By Cristina Zenato
The horizon is the beginning of my world. As I started as a young diving instructor in the Bahamas I used to ride the boat sitting on the roof with fellow instructors, soaking in the morning sun rays, as the boat glided over a shimmering road of glittering sea. It was perfectly paved to show us the way to the first dive of the day, the first adventure.
I often listen to divers listing the places or the dive sites they have visited and how they consider those places a “been there done that” kind of destination, wanting to move onto the next location, the next adventure, the next bigger and better experience. We live in a time of instant gratification, of fast responses at the slide of a finger, and we collect check marks in our notebooks of the places we have been and the animals we have experienced. This pace is reflected in everything surrounding us, from the responses we expect from the Internet, from people (the good old 24 hours rule for responding to an email is regarded as too slow), from the movies to even the fast paced documentaries Nat Geo and Discovery Channel are offering us. I have even been asked if diving with my sharks ever gets boring, as if it could be boring to spend time with your pet dog, cat, horse or any other animal you consider dear to your heart.
At nearly twenty-two thousand dives I feel like I am standing on a platform as a fast paced train sweeps by forgetting to stop to pick me up. I have dived places over and over, I have traveled back to the same destinations, sometimes as far as Fiji. I have swum the same areas countless times and each and every time with a new look and a new interest. I consider the oceans, but also the lakes, the rivers, and the underground and underwater caves we dive, our special moon on this planet. And each and every time they bring different experiences, different creatures and events.
Dive site fidelity is one the most amazing privileges I have been granted in my life. Through repetitive dives in the same place I have noticed changes, positive and negative ones, I have discovered new creatures, and I observed long term behaviors. I saw sea spiders on two different dive sites in the Bahamas before it was even listed in the Humann/DeLoach book Creatures of the Caribbean and I remember not being able to find an identification card for it anywhere. Only years later, after going through the 2nd edition I found my cute blue and yellow sea spider listed. I saw “The Thing” once on the same wreck I dive weekly, never to see it again. I spent five to seven minutes flat in the sand breathing as little as possible to observe the phenomenal dance of different Sail Fin Blennies. I witnessed the birth of octopi, the mother launching them into the night by blowing hard, after observing that same octopus nesting for weeks on end. I watched juvenile Angelfish become adults and reside in the same area for years and years, finding a mate and continuing on into the role that nature has given them.
The moon is not out there in space; the moon is one giant stride off the platform of our boat, a walk off the beach and one breath away from the surface. Repetition of dives and visiting the same places again brings a knowledge and experience close to walking on the moon. Do not get me wrong, I love the idea of new places, but even in the new places I need to be able to dive them over and over again. I want to feel I can recognize the sponges and the corals and each and every turn of the place. Some of the most amazing people I have met in this industry share the same kind of passion and it has brought to attention behaviors we could have not witnessed in one, two or even three dives. Like a painting in our living room that we look at every day finding new details in each brush stroke, we can look at one dive site the same way and find out that the moon is not too far from our reach.