In non-work related news, I recently conquered my fear of the ocean (at least partially), which I am extremely proud of!
I went on a mini-break with some colleagues to Southern Leyte for a long weekend, which was really nice. We stayed in a fantastic hotel called Sogod Bay Scuba Resort, which frankly I couldn’t speak more highly of. It was very reasonably priced, the place was lovely, the food was delicious and the staff couldn’t have been nicer. Sorry for the shameless plug, but it was such a fabulous place.
Anyhoo, I was there with a group of colleagues from Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the UK. Out of 11 of us, only 4 of us could swim, yet we headed out on a boat trip to do some snorkelling, and I was blown away by how brave my colleagues are! I’m already fairly scared of the ocean, what with all the sharks and jellyfish, and I consider myself a strong swimmer. However these guys chucked on a lifejacket, a snorkel and a pair of flippers and happily piled into the ocean to check out all the fish.
To give you a bit of backstory (you know how I love a bit of backstory), I went to Thailand on holiday with my dear friends Betty and Bryn back in 2007, and we went snorkelling off the coast of Ko Phi Phi. It was incredibly beautiful, but many of you know I have a fairly hefty fear of sharks (I blame my sister, who made me watch Jaws when I was very young). Anyhow, I would personally class my fear of sharks as a phobia, however my good friend informs me that it is not, in fact, a phobia. According to him, a phobia is an irrational fear of something. It is perfectly rational to fear large predators that could eat you, and therefore not a phobia. He claims it would only count as a phobia if I were afraid of sharks while on dry land. But I digress…
I am also fairly scared of jellyfish, sea urchins, all the many other poisonous and deadly things in the ocean, and seaweed. So there I was, snorkelling for the first time with Betty and Bryn, and as soon as I focused and started to see all the fish and corals, I panicked. I felt utterly surrounded – there were fish everywhere – underneath me, behind me, in front of me, and it was a horribly claustrophobic feeling. I turned tail and swam back to the boat as fast as I could, utterly freaked out and desperate to get out of the water.
Betty and Bryn meanwhile pissed themselves laughing as I came very close to capsizing the boat in my efforts to get up the ladder so fast. So in other words, snorkelling, the ocean, fish, deadly creatures, generally not my thing.
However, here I was in the Philippines, in awe of the bravery of my colleagues who couldn’t even swim away from scary things, boldly jumping into the sea, so I decided the least I could do was give snorkelling another go. I hesitantly hopped in the water with my snorkel and had a look around.
I should point out that at first I was basically standing with my feet on the sand, looking at the fish through my snorkel, on the grounds that nothing could swim up underneath me and eat me if my feet were on the ground…. I gradually worked up to swimming in water a couple of metres deep, and was eventually able to swim in 5-6 metre depths – so feeling very chuffed with myself!
The corals and fish in the Philippines are quite honestly astounding – so much life, only a metre or two below you. At first the weird, alien, brain-shaped corals were creepy and scary, but I swiftly got used to them. I saw tons of Nemos (or clownfish as non-Disney people like to call them) and bright blue starfish, and all sorts of things.
We even ran across a sea snake, which gave us a bit of a fright, but I remained surprisingly calm, even after being informed that those snakes are really quite poisonous, (but only if they bite you or you touch them!).
Then on the second day, my friend and I ventured out again for a slightly more peaceful boat trip (our non-swimming colleagues had gone back early to celebrate Eid).
AND I SAW A TURTLE!!
It was amazing – a real life, wild, Hawksbill turtle, just sculling along below me, all chilled out. It was amazing. I am gutted I don’t have an underwater camera, but my new friend who was diving took some pictures of the turtle so you can see for yourself how awesome it was!
So, I now have a renewed interest in the big blue, and am keen to continue tentatively exploring snorkelling and sea life… I may even one day buy an underwater camera and consider scuba diving – although that part is a long way off!