Saturday, May 30, 2009

Snorkeling Adventures and DWS

It is already 120 farheheit here during the day. That means no more running, mountain bikes, or hiking that extends much past the wee hours of the morning.

But there is always the ocean. Oman has utterly stunning beaches and ocean waters. I have recently been initiated into the world water sports. Although I have yet to surf, I can now call myself a very amateur snorkeler and slightly better Deep Water Solo-er.

Snorkeling for those of you (like me) who have never spent much of any time around an ocean before is basically floating on top of the water with your head down, so that you can see clearly all the fish, eels and coral and other very strange and beautiful sea creatures.

Fully equipted with all my own mask and snorkel now, I can now stay face down in the water for a solid 15 minutes before freaking out about not being able to breath through my nose, or because of some terrifying yet known sea species, or even more so because of a very scary and very unknown sea species.

I never knew or appreciated what was under me when I was swimming. Although now that I know, I'm a little more wary about swimming. I have seen a shark, a massive sting ray (coming right at me!), a sea turtle, a bizarre pencil fish, and many other creatures that I can't identify. For a look at some of the fantastic sights, check out my friend's (and fellow snorkeler's) blog here. He has a video up of an average day under the water.

Deep Water Soloing is my other new past time in this grueling heat. The coastal waters of Oman are full of small, rocky islands. Some of them really beautiful, complete with secluded and pristine white beaches that look like they were made just for you.

DWS is rock climbing on the part of these island cliffs that are over hung over deep water (so that you can fall 20 meters and be fine!...that is, if the sea creatures don't get you). It's an intense experience and a whole new kind of climbing. You have to hop from a boat (ours being luckily driven by an incredibly good-looking Omani man) onto the rock. I'm not going to lie, it can be pretty scary dropping into the sometimes pretty serious ocean waves from 1, 5, 10, 20 meters. But the feeling of climbing free, with no ropes, is exhilarating. Total connection with nature and total reliance on the waters to protect you from falling. It was a new experience of trusting and really feeling one with nature.

I am proud to say that I made it to the top of a 20 meter climb, and not so proud to say that I screamed like a little girl jumping off. Despite the fact that I've gone sky diving, that jump in the ravenous and consuming ocean waves from so high made me more scared than I've been in a while. But again, as I said, it is a fantastic experience of letting nature take care of you. While the ocean (and what's inside it) can be rather intimidating, you are "caught" by it so to speak. No ropes, no parachutes, nothing but you and it. I'm bruised and scratched and really sore, but it was an unusually intense and awareness (of both nature and of yourself) building experience. It was great.