“One time when I was diving, I spotted a seal above me and approached it to take a photo. I held my breath (so no bubbles of air would be captured in my underwater shot) but then I began to float! The air I was holding in within my lungs caused me to float all the way to the surface of the water until I was only one meter away from the seal! I began to panic as I remembered my instructor warning me about seal attacks and picturing the seal biting me…. But it didn’t. We met eyes for a second and then it just swam away.

Stephanie’s underwater shot of a seal during her once-in-a-lifetime encounter

Many people think underwater creatures are scary, but they really aren’t. As long as you stay calm, even the seals and sharks will leave you alone. As a diver, I’ve been able to explore the incredible world of creatures underwater and, with each new dive, I find myself more and more obsessed with them. My current dream is to become a marine biologist so that I can spend the rest of my life interacting with and protecting these creatures.

Some of the fish I see are bold and face each other off in competitions for female mates. Others are shyer and camouflage themselves so, unless you focus really hard, you can’t see see them. It’s funny, but sometimes I think I see human qualities in these marine creatures. From Izu and Okinawa to Hawaii and Australia, I’ve dived in many different parts of the world; and just how different countries have different cultures, I’ve observed that each area has its own unique community of fish. It’s so interesting!

As of now, I have three diving licenses; one of them is an advanced diver license which means I can go as deep as 30 meters when diving. I hope to get even more diving licenses, including the rescue diver license and maybe the professional diver license, and one day teach my kids how to dive — just like my dad did for my sister and I.

Diving is a life-changing experience once you get into it, so I urge everybody to give it a try! Just make sure that when you dive, you don’t leave behind any underwater footprints (like broken corals): the sea creatures will appreciate it!” — Stephanie