When you live in paradise not every day can be a perfect day. There are the good days and the bad days, sunny days and rainy days. Living in the tropics I have experienced my fair share of all kinds of days and in time I have learned a very important concept that comes with living in paradise. Weather has very little to do with a perfect day.
My day started in much the same way as every day in paradise begins; I walked out onto the wooden porch of my small one bedroom bungalow to check the weather, a task every dive instructor begins their day with. The beautiful blue sky is hidden behind a wall of grey clouds darkened with rain and hanging depressingly low over the dark green fronds of the palm trees which, no longer still, are swaying violently in the wind. Sheets of rain are gushing down transforming my brightly coloured, tropical garden into a swamp. My face set with grim determination, I forego my refreshingly cold shower and instead pull a sweater over my bikini. Shorts are still my only option as long pants and mud puddles are not a promising combination. I step out of my front door locking it behind me and pull on my bright neon orange plastic raincoat that I bought in Thailand for a measly forty baht. It has lasted a good two years and has more holes than Swiss cheese but it has survived many tropical rainstorms and has not yet let me down.
Arriving at work a few minutes later with mud-splattered legs and passably dry work clothes. I rinse off the mud, hang up my raincoat and make a deliciously hot cup of coffee. With a panoramic view of the Balinese Sea, my colleagues and I assess the conditions with an intensity only a diver can muster. Divers do not care about rain; we know we are going to get wet anyway!
No, what we are thinking about when we gaze out to sea on this particular day is wind. Wind creates waves and waves of a certain size can cause complications when taking a boat out from the shore. Luckily for us, the wind is blowing from the south which means the waves will be small. Balinese diving boats are designed for the pristinely calm waters that surround the islands, they are however remarkably durable and can handle moderately rougher conditions. The diving today will continue as it normally does one dive in the morning and one dive in the afternoon. Setting up equipment in the rain is not my favourite part of being an instructor but what job does not have a few minor drawbacks. The divers begin to arrive and the morning bustles with greetings and jokes about the weather. The divers assemble into small groups and the instructors begin their pre-dive briefings, with a few added words about the safety procedures to be followed in stormy conditions. Everybody gears up and we walk down to the boat cautiously boarding the boat and taking our seats. The boat draws away from the shore rising and falling with the gentle rocking of the ways. The rain, still sleeting, whips at our faces and one of the instructors jokingly puts his mask on using his fingers as windscreen wipers.
We arrive at the dive site and the divers put their equipment on and run through the pre-dive safety checks eager to get into the water. We roll backward off the boat and are met with the surprising warmth as the water envelops us. I signal to my divers to descend and I release the air from my BCD. The roar of the rain disappears immediately, looking up I notice the rippling patterns the rain droplets create as they hit the surface. I check on my divers as we descend slowly, the water is darker without the sun’s illumination and an eerie feeling creeps up my spine, there is a mysterious quality to the water that surrounds us.
I feel as though something is out there in the deep blue depths, something hiding just out of sight.
I begin navigating our way over the reef, the dark shapes of the rocky outcrops loom over us. My whole body is alert with a secret knowledge that something is coming and I frequently look up from the reef expectantly waiting for the creature, whatever it may be, to make itself known. The reef is quieter today, the little fish scattering quickly between the branches of coral. The cracking sound of parrotfish munching on coral seems loud in the ominous silence.
Suddenly out of the depths a dark shadow flies toward us, growing imminently larger as it approaches.
I glance back at my divers and point it out barely taking my eyes off it for a second. My divers eyes grow wide and I turn back quickly, the shadow comes closer and transforms before my eyes. I start to recognise the features; beautiful black wings gracefully sweeping through the water, horn-shaped cephalic fins protruding from both sides of a wide gaping mouth. My regulator nearly falls out of my mouth as I stare breathlessly at the indescribable beauty of a manta ray as she glides effortlessly over the reef, tipping one wing down to turn, she flies past us and as quickly she came, she is gone, her shadow receding into the dark gloomy depths. I turn back to look at my divers and recognise my excitement reflected in their faces.
This is why we dive, come rain or sunshine, every day we enter the water, no matter what the weather is, for a chance to see nature at its best.