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Overcoming my Biggest Fear and Snorkelling with Sea Turtles on Gili Trawangan

I’ve mentioned it several times on my blog now, but when I was much younger, I was scared of everything. From driving through the countryside to thunderstorms, I pretty much lived in a little bubble where I didn’t do anything I thought was too dangerous.

Fast forward to now and I’m slowly starting to face each and everyone one of my fears, with a few of them conquered for sure (I now love driving through the country and thunderstorms fascinate me, especially lightening!) and plenty I need to conquer still.

One I’ve really struggled with, other than heights, is open sea water and going on a boat. In fact, until my recent trip to Bali I don’t think I’d every managed to go on a boat on open sea. I’d had plenty of opportunity to (like the speed boats in Llandudno or the boat tour in the Algarve), but always chose to stay on dry land where I was safe. To me, going on a boat was one of the scariest things I could do.

Now, when we booked our Gili T hotel I knew for a fact I wouldn’t be able to get there without going on a boat, as it was on an island nearby. I frantically researched everything I could about journey, so I didn’t come across any surprises along the way. Obviously that didn’t work and the whole experience was the complete opposite of what I read, but once my nerves had calmed down I felt quite relaxed being at sea with my headphones in.

Because we were on a big boat.

I was expecting something much smaller, however the size of the boat meant we couldn’t really feel how rocky the waters were and the whole journey was pretty smooth. I’m not going to go into too much detail about our time at Gili T as I’ve written that in another post, but the main purpose of this post was to talk about snorkeling.

We only stayed on the island one night, so just before we went for dinner we made sure we left ourselves time to go snorkeling.

Swimming with sea turtles has been on my bucket list since I knew what one was, but due to my fear I’d written it off as something that was never going to happen.

I knew that there were a few different options to snorkel in Bali, including going on a guided tour and hiring the equipment yourself and heading out into the water. Short on both time and money, we decided to hire our own equipment and head into the sea.

I’d been preparing for the moment for weeks so when I walked into the sea I wasn’t really that scared. I love swimming, so I just pretended it was like going in a pool, just much shallower.

Fighting against the flippers I was wearing I started to walk further and further out, but the water wasn’t getting any deeper. I could see where the ‘deep’ water was but it was so far away I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get back if my knee was to lock up, so I copied the girls who were sitting in the water with their heads under.

Next came the scary part – using the snorkeling mask. As soon as I put it on I started to panic and because I couldn’t breathe through my nose it meant I struggled to breathe at all. As I was sitting down in the water to be able to go under the waves were pulling me an I was knocking my legs on the rocks, cutting them every time. I kept opening my mouth to breathe which obviously meant that I was swallowing sea water, which made me choke. Basically, I was a mess.

I felt ridiculous for panicking over something so small, especially when the water was only waist high, but in the end I gave up and went back to the shore without seeing any turtles.

When the girls came back they mentioned that they hadn’t seen any turtles either, so they tour company suggested we book a boat tour for tomorrow. We mentioned that we had to be at the harbour for 9.30, so he said if we went on a private tour at 7am, we’d make it to the harbour for 9. As it was only going to cost us £10 each and meant we would stop off at three snorkeling locations, we decided to go for it. Obviously I was panicking as I could see the size of the boat behind us, but I didn’t want to stop the others doing something so incredible.

That night I spent his entire night panicking. I messaged my boyfriend, family, friends and asked Instagram for advice on how to calm my nerves but none of it was making me feel like I could get on the boat that morning, let alone jump in the open sea water. In my head, I knew the way back to the harbour so worst case scenario I could have walked there alone.

The next morning we got up VERY early and headed straight out the door, knowing we were going to jump into water meant getting ready was much quicker than I would have liked, as I wasn’t feeling mentally prepared. We made the short walk to the boat and before I knew it, it was now or never.

Due to our time constraints I didn’t have much time to think so I got on the boat and sat down hoping for the best. On such a tiny boat you could feel EVERYTHING and to begin with I was so so scared. Once the engine was on it was a little bit smoother, which made me feel better for all of three minutes because it was time to jump in the water.

The guides stopped the engine and we put on our snorkeling gear, ready to jump in. I opted to have a life jacket as I knew that I’d panic and go under if I didn’t have one, and at least this way I could keep my head above water if I was panicking. Ashton and Tamzin jumped in first, but I couldn’t even get on the edge.

The fear was far too much that I sat back down, telling myself I’d wait on the boat until we got to the harbour.

A few minutes later I decided to try again, and so I pushed myself off the boat and into the water. I could hear Ashton screaming that she’d found some turtles so I swam over to her, put my mask on and stuck my head under water to see two turtles happily swimming around us.

I couldn’t believe it – I WAS SWIMMING WITH TURTLES. ACTUAL TURTLES. In all the excitement I lost them, so swam back to the boat for a bit of peace of mind. I stayed in the water so I could keep going under whenever I felt comfortable, but being by the boat was reassuring.

After we had swam around for a little while longer, we got back onto the boat to go to our next location. I actually didn’t expect getting on the boat to be so hard, but after doing it three times I had so many bruises from pushing myself up. Not to mention I can’t lift my own weight, so I needed a bit of help from the guys on the boat.

The second spot on our tour was the under water statues. I’d seen these on Instagram a million times, so to see them was so so exciting. As soon as I was brave enough to jump in again, I put my head under and the view was like nothing I’ve seen before. Not only were there fish swimming all around us, but the statues were breathtaking – I could have stayed there for hours.

This spot gave me a bit more time to work out to use my mask properly, and by the time we got back on the boat I was comfortable putting my head underwater for minutes at a time, as well as feeling more confident away from the boat. 

The third and final location was the blue coral reef, where the water was much choppier. The girls suggested I jump in first and I am so glad I did because by the time Tamzin went to jump of the boat it was rocking so much I thought she was going to go flying while sitting on the edge!

When we were all in the water we had about ten minutes to swim around and see all the stunning blue coral. Lots of it was losing its colour which was really sad to see, but to watch the marine life swimming around us was absolutely fascinating.

Before I knew it we were being called back to the boat to make it to the harbour in time.

On the short journey to the harbour I was feeling incredibly high on the fact I’d just started to conquer a fear, crossed something off my bucket list and had one of the most amazing experiences ever.

It’s definitely shown me that sometimes I just need to breathe, take it one step at a time and try to conquer my fears. If I hadn’t have got on that boat when I was too scared, I’d never have been able to experience one of the best things I’ve ever done, and I don’t want to miss out anymore… 

Kirsty Leanne

xoxo

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