Monique from Honduras has two passions: scuba diving and photography. She takes you with her into her underwater world where swimming with sharks, and weightless floating above the corals, makes you realize how important our oceans are!
From childhood on I have always loved swimming. I used to live near or at the water, and until this day, the beautiful bay in Roatan is my backyard. Being in the water feels liberating, underwater, above water, floating in the water, it doesn’t matter, it relaxes me. What is that feeling I have over and over again with water…?
Maybe I was a dolphin in my past life? I am always triggered by the unknown, want to explore depths and go where most people don’t (dare to) go. Probably that’s why I ended up in Honduras, which literally means ‘depths’ in Spanish.
Swinging, being weightless and just be as invisible as long as possible
When I dive at a depth of 35 meters, sometimes all kinds of thoughts go through my mind. Floating between the schools of fish and beautiful corals makes me realize that I am a lucky person.
Maybe I am sometimes ‘narced,’ which is slang for having nitrogen narcosis. You feel light in your head as if you have had a glass too much of alcohol. It is not entirely harmless because under pressure your judgment can be considerably influenced. But as long as you recognize it, and do not decide to share your air with the fish around you, immediately go up a meter, and the pressure will decrease causing the tipsy feeling to disappear right away…
It is so nice swirling, weightless and being equally invisible. Being far away and dreaming, and just zeroing your mind is refreshing; it makes me quieter, but at the same time euphoric at this depth. My head is far underwater, but I can still breathe… fortunately. I rise slowly again and look straight into the eyes of an immense grouper as if he can read my mind. Once back on the surface I breathe in the fresh air and wonder what I actually do there…
I have been diving for over 25 years now, and soon after obtaining my license in Eilat I knew that I was infected with the diving virus. My underwater photography has become a big passion, and besides that I still find it inspiring to give diving lessons after 10 years, but now more on a freelance basis. Underwater photography is a form of communication for me, to show the beauty of nature without words. The diversity, the whimsical shapes, patterns and colors of corals are a source of inspiration for artistic photos.
I also design my own bags with prints of my photos on them
Diving as a metaphor
If you consider that 70% of the globe consists of water, then it is almost unfortunate if you have never experienced this underwater world. While I understand that diving is not for everyone. At the same time, it is the perfect way to overcome your fear. What seems scary at first can lead to a wonderful new experience. I see it as a metaphor. In my case with my underwater photography, I can be so focused with my camera on a nice fish, a piece of coral or a tiny nudibranch that I sometimes forget to check the time and my air. This also teaches me to stay alert and to not see being underwater as something to take for granted. Also, of course, I never dive alone.
The PADI Women’s Diving Day
The oldest woman I ever dived with was 83 years old. It was fantastic to hear that she only learned to dive at the age of 70. A new world opened up for her. It was wonderful to see how she enjoyed swimming with a turtle and looked around to see all the beautiful things. So you are never too old to dive!
Once there was a time when 90% of divers were male. Nowadays the male-female ratio among divers is much more balanced. A third of the divers are now women, and this number is growing every day. This year, PADI has organized the third annual Women’s Dive Day https://www.padi.com/women, to support women. Maybe I can organize the “Wereldwijven Diving Day” next year!
Pay attention! Sharks swim here
Shark diving is another incredibly beautiful experience. People sometimes come to me and ask, “What should I do when I’m swimming in the sea and I see a shark?” You just stay calm, you keep your arms crossed and also you don’t wear shiny jewelry. The chance that a shark attacks you is so very small. Enjoy yourself in the ocean and all the animals that live in it. When I see a shark, I think how lucky I am to see such a beautiful animal in its own environment! Their graceful and elegant way of moving fascinates me every time.
Last summer on the crowded beaches on the North Sea in the Netherlands, the shock was just as good I understand. I found it amusing to read that Dutch biologist Freek Vonk tried to scare the beach-visitors with a playful action. He let planes fly over the coast with flyers saying ‘watch out: sharks swimming here’. In this way, he is bound to protect these animals. Sharks are not a threat to humans, but rather the other way around. These days I prefer to dive with nurse sharks, whale sharks, reef sharks and hammerhead sharks in the Caribbean, where the water is a lot more pleasant and warmer!
The ocean touches you with every breath you take
The underwater hero Silvia A. Earle, who has made ocean protection her mission says: “Even though you never have the opportunity to see or touch the ocean, the ocean touches you at every breath you take, every drop of water you drink, and every bite you eat. Everyone, everything and everywhere is inextricably linked to and extremely dependent on the existence of the sea.” And so it is!
Fortunately, more and more attention is being paid to the sea, because it is not doing so well. Everything that goes in there shouldn’t go in, and what has to stay in it comes out. Cause: human beings. But we are creative again at the same time.
I also help on a small scale here on the island by carrying out many beach clean-ups and coral restoration projects in order to help restore a healthier sea. Occasionally I am a kind of underwater gardener, I remove the aggressive ‘sponges’ of the corals to prevent further suffocation. We also (re-) plant pieces of staghorn coral and hunt the lionfish.
I want to teach and inspire him to discover and be curious about this underwater world. Fortunately, we share our passion for diving. When he was 8 years old he already had gone with me (shallow) and blew bubbles through my alternate air-source. As a junior Open Water scuba diver, he goes down to 12 meters, with ‘freediving’ with one breath of air he has already swum to 15 meters depth at the age of 10!
This article was published on the Dutch platform “De Wereldwijven”
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