Consequences by Lindsay de Feliz
Having breakfast on a lazy Sunday morning as the sun flickered across the oak table, I looked up from the travel section of the Sunday Times.
“I want to go back to the Maldives next month,” I announced to my husband.
There was a pause.
“Did you hear me?”
“Yes, and I am not going with you. I am too busy and it’s a waste of money,” he answered gruffly. If he hadn’t said that?
“Fine, I’ll go on my own,” I replied.
Three weeks later I boarded an Emirates flight to Male, Maldives via Dubai and sitting there in Business Class, sipping my champagne, the excitement bubbled up in me, mirroring the golden bubbles in the glass.
I was off to my favourite place in the world, the amazing islands of the Maldives to go scuba diving, which I adored with a passion. And I was going alone; the only person to please was myself.
My husband of ten years was a diver and we used to go to the Grenadines in the Caribbean on a live-aboard dive boat, called Explorer. It was a bit of an old tub of a boat, having previously been an Arctic exploration vessel, but somehow the peeling paint and odd layout added to its charm. Everything was basic but functional, from the small double cabins, to the food, to the steep, metal staircases between all the decks and there was something cozy and welcoming about the ship. I spent my time reading, lying on the beach and had no desire at all to go diving. It seemed far too dangerous to me. If I had carried on thinking that way?
Explorer left the Caribbean and sailed to the Maldives with the new name of Atoll Explorer, so we decided to go for our first visit to the Maldives.
The Maldives was simply stunning. If there is a heaven on earth then that describes the Maldives. Twenty six atolls made up of thousands of tiny white sandy islands surrounded by pristine clear turquoise water which turns into dark blue in the deep channels between the atolls. As far as your eyes can see the Indian Ocean is brimming with literally millions of brightly coloured fish, fabulous coral formations, eagle rays, sting rays, sharks, moray eels, turtles and manta rays. You feel like you are inside an aquarium. In another world, another universe. This time I could not resist and I learned to dive. If I had not decided to dive?
I didn’t just like diving, I adored it. Not just the fascination with the marine life but the feeling of weightlessness. Gliding lazily through the water a feeling of pure unadulterated joy would come over me. It was like a drug and every time a dive was over I couldn’t wait to get back in the water, so over the next few years we went to the Maldives to dive twice a year.
Pressure in my ears told me the plane was descending and I eagerly looked out of the window, desperate for my first sight of the atolls scattered down below. I couldn’t wait to get off the plane, and was quickly through customs and immigration who smiled at me like an old friend as they looked at all of the Maldivian stamps in my passport.
“Kihineh,” they said in Dhivehi smiling, “How are you?”
“Rangalhu Shukuriyaa,” I replied. “I am fine, thank you,” and strode out into the blazing sunshine, making my way along the long line of dhonis tied up outside the airport bobbing up and down in the water, until I reached the one for Atoll Explorer.
“Lindsay,” shouting the boatman, “Kihineh, Welcome back”
To me it was more than a welcome back, it was a welcome home. I was home and I could feel all the stress and tension pouring out of me.
We chugged across steadily from the airport to Kurumba Island only 10 minutes away, where Atoll Explorer was anchored. The crew helped me aboard handing up my luggage and there were hugs and handshakes all around. I left my dive bag on the dive deck and the boys took my small squishy canvas bag of sarongs, swimsuits, cargo pants and t-shirts to my usual cabin, where bright pink petals were strewn over the bed.
Shoes off, the last time I would wear shoes for two weeks, quick change into cargo pants and a t- shirt and I was ready for my first Bloody Mary of the trip and meeting my 18 fellow passengers. The gentle swaying of the boat lulled me into a deep and dreamless sleep until dawn the next morning when the engines spluttered into life and we set off for the first dive site of the journey.
I dived two or three times a day every day. Weightless in body and mind 60 feet down in the warm ocean, it was a fabulous tapestry of a life so different from my normal busy, stressful existence, watching cleaner wrasse cleaning the teeth of a moray eel, having my fins nibbled by a friendly turtle, and floating through shoal after shoal of striped yellow snapper.
On the last night but one, we had a barbecue on a tiny little island, just a sandbank and after devouring freshly barbecued lobster I went for a walk along the edge of the water, alone. The warm water lapped my feet and the sand was like silk between my toes. Wherever I looked I could see the horizon and more stars than I ever knew existed enveloped the sky from one horizon to the other. It was simply breathtaking. A Maldivian dive instructor walked over to me and put his arm companionably around my shoulders.
“Look, Lindsay that is your constellation up there. That is Scorpio.”
And it was there, at that exact moment, I made the decision to leave England, to leave my job, to leave my husband and travel the world alone as a diving instructor.