The first time I ever went to the Georgia Aquarium, I saw a team of divers pass overhead as my family and I walked through the tube that traverses through the whale shark exhibit. I was amazed by them and watched as they swam off. A few years later, I went down to Florida and got my PADI open water certification, and you want to know what was on my mind? Yep, diving that aquarium. I went online, researched it, and found out anyone with an open water certification could do it. So, on my 42nd birthday, I gifted myself a dive with the whale sharks at the Georgia Aquarium.
The staff there was great, very professional. They had all our stuff set up for us, gave the group a briefing, and we were off. Being my third dive, I didn’t realize these conditions were perfect. The water was like 72 degrees, and clear. You were diving in a humungous saltwater pool. Seeing that much life as I broke the surface was overwhelming. As I hit bottom to get my bearings, I had to compose myself due to my excitement. It was beautiful in there.
Once we were all in, the group swam off over the tube that I had watched divers swim above a few years prior. All the people were walking through, waving, pointing, and taking pictures. I could see them all as clear as day. My wife was there taking pictures. As we swam over them, we went down the side in between some rocks and the tube. As we came out of this narrow passage, a 40-foot whale shark was swimming over the top of us. I looked to my left and saw this goliath grouper. As I swam further, there was the sea turtle named Tank. While we were down in the bottom, the divemaster stopped us in a group so all the fish could swim around us. At this point, one of the manta rays in the display swam by me and looked me directly in the eye. Making eye contact with this animal, I realized this fish had a level of consciousness parallel to my own. It wasn’t like looking a dog or cat in the eye. It was like looking another person in the eye. It made me realize that I was in his world. That moment changed my perspective on a lot of things in life.
As we swam out, we stopped again for what was the climax of the dive. Both whale sharks came to the group and swam around us within what seemed like touching distance, as the manta rays did circles in our bubbles streaming to the surface. It was a great experience and one that I will never forget.
So, the next time you find yourself in one of those aquariums or even a zoo, take time to look the animals in the eye. That simple action may elevate your experience and may bring about some changes in your perspective and life.