towards me, my face broke into the most ginormous smile, I joyfully screamed “DESSTINYYYYYYYYYYY” into my regulator (a Finding Dory reference by the way, for the PIXAR/Finding Nemo/Finding Dory non-fans), and started gesticulating wildly at my dive student to catch his attention and get him to swim as fast as he can to try and keep up with the whale shark. And then I laughed. I laughed and had tears of joy in dripping in my mask for the rest of the dive as I realized how awful I had been to doubt the ocean. Just like life, I was reminded that yes, sometimes the water gets murky… but moments of magic do lie within it and just because we can’t see it yet does not mean it does not exist. We have to just learn to trust that good things will happen at the right time for the right reasons. This may sound silly but in that moment I felt loved by the ocean. I felt like I was given this whale shark as my year end gift. I offered a prayer of thanks to the Almighty, and took the surprise as a wake up call for me to be thankful for all the ups and downs life brings me.
In the end, I got to end my 2016 year of diving in the most special of ways after all 😍 And with that, I say a great big warm “Hello” to 2017! It feels good that you’re here!
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYBODY! May the year ahead bring out all the unexpected magic that hides in the sometimes-murky waters of your ocean ❤️
Soundtrack: Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle
Mood: Elated 🤗
Location: Dili, Timor-Leste
Random thought: Baby animals are just so squee squee squee!! 💕