No 10, 30 and 48 on the List for Living!

10) Snorkel on a coral reef

30) Go coasteering 

48) Sail alongside a pod of dolphins at sea

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All I wanted to do was go on holiday. To relax and enjoy some sunshine in Oman with my friend Chantal, the flower girl. And thats exactly what I did a few weeks ago. But also I was able to do some things on my List for Living which was an amazing bonus! 

Even before we’d arrived I managed to persuade Chantal to come snorkelling with me despite the fact she’s not a fan of boats. She gets bad sea sickness. I promised her it would be fun. But I didn’t realise it would be quite so adventurous. When I’ve done snorkelling before its been pretty easy. You jump into the sea, have a little snorkel about and then get back on the boat. Hahaha this time it was very different. 

This was hardcore snorkelling. We swam along the coastline following our guide who was the most incredible swimmer. It was just a shame we weren’t! Up until that week I hadn’t swam for almost two years, for a long time I’d had a PICC line for the chemo which went into my arm and could not get wet because of a risk of infection.

I took my time, slowly drifting over spectacular coral reef, watching colourful fish up close. I found Nemo and millions of his friends. But when I looked up I was always trailing well behind everyone else.

I used to be a really strong swimmer but that was a long time ago. To start with I wondered how I was going to keep up. There was nowhere to rest. As we got further along the coast, I was tired but also surprised that I wasn’t totally knackered. The flippers you wear on your feet helped but it seemed that my body remembered that it liked to go for a long swim.

Towards the end I picked up the pace and got alongside the guide. Not because I was suddenly full of energy, it was mostly out of fear! The sea had become quite rough. I was on one side of the guide, Chantal on the other. She had the same idea. My friend admitted afterwards that by this point she was feeling sea sick in the waves. However just before we were able to get back on the boat, we were rewarded with the wonderful sight of a large turtle. I was so relieved when we finally got back on the boat. 

This was snorkelling and coasteering all rolled into one. If I’d had known how tough it was going to be I wouldn’t have signed us up. But I’m so glad we went. Just like other times when I’ve done stuff on my List for Living something special happened – my body came alive in an unexpected but amazing way.

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On the journey back to our beach Chantal, understandably, asked if I minded if she didn’t come on any more boat trips. 

A few days later I set out on my own. This time I hoped to see dolphins out at sea, something I wanted to do for a long time.

One of my favourite stories that I reported on as the BBC’s correspondent in Ukraine was about military dolphins. The creatures lived at a Ukrainian navy base in the Crimea. During Soviet times this is where dolphins were trained for top secret military operations. When I visited the animals were being used to help children. Youngsters with mental health problems were allowed to swim with them. Ever since then I’ve been fascinated by dolphins and wanted to see them in the wild.

In Oman the boat trip I’d chosen looked good but there was no guarantee. I even had to sign a form to say I realised that I might not get to see any. As we left the harbour, the captain announced that we would see pods of dolphins in a few minutes. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I though to myself. But he was right.

All of a sudden, there was a group of dolphins swimming alongside us. My heart flipped. It was just so magical.

Every time the dolphins leapt out of the water or a new pod appeared, the only sound you could hear was oooohs from the ten or so passengers on board the boat.

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My pictures aren’t brilliant as I spent most of the time watching rather than clicking away. The dolphins seemed to play a game of tag with us. They would appear at the side of the boat, swim alongside us then go out in front. Our boat would stop, the dolphins would go on ahead. Then they’d circle back to us. There were several pods, it was hard to know where to look at times.

This was one of the best experiences of my life. I love my List for Living. Without it I might never have seen these incredible creatures in the wild.

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Now I’m back at home, I’ve finally got around to updating my List for Living. There were some things that I’m never going to be able to do. I have to be realistic. Run a 5K? These days I couldn’t even walk it. My bucket list is now a bit less adventurous. I’ve replaced some of the more difficult items with equally lovely but far more achieveable things which I’d like to do.

7 thoughts on “No 10, 30 and 48 on the List for Living!

  1. Wow, it looks and sounds amazing. So pleased you got to see them. They’re amazing creatures! X

  2. I was so happy to see an email popping into my inbox to tell me you had written another blog! I’m so glad you are doing things you enjoy and ticking things off your list. You are very brave doing the snorkel, I would be terrified! So enjoy reading about your adventures. Lots of love, Viv xxxxx

  3. Well done you…. far braver and more adventurous than I have ever been or ever will be. Good luck x x

  4. Helen, It is fantastic to read your blog. How wonderful to have some warm sunshine!! Reading your update is so inspiring…. you are incredible. Reading about how your body responded to swimming, after such a long time…. coming alive – matches the spirit deep within you.
    I have been lucky enough to see whales, a number of times while in South Africa, so reading about your experience brought back all those memories for me. I also too my (deceased) wife and our eldest son, on a boat trip in the Med to see Dolphins and Whales. Four hours later….. we were very cold and disappointed. I’m so pleased you had a fabulous time.
    Thinking of you lots xx

  5. I love reading your posts and it is so good to hear of your adventures and travels – the snorkelling sounds magical. The closest I have got to dolphins was in the Isle of Man on a blustery but sunny October day, walking on the deserted beach in Smeale, we were followed by a small but very inquisitive pod for what seemed like miles – they were clearly intrigued as to what we were doing.
    I look forward to hearing of your next adventure!

  6. The snorkelling sounds terrific, and the dolphins just magical. Wishing you the best. Off to read your revised List for Living now. :) Thank you for updating.

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