It’s another sunny day in Egypt and the gilded rays refract brightly off the pulsating turquoise surface of the Red Sea. The boat rocks gently; I sit with my fins apart, head lowered as I tighten the straps on my kit.
When I’m finished the other divers help haul me up – it’s difficult to do alone with the weight of the tank on my back – and hold onto my arms as we shift to the deck. We stand in a row squinting against the sun, waiting for the boat to come to a halt.
When it does, the divers take the big step in one-by-one, falling seamlessly like dominos into the ocean. I go last, holding my mask and regulator to my face as I stride. The water is a cool relief. We face back to the boat and signal that we’re okay and ready to make our descent.
There are great experiences in the depths that are very difficult to forget; this particular dive is one of them. At around twenty meters, I hover quietly above the sand while my dad stations himself to capture a small eel on camera. I kick my fins lazily, pulling myself into an upright position. The rest of the group are just ahead of us.
If I tilt my head back to clear my mask, I can see the surface of the water, the light filtering vibrantly through, fish moving concentrically about each other reminiscent of the arcade game Snake. But then I look down.
There’s a small cloud of dusty particles by my fin, and I carefully move upward. This area is devoid of coral, hosting only a rusty box-shaped wreck (from what I can remember), which my dad is still inching towards to take a photo. Startlingly, there’s something else by my fin other than silt – a small, sand-coloured bulge that I realise after a brief moment is an octopus.
I had never seen an octopus in the sea before. I make a surprised shout through my reg, and obviously my dad doesn’t hear me.
Carefully I edge away from it and swim over to him, knocking on his tank to get his attention. When he looks, I point excitedly to the creature, and he finally gives up on the eel.
After we’ve taken our pictures, he gets the attention of the other divers. The group swarms towards us, excited by the spot, each sensibly taking pictures of the octopus.
When we resurface, I feel ecstatic.
And sure, the specific taste of the salt in my mouth, the heaviness of the sand in my hair and the silky feel of the ocean as it glides between my fingertips will fade like all memories do, but I will never forget seeing the octopus with its limbs outstretched on the seabed, head lolling graciously with the feeble current – it is in my mind and my heart, and so is the sea.
~ Ella Betts ~