So why, did I go to Atlantis to try diving in the aquarium? I don’t really know.
I’ve never dived before, but thought ‘hey, I’ll give it a go‘ (ignoring the memories of snorkelling in Vanuatu, where I got so stressed out by fish being near me, that I started hyperventilating, screaming through my snorkel, and having my mask filled up with snort and I had to be pulled out of the water).
So I headed to Atlantis Aquarium’s diving section, and was watching people submerge into an open-air tank of death. ‘There are 65,000 creatures in here,’ they told me – as though it was a good thing. ‘Pah!’ I thought.
As soon as I arrived, I decided to back out, and said ‘no, I’m not doing this’.
Ironically, the experience was sponsored by Tag Heuer and the tagline ‘Don’t Crack Under Pressure’, which I took to be sarcastic. I had cracked before I even got my toes wet thanks.
Sting rays, the size of king-size beds were floating around like underwater bed sheets of doom, sharks slithered through the water, circling their prey and giant fish with engorged heads swam ominously so I bowed out…or attempted to.
‘Are you going to try it?’ they asked with a smile.
‘Well,’ I thought, ‘I don’t want to but people seemed to be surfacing unharmed and when else will I ever get to try scuba-diving to my doom?’ Plus it was 40 degrees, so a swim seemed like a good idea. So I suited up, and dipped my toes in.
My instructor, Bruce, was lovely and took it easy with me – even though “Justine’ the giant pregnant sting ray was circling (okay maybe she was just sitting on the bottom, watching me, but still – I could feel her gaze)
The Atlantis aquarium is 10 metres deep and has a huge amount of marine life calling it home. So imagine my fear when I was fully submerged, and the array of magical underwater life suddenly was up next to me.
Needless to say, hyperventilating happened…a lot. I struggled, even at my calmest moments to keep my breathing regular.
Never the less, Bruce persisted, slowly helping me inch my way under water, breathing slowly and step by step into the deep.
The aquarium is beautiful, and at my moments of calm, I took in the beauty and serenity of being underwater. I slowly managed to get deeper, and over the under-water ledge, taking in the stunning scenery.
It’s peaceful, with fish swimming around. I found a rhythm in my breathing, looking into the distance at the beautiful colours and movement, lost in the moment, enjoying my decision to get in, ‘it’s not that bad,’ I thought to myself, ‘Why was I being so dramatic?’….that is…until Justine decided this would be a great time to swim past me, and tickle me with her wing.
‘BLUEGHHHH!’ I screamed into my oxygen mask.
My eyes widened and I lost control of my breathing, gasping into the oxygen mask.
I gave Bruce a distinct thumbs down to signal get me the f*ck out of here. We resurfaced, my heart racing. Feeling like I’d just escaped death, I felt jittery and fumbled toward the steps to get out.
Rolling onto the safety of the platform, I was still gasping for air. ‘Nice try.’ Bruce told me – I didn’t know whether it was sarcastic or not. I high fived myself for trying, as little progress as I made – and as I looked back, saw Justine waving what I took to be a congratulatory wave right back.
Cost: From Dhs950 per person.