DIVE GUIDES ELKE and Chrissie clearly explained the dive-plan, using beautifully illustrated diagrams of the site and covering pertinent risks.
My apprehensive mind focused on the warnings. From the corner of my eye I could see a RIB heading off, skirting the reef where tumbling waves spilled over the fringe in surfable barrels.
The whispering voices got louder, and the self-doubt started to creep in: “You’re inexperienced, you don’t know these waters – are you capable of this?”
My mind was at war with itself. “I want to see the sharks” was battling with “Don’t go in!”
“Don’t go in!” won. I was feeling too anxious to be safe, and didn’t want to ruin my buddy’s dive. I dejectedly watched divers head out in the RIB, part-relieved and part-annoyed with myself.
I distracted myself by chatting to the captain, learning some Arabic numbers and greetings.
We had breakfast, and the divers took the deserved mick out of me in the way in which us Brits are so good. Hearing about the others’ incredible tales of hammerheads and mantas, I resolved to join the second dive of the day.
At the briefing the guides, aware of my earlier bail-out, had thoughtfully offered a second dive option. It was an easy dive to skirt the southern edge of the reef, and I jumped in with no worries, and felt all my fears float away into the blue waters.
A large Napoleon wrasse arrived to remind me of how chilled being in the big blue was.
By the third dive the offer of an easy option was still there, but there was no chance of that. I was off to join the rest of the divers! The RIBs bounced along with ease, and I swear that the lumpy sea had got smaller.
We dropped next to the vertical reef wall, with coral shapes and textures beyond description. Within minutes two hammerhead sharks were swimming alongside the reef. They were nonchalant, uninterested in us and intensely striking and mesmerising to watch.