to scuba dive or not to scuba dive…

To scuba dive or not to scuba dive…

by Janice Nigro

I suppose being a scientist all of my life and being trained to adhere to the repetition of a so-called logical stepwise process (purpose, methods, results…repeat) has made me somewhat envious of more artistic types who can sit down and write a poetic sentence about some kind of place that only exists in their imagination. Or simply draw or paint it.

I have never really been able to do that so I go scuba diving. It is the Earth, but it seems that every bit of magic used in Harry Potter is a fact of reality underwater. I get to defy gravity for four hours a day…or a little more if the guides let us stay for as long as our air lasts (this is the one thing that breaks the spell). I fly in the current, swim with wobbegongs, sea dragons, and winged pipefish (real names not from Harry Potter), and dive guides seem to make creatures appear out of the sandy bottom by waving their hands over it. No other word for it, it’s magic.

The irony is that my scuba diving life began in a swimming pool in Nashville TN, a place where you would think you would be more likely to sing about the sport than actually do it. I did not immediately go to the dive destinations one dreams about, as my check out dives took place in a murky stone quarry on a cold November day. Once the training part was over however the rest of the world of diving was wide open to me, and my first real dive was in Maui, Hawaii.

It has been over 600 dives since then. After so much time, I have a whole list of reasons for someone to get certified if they are at all thinking about it because diving has affected my whole life, not just my holiday time.

Scuba diving is a sport. Scuba diving is a physical activity, and yet, it really only requires you to be comfortable in the water. The water does a lot of the work for you, unless you dive in fresh water where buoyancy is more of a struggle. Something I never thought about before I started to dive was that physical challenges for some on land disappear when they dive. I have been diving with a woman in a wheelchair on land who managed on her own underwater, and I have watched a hearing impaired couple converse beautifully underwater with their hand signals, while the rest of us banged on our tanks to communicate. It is a forgiving sport when it comes to age; you can do it forever. And it is one sport where if you are female, you tend have an edge because you use less air.

Scuba diving will immerse you in nature. It is inevitable, you will start to talk about creatures, maybe even memorize their Latin names, that few people know of and even fewer have seen. You will look at something barely visible one day and the next day perhaps the biggest fish in the sea. You cannot help but feel the surprise of nature, one sperm one egg and you will become either a hairy shrimp or a whale shark.

Scuba diving is an easy way to guide your travel around the world. I use all kinds of reasons to travel-friends, work, and even chocolate. But diving has taken me places I am sure I would never have traveled to otherwise. Fiji, French Polynesia, and the Philippines maybe, but have you ever heard of Palau or Yap? The bucket list really never gets shorter, even with more dives, and the cultural experience that accompanies it, is a gigantic bonus.

Scuba diving is a social activity. Navigating some of the routes and some of the airports especially alone or even with someone can be exhausting, but when you land somewhere you immediately have a group to socialize with. There is always something to talk about at the end of a dive day, and conversation including anything ending in –shark or –ray never becomes dull. It is rather like a “speed socializing” event so that in a few days, you can meet interesting guides and guests from different countries, learn about the local culture, and maybe even pick up a few words of the local language.

Scuba diving can make you an artist. I am a scientist so the big surprise for me is that scuba diving got me hooked on photography. Really, I never took a photo, at least not one that I took time to think about, until I started diving. It was an impulsive decision to buy a camera with an underwater housing, literally three hours before a flight from LAX for a dive trip to Nadi, Fiji, but it was one of those “no duh” moments and the best use of 600 USD ever. Family and friends could now relate to my diving experiences even though my first underwater photos were pretty un-terrific, but now I have a decent portfolio and some powerful tools for convincing the rest of the world to take care of the oceans. Fish perhaps the average person expects to be everywhere in the sea, but when I show a photo of a Tasmanian pot bellied seahorse (half a meter long) that was only about 3 meters from the surface of a shore dive, they stop to think about what goes in it.

So scuba diving is sport, travel, art, and a little bit of science too. There is no question for me, just go diving!

©2016 Janice Marie Nigro/


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