Trip Start Nov 08, 2006
260Trip End Ongoing
Jaws ruined my life when I was a kid and open water has always made me nervous. Take away the bright lights and colorful creatures, and it's absolutely ominous in the sea. But instead of being consumed by panic, I was immediately at ease and in awe. We saw tons of urchins, strange fish with giant eyes, an eel, and a baby octopus smaller than my hand. Watching it propel itself through the water and toward my mask was easily one of the coolest things I've ever seen. I'm definitely not saying that I've done so much that I'm not longer impressed by each new place and experience, but there are very few moments that immediately impress upon you that they are rare and exciting and unforgettable. Our guide said he had been diving almost daily for a decade and he'd never seen a baby octopus. We were all enthralled.
We also saw the largest lobsters I've ever seen, and a myriad of oddities. We ended the dive with something we had been excited about the entire time, and which I had been experimenting with throughout the night: we turned off our flashlights and glided our limbs through the black sea to activate the phosphorescent algae in the water. It lit up in an electric blue and looked like a thousand tiny specks of tinsel flashing into being from the nothingness. I just kept doing loops and flailing around in the spectacle, giddy like a kid on Christmas or a drunk monkey at happy hour. I didn't exit the water until everyone was already in the boat and threatened to leave me behind.
Here's a portion of a piece I'm working on for Koh Phi Phi:
I floated in the inky blackness, swimming in an abyss seemingly infinite in depth and possibilities. I rolled onto my back and unknown constellations swiveled into view, crisp and luminous even through the water and sky that separated us. There were no city lights to steal the heavens, and a blanket of stars spread out before me. I spun, once again plunging my masked face into the darkness. I clicked on the large underwater flashlight which hung weightless in my hand and a spotlight pierced the void, calling into existence towers of coral and swarms of sea life.
The traffic that bustled below us was vastly different from that of a daylight dive. Razor-teethed barracuda lurked in the shadows, opportunistically using our lights to catch glimpses of potential prey. Lobsters the size of Big Wheels trucks cruised along the edge of the limestone cliffs protruding from the island. Spiny sea urchins littered the sea floor, a minefield ensuring that divers keep to the surface and don't linger too long in a world that is clearly not their own. I glanced ahead and found some new creature dancing animatedly in my path. It floated toward me in the tunnel of light, and as it approached I was startled by recognition. Even when only a few inches across, an octopus is an unnerving sight in the open water. It was just a foot from my mask and its hue shifted slightly from pink to red as it investigated this strange intruder. Each time I moved away, it would quickly jettison itself with amazing fluidity and close the gap. For several minutes we danced like this, and I was embarrassed by the fear that gripped me as its tiny tentacles came too close to latching onto my mask.