Reef Romps

I realized while I was snorkeling today that I haven’t posted much about all of the fab underwater sightings I have had recently.

Dee, the wonderful retired engineer who moved to the island almost three years ago and helps make volunteers’ experiences comfortable and fun, took me out snorkeling on Sunday. We meandered west down the coast from Infinity Bay, around one jagged point after another, until we came to the Western tip of the island. This part of the coast is known for wicked currents, but the water was calm and clear that day. (Don’t worry, Mom and Dad, Dee is a very experienced snorkeler and would not have taken me that far had the conditions been dangerous.) We saw so many great things! Dozens of pairs of Queen Angelfish who skirted the coral on the ocean floor, one following the other. I find I can’t look away from their vivid colors—canary yellow and neon turquoise—until they dip into a tunnel, out of sight. We saw tons of needle fish, ranging from one foot to four feet long, darting around in schools of three or four. We passed above a plateau on which what must have been fifty triggerfish were feeding. From the surface, these funny creatures appeared all silky black; however, diving down for a closer look revealed an intricate pattern of colors over the black, starting out orange at the nose, turning blue on the forehead, and fading gradually across the back. It was like someone doodled all over the slate of their bodies with colored pencils! So cool.

Barracuda punctuated this snorkeling trip with little bursts of apprehension. Dee is so nonchalant around them! At the beginning of the adventure, a five-foot-long one passed me about ten feet away. In the middle, a four-foot-long one dove down below me. At the end of the trip, a three-foot one hovered over a shallow ledge of coral. Even though I gave them plenty of room and startled each time I saw one, I think I’m getting a bit more habituated to them…At least I want to think so.

This afternoon, Alexis and I set out in the choppiest, cloudiest waters I’ve seen here yet. It was quite the struggle! We headed out past the mini island in front of our dock into the deeper water, where the visibility was better. We decided to swim against the current towards the little island east of us. It took us an hour to get there and only twenty minutes to get back! I was dragging by the end. On the way there, I saw a spotted cowfish. From overhead, it was so thin–probably only an inch thick! From the side, it was at least three feet long and two feet tall. It had a single, long horn sticking out of its forehead like an antennae. On the way back, I saw a little hawksbill turtle about the size of my chemistry textbook. The pattern on its shell was a magnified snapshot of black, brown, and white granite. Stunning! It nibbled at the coral, batting its flippers against the current.

I love exploring these waters. Each time, some element of the snorkeling is completely different. I can’t wait to show Cam in eight days!!!

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