I opened my eyes in a different world.
I was stunned by the shock of colour. My hand slammed against my face, futilely attempting to cover my dropped jaw. My mouthpiece hit my teeth. My mask filled with bubbles. I lifted my head above the waves, breaking the barrier between my old world and the new one that lingered below. My PADI dive instructor surfaced beside me.
“Don’t panic,” he told me in a thick Balinese accent. “When the mask floods, press here.” He pointed above his eyes. We both lifted our air valves and released the pressure, sinking slowly into the lukewarm water.
A giant turtle waved at me as he swam past. A school of shimmering silver fish circled my ankles. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness I could make out the other diver’s forms, dark and dreary against the vibrant clash of colour.
I could barely believe the abundance of sea creatures surrounding me. They came in all shapes and sizes. The ocean teemed with unimaginable forms of life.
Had this always been here, while I lived my life above, unknowing and oblivious?
We dove lower, kicking our feet steadily behind us. In my skin-tight wetsuit I felt streamlined and fish-like. I traced the lines of the reef’s cliff. Purple and yellow coral danced in the current like lilies in the breeze. Though I wasn’t physically exerted, my heart pounded ferociously.
The murky darkness parted to reveal a gigantic shipwreck. We were nearly 15 metres underwater by this point. The pressure was squeezing my ears.
We swam closer to inspect the damage. Small black buds were thriving off of the decaying wood. Rusted red metal gunnels clung to the former frame. Despite the large holes in the bottom of the boat and the missing mast, it was easy to recognize its former glory.
The entire atmosphere was eerie—forgotten, lonely, silent, submerged. I wondered who had sailed on the grand vessel, if any skeletons lay buried beneath, and whether or not their ghosts would appear.
We swam on through schools of jacks, bump-head parrotfish, seahorses, stingrays, yellow boxfish, and blue-banded angelfish. Nemo scurried past me. My giggles exploded into a fit of small bubbles.
My jaw kept dropping. I had to remind myself to breathe. My oxygen supply diminished steadily.
A brilliant ray of sunlight broke through the navy waves. The water was illuminated in a stunning sapphire blue. Every hue was intensified.
As we began our ascent, slow spirals of colour followed us up. We paused to regulate the pressure in our sinuses.
My eyes ate up the view hastily. I was relucant to return to my oxygen-rich reality. The low numbers on my dials coaxed me up to safety.
I threaded my hands through the soft bubbles above me, finally emerging through the waves. A white catamaran waited to escort the three of us back to Kuta Beach. Bali was another world I could barely explain or believe – another world I was simply entranced to explore.