So I’ve read the book, listened to the lectures, watched the demonstrations, carried out the practical and sat the exam. I have proved to the ever smiling instructor that I can indeed, swim. My reward? I now float in the warm shallows of a Maldivean island trying to persuade my cynical self that I can survive underwater, but I am not at all sure that I will.
Perseverance, and an instructor that simply wont take no for an answer, eventually sees me 30+ feet under the gentle swell of the Indian ocean. The light is simply amazing, the coral spectacular and the sheer volume of life around me easily makes me forget that my life is being sustained by a metal can and a bit of tubing.
Reef sharks and stingrays glide overhead en route to their daily feed on the beach, a yellow octopus pops out of its hideyhole – sees me - then does an about turn to disappear once more. I really must learn what all the fish are called, oh and buy an underwater camera.
But, like all great moments, it passes all too soon and I surface back to the “normality” that is a 5 star luxury resort called the Banyan Tree. Out of the water is opulence, exquisite food and service (there are more staff than guests even when full), a fantastic spa and (officially) one of the best bars in the world.
The individual beach apartments open out onto your own boardwalk leading to a small pagoda in the surf. Chickens wander about picking off the ants that abound on the island – sounds horrible but they are of no concern, and even serve as target practice when you go to the loo. Days are spent gently in the hammock, staring out at an uninterrupted view of sea and splendour, meals are an enjoyable distraction and the other guests provide rewarding company.
At night, ghost crabs dance in the surf, and a memory that will always stay with me, is of my wife giggling hysterically as they clambered over her as she lay at the waters edge after yet another unforgettable evening.
96 guests on the island, 7 minutes to walk around it, 10 fantastic days, some of them breathing unaided. Go.