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That Alice Moment

My Scholarship entry - A local encounter that changed my life

PHILIPPINES | Wednesday, 4 April 2012 | Views [500] | Scholarship Entry

The anticipation messes with your head. You could have sworn your heart was right next to your ear as you hear its thumps. You glance at your spotter squinting at the distance, and then go back to fidgeting with your snorkel mask. Wait, did he just say, ‘Jump!’?

And you jump, right into the chilly beryl deep. After a few chaotic seconds of flailing limbs underwater, you compose yourself & catch sight of what you came all this way for: the magnificent leviathan of a fish, nonchalantly passing by in all its 8-metre spotted glory. Everything else fades into the background. It takes all self-control not to reach out for its fin, ala-Free Willy.

If you would have told me before that I was to jump in the open sea to swim with sharks, I would have taken you myself to the asylum. But whatever magic was present that day in the sleepy town of Donsol, I will be forever grateful. Blessed with clear skies, we came out with 4 whale shark sightings. Some of them glided slowly, letting us bask in its graceful splendor; some of them really made us work our fins.

Once, I was having a peaceful moment snorkeling above a giant, when I noticed its spots getting larger by the second. I soon realized that it was trying to surface. As it came nearer, I was mentally shouting "5 feet away! 5 feet away!" at the titan. I was this close to riding piggyback, when the giant plunged into the deep again. The thought of that close encounter still makes me smile up to this day.

That first jump into the deep was nothing short of an Alice moment, wherein I tumble down into a hole & know that I'll never look at anything the same way again. The girl who used to be terrified of anything beyond reach of her feet learned to embrace her water legs. There's been some close calls for me in open water since then, but never a regret for taking a leap of faith. The memory of swimming with gentle giants constantly reminds me that there is just too much marvel out there to let my fears hold me back.

Tags: travel writing scholarship 2012


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