The great thing about having an island to yourself, well save the 300+ workers toiling day and night to have the resort ready for its Christmas soft opening, is having possession of the waters, as well. Now, if you’ve known me for a considerable amount of time, the fact that I might even consider scuba diving is completely laughable. If you don’t know me or we’re recent acquaintance, let me give you the brief backstory. When I was a wee anklebiter not much more than two, I was in a hotel, Paris Landing in West Tennessee to be precise, for a family reunion. While my mom was showering, Jaws came on the TV, and just the vicious attack scene at that. Since then, I’ve been deathly afraid of all things water, showers and swimming pools included, no exaggeration. This one two-minute viewing of teeth and fins and blood would forever haunt my dreams and be the cause of my night terrors for years to come. So thanks, Stevie Spielberg; perhaps I should have been sending you my therapy bill for the past two decades.
When I decided to go the Maldives, I knew it was one of the premiere spots to go diving in the whole world. So how could I not? Scott and diving enthusiast friends like Helle would have had me for lunch. It had taken me 23 years to work up to snorkeling, and after a solid year of grazing the glassy oceanic surface with a mask and breathing device, I was still trepidacious about sticking my big toe in the big pond. Before arriving in Manafaru, the publicist Michele asked if I would like to try it out. “Sure…” I trailed off timidly, not thinking I’d actually go through with it. But when I arrived and saw the luscious waters beckoning me, I knew I was going to have to get over my fear and try it…just once.
Manafaru has a PADI-trained team and offers certifications, but since the resort has not opened yet there was just a sole instructor to give me lessons. Diana told me the first day would just be on land, so I figured I wouldn’t have to take the plunge just yet. But after a 10-minute overview of how the equipment worked, my instructor had me in the shallow end to work on my breathing and buoyancy. I was fine with that. Sharks don’t cruise at four feet deep anyway. Then he suggested we swim to the end of the jetty, which was a good 100 feet out, maybe more. He grabbed my hand and we were off, with no time for me to change my mind.
I saw Nemo and every one of his friends (save the surfer turtle dudes and scary sharks, THANK GOD): parrotfish, clownfish, trumpetfish, angelfish, starfish, fish with stripes, beaks, polka dots, painted lips, fish wearing tuxedos, scary snakelike morray eels that poked their beady eyes out of the rocks and snapped at us as we fluttered by, coral that looked like brains and moved when you tickled it, Napoleons the size of my torso, garden eels that reminded me of a sea of grass ruffled by a breeze (as you pass, they pop back in their holes), and that’s just the beginning. I was so overwhelmed by the hundreds of species of aquatic life we mingled with that I had no time to be scared. The next day, when Nameless Diving Instructor (the thing about Muslim countries is everyone is named Hassan, Mohammed, Ahmed or some variation so it’s hard to keep everyone straight) suggested we take the doni to a nearby inhabited island and do an open water dive, I beat him to the jetty. We went nearly 60 feet down, and the view was even more amazing.
I think it’s safe to say I’ve found a new addiction. But no worries, the old Kristin is still there: The next day I went swimming on an uninhabited island by myself and went running for shore the second I dunked my head under water as visions of sharks danced in my head. Some things never change.
Editor’s Note: Due to seasonal differences (and the fact that I just plain forgot), I was unable to find an underwater camera before I went to adequately illustrate this blog. HOWEVER, when Scott and I return in March (that’s right, I’M COMING BACK!), I will make sure to come armed with a whole suitcase full.