Captain: “Okay. Everyone swim along the coral reef back to the dhoni.”
Excuse me? What?
A wave of panic swept over both of us.
It was our first full day of snorkeling and the dingy had just brought our group, with our guide, Sherm from the dhoni to the middle of the ocean — no shallow area in sight, and the dhoni looked like a children’s toy boat from where we were.
Really swim all the way back to the boat?
All our friends happily obliged jumping off the dingy into the vast ocean water sans life vest or any type of floatation device and, not to be the last in the pack, we said a quick prayer to ourselves (and mumbled an expletive or two) before diving in.
Seconds after our leap of faith, an obvious, but still surprising realization came over us.
WE CAN FLOAT
Calm immediately followed as we further submerged into our own natural, life-sized, aquarium. Fish of all shapes, sizes, and colors carried on with their usual business as us voyeurs ogled at their magnificence.
With the blink of an eye (or flap of a flipper) we were back at the dhoni. High off our accomplishment, we soon came back to reality as we observed the more neutral reactions of our fellow travelers who have tackled such feats (some even more daring) before. We were guppies in a school of porpoises, but that still didn’t completely diminish the beauty of the experience.
Each day brought out our inner Nemo more and more.
Our venue for snorkeling changed throughout the week. Most times we’d get dropped off in the middle of the ocean. Other days we’d swim from our dhoni to a small sand bank or uninhabited island.
Immersed in another world, we encountered all types of foreign sea creatures: trigger fish, surgeonfish, moorish idols, clams, oriental grunt, angel fish, sea cucumbers, and parrot fish. They were housed in all sorts of coral: tabletop, mushroom, brain and maze.
Some of the best trips were with the captain who had a knack for spotting the turtles and eels (click on links for videos). On a few occasions he would swim close enough to a hiding eel to entice it out of it’s lair. Gutsy.
We have to give credit for some of these pictures to Sherm who lived up to his nickname Super Fish since he could hold his breath for an extended period of time while plunging closer to the ocean floor. As he’d rise closer to the water’s surface, he’d blow out these huge bubbles in true fish form.
By the end of the week, we were much more in touch with our inner fish as well.