For film fans, the theme tune to Jaws is pure entertainment, but for scuba-diver Jessica Pita, it's a potentially life-saving ditty.

That's because she's blind - and her diving partner hums the Jaws theme tune to signal that a shark is nearby.

The 21-year-old reveals to MailOnline Travel that the John Williams tune came in particularly handy on a dive in Mozambique, East Africa.

She says: 'My dive buddy and I had not gotten to the point of figuring out a signal for a shark so when one swam right below us as we descended, he started humming the theme tune to the Jaws movies and tried shouting out the word shark.'

While she could not make out 'shark', she instantly recognised the theme tune and realised there was a shark underneath them.

At the age of 11, Jessica underwent brain surgery to remove a tumour that caused swelling on her optic nerves. Although it was successfully removed, she was left with permanent damage. 

Her central vision is now 'completely black with little pinpricks of light', her peripheral vision is 'extremely blurry', and she has depth perception issues and colour blindness 'as everything just fades into everything else'.

The motivational speaker and student from South Africa can make out contrasts between light and dark but mainly relies on her other senses to navigate the world and her guide dog, Fudge.

Jessica has not let her disability hold her back and decided to undertake an accessible scuba diving course with the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), to become a qualified diver.

While she initially regarded it as a 'visual' sport, Jessica 'fell in love' with scuba diving and has now explored reefs in Ponta do Ouro, in Mozambique, and Sodwana Bay, South Africa.  

She is already planning her next trip - to Madagascar.

Although she cannot see the marine life around her, Jessica can distinguish between dark and light colours. She says: 'I can make out the contrast of the reef against the sand or the water.'

Jessica is also able to let go of the pressures of everyday life and feel the sensations of being underwater.

She says: 'I enjoy the feeling of peace and bliss of being underwater. As my daily world revolves around my senses, there's rarely a chance when I can just listen or feel something without worrying about whether it will affect my orientation.'

She says she can 'listen to the reef out of pleasure' rather than for a purpose, like 'listening for cars when you cross the street'. She can also 'feel the sand' instead of 'focusing on the texture of the ground in order not to trip or miss a step'.

Jessica is connected to her diving instructor while underwater. 

Rather than hand signals, she relies on a system of tactile signals, which are established before they descend. 

For example, to replicate the 'OK' signal, her diving buddy will squeeze her two fingers, and she will reply with the usual hand signal.

While these signals can be seen as a 'whole new dive language', Jessica says they're 'just a new way to make the sport accessible'. 

One of the only obstacles she's faced is 'coming up with new ways to signal different types of fish'. 

She adds: 'The signal for the butterfly fish involves my dive buddy taking both my hands and forcing them up and down in a motion representing flapping wings.'

Jessica says her experience of scuba diving has made her realise how 'wrong' her initial perceptions of the sport were. 

She explains: 'When we took a new look at scuba, it proved just how simple it can be to make something accessible.'

Jessica believes everyone should be able to experience the sport and advises 'anyone and everyone to try scuba diving no matter their ability'. 

To see more from Jessica visit her on TikTok at www.tiktok.com/@x_flyingblind_x or Instagram at www.instagram.com/x_flyingblind_x. And visit her website here -  flyingblindsa.com.

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2024-06-17T14:56:28Z dg43tfdfdgfd