Karachi from under the sea

Published: November 18, 2014

Bright, red corals play host to a kaleidoscope of marine life; angel fish, tuna, sea urchins, are commonly seen. I came across more varieties of fish than I could recognise or name – it truly was a visual treat. PHOTO: PERVEZ SADIQ

My mother tells me a story of my childhood often. I was three, at some swimming club in London, and my sisters were taking swimming lessons. Too young to be allowed in at that age, I fought and wrestled against my mother, till the point that she was physically restraining me. The bemused instructor told my mother to let me go, to see what I would do. I made a running leap into the water, and haven’t looked back since. Having been a self-proclaimed water baby my entire life, scuba diving was naturally always high on my to-do list.

Last year, I finally got around to doing something about my aspiration to go scuba diving. It stemmed from a desire to explore something new in our great city, Karachi. While doing my research on the best facility to go to, I was recommended by a few friends to go with Indus Scuba, from their personal experience. They said the training was thorough, the safety measures were more than adequate and the instructors were very competent as well as personable.

Photo: Myra Iqbal and Extreme Maneuvers Adventure Club

Scuba diving season in Karachi is from November to about February. Keeping that in mind, I enrolled in the October classes to complete my pool sessions. These consisted of demos, equipment-based training, basic procedures and safety drills, as well as working with a ‘buddy’, which is your partner for the dive. You learn to work closely with your buddy, in case of emergencies when in the deep, such as running out of air supply or malfunctioning equipment, and you do certain skill based exercises such as taking your mask off and putting it back on underwater, learning to equalise, and more. The pool sessions also give you your first sensation of being able to breathe underwater, a sensation that nobody can really explain to you, and it really got me excited for my first open-water dive.

After completing a certain number of pool sessions, we finally ventured out into the open sea. On the day of the first open-water dive, the diving group headed towards Mubarak Village, from which we switched two boats to get to Charna Island. The long boat ride, the heavy equipment and the cumbersome wet suit, once in the water, stopped mattering, and a sense of excitement mixed with fear engulfed me.

The instructors took the group down slowly, with the help of a rope. At this point, I surprised myself by going halfway down, and then panicking a bit and coming back up. As it turns out, my panic was caused by the thought of entering the great unknown, something that I had always looked forward to. The dive master helped me control these fears and brought me down slowly to the sea bed, where the rest of my group was, about 20 feet deep. We did our drills which, to be honest, weren’t very different in the actual sea, if you can just control your mind.

Photo: Zarmina Faisal

Once those were done, we were taken to explore the coral.

Let nobody tell you that Pakistan has nothing to offer; the beauty of our marine life will leave you speechless. Being underwater and breathing, you become acutely aware of each and every breath you take, can feel the sensations of your body reacting to that breath, and in my experience, I think it just made me appreciate the beauty of what was around me.

Bright, red corals play host to a kaleidoscope of marine life; angel fish, tuna, sea urchins, are commonly seen. I came across more varieties of fish than I could recognise or name – it truly was a visual treat. I was told that there are barracudas and sting rays too, although I didn’t get to see either. The ever-changing visual scenery, the feeling of being in an unknown world and the majesty of nature at its best makes for a beautiful and humbling experience.

Photo: Zarmina Faisal

Time in the magical underwater world, however, is limited; we had to regroup and resurface. On subsequent dives, I realised one thing: even if you dive in the same spot again, no two dives are the same. The underwater world reveals different secrets each time, and plays a different host to your visual senses. Each has its own beauty, its own scenery, and its own feeling to offer, which can leave you overwhelmed and physically exhausted.

I went on to do more dives, finish the practical dive section of the PADI certification, as well as complete the theory and take the test, which gave me my certification. Scuba season ended, life went on as normal, but now it’s almost that time of the year, and my little mermaid senses have started tingling again.

Zarmina Faisal

Zarmina Faisal

Ad-girl, water-baby, adventurer, who is passionate about all things health and fitness. She tweet as @ZarminaF (twitter.com/ZarminaF)

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