I’m free in three dimensions and weightless, and I can barely believe I’m not dreaming. Looking up, the wrinkled sun shimmers and winks through my ascending bubbles. I swim, clumsy in the dense water and unused to controlling my buoyancy. I have a buddy for safety, but even so, the dive is a surprisingly solitary experience. Despite checking on each other and pointing out the reef’s more exciting visitors, we’re silent (of course) save the bubbles that remind me that we’re breathing below the sea. It feels like I’m suspended with only my own thoughts and the marine life.
It’s my first open water dive, and I’m awed. Here, I’m a visitor to the reef’s complex and vibrant ecosystem, meeting parrot fish, eels, spider crabs, angelfish, rays, and their endless and colorful neighbors. I get to soar over their alien-shaped coral homes as I explore the largest and grandest saltwater fish tank in the world. Just past the reef, a sandy bottom stretches away, and I imagine I’m floating over the surface of the moon. Scuba diving, I discover, is my childhood dream come true – I’ve learned to fly.