I look down at the water and now I’m not sure I want to do this. But there’s no turning back now. The cameras we brought with us are focused on me, Victoria Rubadiri has already walked off the edge of the boat and there’s no forgetting the boys looking on expectantly and who I teased mercilessly for being too chicken to try out scuba diving.
“Come on,” I remember saying excitedly when we spotted the dolphins, “Why are we wasting time? Let’s get in the water. I want to swim with the dolphins.”
We’re at the Kisite Mpunguti Marine Park off Wasini island on a press familiarisation trip of the Kenyan coast courtesy of the Kenya Tourism Board and in the spirit of YOLO (You Only Live Once) as one Judith Wambare so aptly put it to me, I opted to see what the underwater park has to offer via scuba diving.
So, as I said, there’s really no turning back now and so I grip the edge of Simba Kazaa (the boat) in an attempt to mask the shaking of my legs and walk off the edge.
In the split of a second I’m below the water’s surface and come back up just as fast, too fast, buoyed by a life jacket.
When I surface, our diving instructor drags me toward the rope, I presume, holds the anchor.
“When we get to the rope and I make sure you’re both okay I’ll deflate the life jacket and we can start to descend. Try and stay vertical,” I remember him explaining to Victoria and I.
This is it. Do or die time. We’re at the rope and the instructor is waiting on me to give the okay sign. I feel the panic starting to rise up in my throat.
“Remember to take slow deep breathes,” the instructor’s words come back to me, “if you panic you’ll hyperventilate.”
And so I take a deep breathe, calm my nerves and give the okay sign, remembering not to use the thumbs up sign, although my insides are quaking.
He lets a little air out of the jacket but my legs refuse to co-operate, “will you face down,” I scream at them in my mind.
Sensing my distress the instructor helps me get them pointing in the right direction as he lets more air out of the vest.
Well, at least everything’s now going just as the instructor said it would, even the discomfort in my ears as the pressure changes.
And as we go deeper I keep pinching my nose and blowing so my ears pop just like the instructor showed us.
At the back of my mind I know we won’t go deeper than six metres but it feels much more as the instructor takes my left hand into his right and Vicky’s right into his left and we venture out letting go of the rope.
“This half hour won’t go fast enough,” is the first thing I think and then proceed to wonder why Vicky and the instructor are swimming lower than me before I try to move higher so I don’t scrape myself on the coral.
But once I catch sight of my first fish all I can think is, “wow, I should have worn my contacts.”
Pretty soon the instructor has to tap my hip to keep me from kicking up a storm with my knees as I attempt to pursue one brightly coloured fish then another.
I’m pretty sure I see an eel slither away on the floor of the ocean but it’s not like your typical safari where your guide can talk and explain the wonders of the wild to you.
So he points, we stare and then look back at each other in wonder.
“It can’t have been 30 minutes already,” I catch myself thinking when the instructor jerks his thumb up toward the surface.
When we surface the first words out of Vicky’s mouth are, “did you hear the dolphins?” and then there they are, right in front of us, up in the air.
“Now that I’ve go the mechanics down,” I say to Vicky as I try not to gulp up too much salt water, “next time will definitely be better.”
Yes. There’ll be a next time.
Olive Burrows is a feature writer with Capital FM.