Learning to Breathe…. Underwater

“Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.” James Stephens

I started to learn how to SCUBA dive as a teenager in the Middle East but it was not a happy ending. I will spare you the details of the real life horror story involving a death and a shark during our Open Water Dive test and just state that it has taken 35 years to complete that course. Three friends and I flew to the Perhentian Islands in Eastern Malaysia nestled in the South China Sea. The island is a feast for the eyes with palm fringed white coral sandy beaches and crystalline water. We would complete our open water dives while on the tropical island at Watercolours Resort and Dive Center with Sharon, our fabulous dive instructor.

View from Watercolours Dive Center in the Perhentians

On the first dive we suited up and sped in a motorboat to a small lagoon. As soon as I hit the water I began to look for sharks, but luckily there were none to be spotted. As my head went under the water and my brain began to scream, “STOP IT! Get out! You can’t breathe underwater. There could be sharks here!!  Are you insane!?!” My body started to respond to the commands with panic, but luckily I was able to prevail over my shark terror and ignore my claustrophobia so that I could begin the descent under the water.

Anni Getting Ready to Dive

Once I was under the water, my sensibility returned, my breathing steadied and the dazzling clear blue water and the world of wildlife below astounded me. After completing our skills on each dive, Sharon led us on our fun dives where we were able to see some remarkable sea life. Blue spotted rays floated by while the spikes of lionfish poked out of crevices in the coral. Tiny translucent feeder shrimp pecked at our fingers and a batfish frolicked with my yellow fins. Moray eels snapped their jaws, as hundreds of fish lazily drifted by like a rainbow.  It was a magical scene that we were able to experience four times that weekend. After passing our tests and completing our open water dives, the boat pulled up to the resort where a sign was waiting to congratulate us all on our success. It took 35 years, but I was finally able to conquer my fear of sharks. Another “Mind over Matter” accomplishment! Another bucket list item checked!

Gorgeous Perhentians! Our first dive spot.

Sharon, Angie, Ann and Alexis

Sharon, Angie, Ann and Alexis

It wasn’t until later that day, while snorkeling, that I finally spied a shark. The meter long black-tip reef shark glided in front of me, camouflaged with the white sandy bottom. To my surprise and delight the shark instilled wonder instead of alarm in me. Instead of turning and swimming away in fright, I grabbed my friend by the arm and swam as fast as I could after it, trying to get a better look. He was breathtaking, free and peaceful. Conquering my fear was as magnificent as he was! Anticipation of disappearing below the surface sits in the back of my mind as I return to mundane everyday life. I have spent a lifetime in appreciation and awe of the beach and ocean, but it has been heightened to an elevated level of understanding now that I can breathe under water!

Anni Looking Fearless

Have you overcome a fear?



  1. TBM said,

    May 17, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    That’s pretty cool! I would love to do this, but like you I have fears. I need to remember this and when the opportunity arises conquer my fear like you did. Congrats.

    • globalanni said,

      May 17, 2012 at 2:37 pm

      Go for it!! Good luck!

  2. scintillatebrightly said,

    May 17, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    That’s cool Anni, This was obviously more of a challenge for you than for me since you had to fight the memories of a traumatic experience. Kudos to you for working past it. Intellectually I know all those things with sharks can happen at anytime, but it would be totally horrifying to have to face that the first time out.

    • globalanni said,

      May 17, 2012 at 2:39 pm

      Great minds must think alike. Congrats to you for completing your course. Keep my updated on cool dive sites!

  3. Anastasia said,

    May 17, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Water. Sharks. This is why my first mission for adventure vacation is going down in a cage in cape town. Two birds so to speak… 🙂 good for you !

    • globalanni said,

      May 17, 2012 at 2:40 pm

      That sounds a little more than I could handle! Have a blast. Stop back and let me know how it went and what the diving was like there. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. ocblogger said,

    May 17, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    Awesome Accomplishment ! And I know the shark story so I really appreciate how hard this was for you. Way to go!

    • globalanni said,

      May 24, 2012 at 8:42 am

      Thanks. I can’t wait to be spending time with you and the family on sharkless beaches in a few weeks!

  5. Melissa said,

    May 18, 2012 at 11:21 pm

    I’m also claustrophobic which has always prevented me from learning to dive. To conquer that fear and on top of the memory of a traumatic experience is amazing! Congratulations!

    • globalanni said,

      May 24, 2012 at 8:43 am

      Thank you! Somehow the beauty and determination allowed me to overcome it all.Love your blog. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. blodge1 said,

    May 21, 2012 at 4:12 am

    Thanks for liking my post, 6 lakes and one waterfall. It brought me to your site and I think you are very brave to conquer your fears enough to scuba dive again.

    • globalanni said,

      May 24, 2012 at 8:56 am

      You are welcome. Blenheim Lodge looks gorgeous and amazing. Perhaps on our travels we will be able to stop by one day! 🙂

  7. May 23, 2012 at 11:06 am

    I have! I determined to get over my fear of water and to learn to swim before I was 40 – I made it! 🙂
    Thank you for deciding to follow my blog of 3 pleasing things every day. I hope you enjoy them.
    I look forward to hearing about your travels. We’ve been around a bit but not 47 countries! 🙂

    • globalanni said,

      May 24, 2012 at 8:49 am

      Congrats! That is a wonderful accomplishment!! I hope you are enjoying you new found freedom in the water! I am enjoying your blog. It is very original.

      • May 24, 2012 at 9:20 am

        Thank you for your comments on my blog . I do enjoy swimming now, but still not in the sea or out of my depth! 🙂

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