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Snorkel, Sea and Smörgåsbord (Day Three - Part III)

After we made our exit from the lagoon, we set sail for our snorkeling site. One of our travel mates was starting to feel under the weather. The expression on her face was the look of something that I have felt before. It was a look of trying to remain calm, even when you know your body is telling you something else. We all felt bad for her as she tried to settle her stomach with the carbonation of the soda, and I believe that this might not have been something that she experienced often. This travel mate was the one with the serious camera from Prison Island, who also happened to be an avid scuba diver. I was immediately intrigued when I read that she was scuba certified on the introduction sheet from the first day. See, I love the water (like you didn’t know that). I have pondered a while about getting certified myself. It is on my short list of life goals along with getting a motorcycle license. Snorkeling is great, but I think I would like to take my water exploration a little further. But I have to be honest, I think of the depths of the ocean to not be any different than the considerable expanse of outer space. I also thought about being an astronaut when I was kid too. Growing up, I was (and still am) as equally fascinated by the great unknown, as I was terrified. I have been known to pose the question to others, “Would you rather be lost in space, or underwater?” In this empathy that I had for her, I was grateful that it wasn’t me. My mother, sister and niece suffer from seasickness and many other factions of motion sickness, and I seemed to have been spared.

Photo by Kibuuka Mukisa Oscar @kibuukaphotography for Travel Noire

By the time we got to our destination, there were several other boats moored nearby, its occupants in the water, floundering around. The Blue Safari staff cut the engine and dropped the anchor. In the meantime, we were receiving instruction. We were given masks, told how to wear them and told how to best clean them. We all used the trick of using your own saliva to miraculously clean your mask, smear free after they were dipped in the water overboard. Masks were tried on for proper adjustments, straps loosened or tightened. Last, we were given life jackets, but were not required to wear them. I tend to not want to wear one because I am confident in my ability to swim. Yet I still decided that it would be helpful to have a bit of a float. Aruba had been a reminder that nature can have its way, even when you think you are in control. There were a lot of straps to secure on the jackets. That was about all that we needed. The only thing that was left was to get to the steps and put your big, floppy fins on your feet and penguin backwards to the steps, down into the water. There is nothing natural about any of this; we all look extremely awkward. Don’t forget that the waves have not stopped for us – there is a steady anti-wave balance one has to focus on to prevent any toppling over.

Photo by Kibuuka Mukisa Oscar @kibuukaphotography for Travel Noire

Some of my travel mates were not as enthusiastic about plunging themselves into the vast deep blue, and there was not a rush of bodies hurling themselves off the dhow. Experienced as they were with the different swimming skills, and comfort of guests in the water, the Safari Blue staff was well prepared. For those that would prefer a little guidance, and or the assistance of a floating device, it was available. Technically, I suppose we were all expected to follow the Blue Safari staff as they guided us, once in the water. Those of us who felt more comfortable went our own ways. I am sure from the boat, watching all these faceless halves of bodies puttering around is pretty humorous, especially as we unknowingly miss careening into each other by feet or inches as we swim around blindly, only focused on what was directly below, 20 – 30 feet. The view below was indeed remarkable. With that much distance between you and the bottom, you truly have a sense of flying, barely skimming the universe below. The massive coral looked like big, grey brains. Swarms of schools (of fish), repeatedly changed direction in a matter of seconds. Silver flashes to a brighter and more luminescent, shimmering sequins.

At one point I caught up with one of the guides when he asked that we follow him. He pointed out the types of marine life whose environment we were encroaching upon, but was showing off as he would free dive to the nearest of the near bottom with only his one breath. During this swim, I felt a small sting here or there. I couldn’t quite see who the culprits were. The water was crystal clear and I thought I would see anything, no matter how translucent. I can’t say that I was ever on the lookout for them. It could have been anything at first, but I assumed a jellyfish, or two had stung me. Since my early introduction as a child, I was never concerned about getting stung because I knew it was more of annoyance than anything else (for those who haven’t read about my childhood jellyfish introduction - when I was a young child, my father purposely made my sister and I swim in jellyfish infested water with the intention of us getting stung. Understandably, this sounds abusive, but looking back, I appreciated the barbaric strategy). Fear is mostly manifested in the unknown. If you know what to expect, you are most likely not going to be afraid. It wasn’t until my entire body was feeling a stinging sensation that my eyes and brain were focused on finding the toxinic villains because I must have been unknowingly swimming among a swarm. It was as if my brain issued a deeper level of perception because I was now able to see them, the size of plums or smaller, practically naked to the human eye. They were everywhere.

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