Swimming with the fishes

Yesterday for the first time in my life I went snorkelling off the coast of South Africa.  It was incredible, terrifying and utterly exhilarating!

Although I grew up in the English country side an hour away from the coast I have always had a fascination with the sea. I am drawn to it. To be by the ocean always gives me a feeling of inner calm. I sometimes think, rather fancifully, it is in my blood. Way up in my family tree are lines of ancestors would lived, worked and loved the sea.

Being short, with small hands and feet I am not the ideal shape for swimming. Whilst I am competent I do not pretend to be a strong swimmer. I have a very healthy fear of the ocean. I am under no illusions of the dangers of powerful rip and under currents, sets of large waves which can push you under or onto the rocks, jelly fish, sharks, and even dolphins. All of which can be found in abundance off the coast of  South Africa.

Taking my courage in my hands though I asked my friend Charlie, a strong swimmer who has been diving since she was a child, if she would take me snorkelling. Since it was my first time Charlie wanted to wait for the perfect the conditions, it needed to be flat as possible, sunny, low tide, and clear water. After months of waiting, rather impatiently, we went. It was amazing. I can’t describe the freedom of being in the water, the gently rippling sea stretching out before you to the horizon. I LOVED it! The water was beautiful, underneath I could see the rocks, encrusted will all sorts of shell fish, barnacles and wonderful things I have never seen before and have no idea as to their names. With my fins on, in the deep water I felt like a mermaid. At one point Glade grabbed my leg and I had a mini heart attack thinking the local ragged nose shark had decided I was worth a taste. It’s surprisingly easy to hyperventilate through a snorkel! Once I calmed I carried on with my underwater exploration, I saw beautiful blood red and vivid purple things that looked like flowers and schools of fish darting about here and there. Its not just what you see, it’s the sense of peace, mingled in with utter excitement and a tingle of fear.

I think I have found my sport. For those who also love the sea – you have to try snorkelling it is awesome. For everyone else, challenge yourself! Try something new. Do something that excites you. It sounds silly but that one snorkelling session changed me. I felt braver, stronger.

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