Featured image above by BY LAURENT BALLESTA from here
Scuba diving and the underwater world always excite me. While I have hardly scratched the surface and know very little about scuba diving, I was fortunate enough to work with a wonderful colleague, Masoom Parekh who has done around thirty-five dives so far and has a lot to share about her scuba diving experiences in the south Asia and India.
This cute curly-hair girl is a lawyer, with an undying love for scuba diving and underwater life. She is a certified scuba diver with Advanced Open Water certification from PADI with a Deep Dive speciality. She also has certification from Nitrox which allows her to take more oxygen content in her tank. Today, I present you my conversation with her on scuba diving and living her passion despite a full-time career in a Mumbai-based law firm.
Follow her on Instagram @masoomist
What is scuba diving to you?
Scuba diving is meditation for me. It brings me a sense of calm and peace in this everlasting hustle in life where all you do underwater is just breathe, the only important thing to do and observe your surroundings. It gives you much perspective on life, which represents that man is only an observer in this large scheme of the universe.
Your dream scuba diving destination and why so?
Well, the list keeps changing, as and when you read about dive sites every day and keep adding it to your list. Currently, one dream destination is Antarctica on south pole. It has some of the most exceptional marine life to offer, that one could never see in tropical waters.
You cannot miss out on the pictures of incredibly beautiful and mysterious deep-sea life below Antarctica in this National Geographic post here.
What was it like to overcome the fear of getting drowned or lost in the sea? How did it change your perception of life underwater?
I understand some people have a fear of water, but to be honest, I did not face that. I learnt swimming as a child and have been very comfortable in the water. However, before my first-ever dip in the ocean, I was breathing a little heavily and was nervous for a few minutes. I kept telling myself that I know how to swim, so even if I find myself at a low point in the ocean, I can always swim up. On the other hand, being lost in the sea is a real possible danger and one must therefore always abide by the dive safety protocols. We are never to dive alone, always dive with a buddy.
Your favourite scuba diving experience so far?
I am still at a nascent stage in my scuba diving journey, I have dived in India at a couple of places and at the Sipadan islands in Malaysia. While Indian dive sites offer you the comfort of familiarity of diving with known dive professionals, the water visibility in the Sipadan islands is phenomenal. But one mesmerizing diving experience was in a quarry in Kunam near Pondicherry, which was a multifaceted experience in the sense it offered the experience of night dive and cave diving in fresh water.
Your role model in scuba diving and why so?
It has to be my instructors and dive masters. It’s not always that you are calm in the water, you do find yourself panicking at times when water conditions are not favourable. Fortunately, I have always had amazing instructors and dive masters, who are so calm and composed that just looking at them has helped me calm down and relax and enjoy my dive.
Scuba Diving Centers Masoom recommends in India
- Lacadives in Havelock Island, Andaman
- Temple Adventures, Puducherry
You may also explore scuba diving courses from PADI here. Two of my law school friends also had a good experience with Salty Bone Divers in Chennai.
Tell us about your last trip to Malaysia and scuba diving there.
It was one photo on Instagram by Scubjunkie, a dive centre in Mabul, Sabah, with the tornado of barracudas that made me make up my mind to visit Malaysia for diving. Malaysia has two regions, peninsular Malaysia and Eastern Malaysia, whereas Peninsular Malaysia is much more advanced, and the Sabah state in eastern Malaysia is known for its mountains and islands. Sipadan islands are one natural beauty still preserved fairly well by the Malaysian military. Sipadan island has been the centre of a territorial dispute between Malaysia and Indonesia for quite some time but because of its natural beauty, it has attracted divers from across the globe. We had to get our permits from the military every day. They would give us a flag which we would have to hoist on our boat, only then were we allowed to dive for the day. A remote island with very little cell reception, where we would dive, come back on the island, eat a little, rest under the coconut trees and go diving again in our boats. We would have three dives in a day at Sipadan island, our day would begin as early as 4.30 am from Mabul island and we would get done by 2 pm and head back to our resort. Unfortunately, because of the border tension between the two nations, we are no longer allowed to stay at the Sipadan island. It has some of the most beautiful dive sites like Turtle Tomb and Coral Gardens, which left me awestruck.
5 Tips for a Beginner Scuba Diver
Start small with a DSD
I would suggest anyone who would want to try scuba diving, should start with a DSD (Discover Scuba Diving) program where a professional will assist you and take you in the water. They will teach you basic skills. Once you assess that you are comfortable in the water, you may consider taking up the basic course for beginners, which is the open water course.
Swimming skill matters
One does not need to know swimming to do the DSD. However, for the open water course, which is the first step to becoming a certified diver, swimming is a prerequisite. I did my open water course from Lacadives in Andaman from their Havelock branch, and I would recommend them to anyone. Great service and my instructor was amazing. There are other good dive centres in Andaman and Pondicherry in India.
Do an open water course
Doing your scuba diving open water course from India is, I believe, a good idea as instructors here are pretty conservative in their approach and will give you a sense of familiarity as you would be embarking on a very new journey which can be a little daunting for some.
Expect discomfort at first
The first diving experience may not always be the most comfortable experience and it may take some time to get over your fears, but once you get through them, you will be flying underwater, quite literally!
It’s not as scary as it may seem
NO, SHARKS WON’T EAT YOU. Fishes are your friends, unless you bother them, nothing will hurt you, except Trigger fishes. Oh, they are mean little teethy fishes!
How do you manage to balance your passion for scuba with a demanding job as a lawyer?
Sadly, scuba diving is not a cheap sport. My zeal to work as a lawyer replenishes after every diving holiday as I am always left with wanting more, and for more dive holidays, you need more money, so do better at your job. Haha, jokes apart, I try to take two dive holidays in a year. Since the time I learnt how to dive, I usually try to plan my travel to places where I can dive and explore both. There is not a minute where diving is not on my mind. It’s my goal to fit diving into my daily routine, hopefully, I will get there soon.