Global Planan

Danny Lam: Science Communicator, Traveller, Photographer

Snorkeling in Zanzibar

“A school of fish sudden appear in front of me. The small shimmering blue fishes swim slowly around me as if they are as perplexed by me as I am them.”

The boat meanders slowly over the clear blue water. It rocks rhythmically as the wave’s cradle it left and right. The taste of the salty sea is on my lips and the wooden frame of the boat presses against my chest as I lean forward to peer over into the water below.

I have been on this small twelve seater boat for over an hour; we departed from Zanzibar at about nine in the morning and now it was nearing eleven. The ride here had provided a different perspective of Zanzibar. Peering into the distance it dawns on me how small these three islands really are. In minutes, the mainland was out of site and all I can see is the storm clouds gathering in the distance; and the few birds that dare to ventured this far from the coast.

I site on the edge of the boat with one leg dangling over the side into the water below. I hold onto a nearby rope, ensure that I do not lose my balance. As I do so, our small vessel darts over the sea, kicking a torrent of water high into the air. It lands on my face, but I don’t care, it is a momentary reprieve from the heat of the sun.

As clear as the water is, I still cannot see the sea bed. I put on my snorkeling gear. The mask fits tightly over my face. I breathe through the mouthpiece several times, checking for any faults. I then look at the lead instructor who smiles at me and nods his head. Then I leap.

I fall a good meter and break the water surface, and begin to sink. Water pours into my mouth and I desperately try not to swallow it. I kick my legs furiously to take me back to the surface of the water and as I break it I exhale. I watch as the rest of the crew follow.

Finally, the lead instructor jumps into the water. He does so with a perfect dive. He makes no splashes but instead, cuts through the water like a knife. Just watching him execute such this dive, you know lives in the ocean. As he surfaces he shouts to the group, “follow me,” he says in deep bellowing voice before jetting off. We give chase.

As I sim I stare into the bottomless void beneath me, every now and then a strange unfamiliar fish enters my view and I circle it eagerly. We continue for several minutes and finally, we enter the reef. The lead instructor allows us then to explore on our own but warns us to stay within site of the boat.

As I break apart from the group I am transported to a new world, one where I am merely an observer, one that I do not understand. I watch as the corral sways and dance with the currents. And I follow as the unfamiliar fish parts in panic as I arrive at their side.

The fish and coral provide a spectacular array of colors, some I cannot even name. As I swim I stare in awe.Fish

A school of shimmering blue fishes, about the size of my finger, sudden appear in front of me. They swim slowly around me as if they are as perplexed by me as I am them. They hover by slowly, staring at me as if trying to make sense of what I am. Their blue scales almost look metallic as the light from the sun illuminates them with an almost unnatural glow.

I watch as they swim, they make it seem so effortless; meanwhile, my legs are aching to keep me afloat. After a good ten or fifteen minutes, we part. I continue to swim for a while. Quietly watching and observing the spectacular site before me in awe.

The coral is now several meters below me, and the fish are too far out of site. But I am eager to continue exploring.

I break the surface of the water. Slowly I take three deep breaths and dive. I kick as hard as I can, forcing myself deeper and deeper into the water, the world grows darker the deeper I go. My lungs start to ache, but I keep pushing. Deeper and deeper I go. I finally reach the coral, but my lungs can’t take much more, I quickly survey the scene.

Around me the corral sways with the gentle current, each looks like something alien.

My lungs are burning.

The fish, of so many foreign colors, fly around me. Each of different sizes patterns and shapes.

The pain in my chest grows.

I take one last look at this secret world, and I know it is time to leave.

I frantically kick my legs and swing my arms as fast as I can; bringing me closer and closer to the sweet taste of air. As break the surface of the water I open my mouth wide and let out a loud low audible grunt. As I do so I expel the air that has been trapped in my lungs. I then breathe in deeply, and slowly.

I roll over on my back and stare into the sky, as I slowly breathe in and out.

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