I walked down to the water as the evening light began to settle. The sun cast dramatic angles across the shallow water and the pale sand glowed white under the turquoise water. I pressed the familiar shape of my mask into my face and pulled the strap over my head to its natural resting place. I waded through the first few inches of water and then pushed myself in. It was only about a foot deep so everything seemed to be magnified. I sucked in a deep breath and slowly cruised over the banks of sea grass, the fronds kissing my stomach as I glided over.
I paused in the sandy shallows and looked with renewed curiosity at the tiny parts of the marine world that get overlooked in deep water. A tiny threadlike worm weaved it’s way across the sand, less that a millimetre thick and only exposing a couple of centimetres of body at a time. I watched it make its way across the sand for a minute or so, letting the gentle current push my trailing hair back towards the shore. Tiny, delicate brittle stars unfurled their arms from the crevices they’d sheltered under during the day and tentatively stretched out their limbs. A triggerfish no bigger than my thumbnail hunkered down in a cavity in a rock the size of a fist. It edged backwards in suspicion as I approached – wary of my hulking figure blocking out the sunshine.
I swam on.
I swam through the fields of sea grass, hoping each time that the water would be deep enough to carry me through. Old sea urchins, their bodies swollen and their spikes short and white, bulged up at me from the foliage as I swept past. In between banks of grass were deeper patches of sand where it was deep enough to put a foot down and clear the water from your snorkel. As I got further out the bulky shapes of corals began to appear out of the blue smudges of far off water. I could see them from a long way off, as the water was so clear, and headed straight to them, eager for the host of creatures they might hold. A shoal of tiny zebra humbug fish shrank into the fingers of the hard coral they use for shelter. Each fish perfectly formed with uniform black and white stripes, all the way from their bellies to their Mohawk like dorsal fins.
A puffer fish rushed underneath me, desperately trying to manoeuvre itself under the coral like a car into a too small parking space. It’s swirling fins and huge eyes give it a look of constant panic and it shrank away from me as I dove down for a closer look. I swam from coral to coral, a new one rising from the blue every time I swam further from the shore.
The tide was coming in so I felt the gentle tug of the sea pulling me back towards the shore. I swam through it, relishing the strength in my arms as they propelled me forwards through the current. I looked up around me and saw a Picasso triggerfish releasing a plume of sand into the water column. It’s markings were incredible, with a greyish white face with dark blue and black stripes over their eyes like a mask. Pale blue stripes line their bellies and there is a splash of bright orange on their backs. The triggerfish swam towards me, trying to defend his territory. He swerved near my mask and away again, trying to make an attack but too scared to come much closer than a few inches.
I swam over the sea grass to the next coral and there slithering through the weeds below me was a moray eel. A roadmap moray eel, a dusty pink body with delicate purple lines covering its skin. I followed it as it made its way over to the coral. I tried to keep my distance, difficult in the shallow water, because I didn’t want to spook it or provoke any aggression. It cruised on through and gnawed at the algae on a rock for a moment before seeing me and sliding its smooth body into a crevice under the corals. All I could see now was its face, staring out from its hides-hole with contempt. It’s mouth opens and shuts, opens and shuts, showing me its teeth and what would happen to my precious little fingers if they got too close. I pushed my self away and anchored my fingers in the rough sand to watch and see if it would come out again. When I was out of sight it inched forward, but it’s body was still very much in its cove. I waited.
As I was waiting I glanced down and saw a black and blue shape inching along the sea floor; a nudibranch. It’s body was small, about an inch long and half a centimetre wide, and black, with frills that were edged with vibrant blue markings. My attention was torn between the moray eel and the nudibranch but in the end it was the nudibranch that won out. I watched it for a little while before swimming on.
Suddenly there in front of me was an octopus. I hardly noticed her given how perfectly camouflaged she was with her surroundings. Her legs were curled underneath her, creating loops instead of legs that she used to walk across the sandy bottom. She changed colour rapidly, from a mottled green to a red and white pattern that radiated across her skin, then back to red. It was almost hypnotic to watch. I dove down for a closer look and then her body shape changed entirely and she was long and thin, zooming away from me into the distance. I watched her go in awe.
Luckily the tide was getting higher now so I now didn’t graze my belly as I swam over the sea grass. The light was also beginning to fade so I reluctantly admitted that I may need to turn around and head back inshore. The water was still ridiculously warm and got even warmer as I began to swim towards the beach.
As I crested one of the weedy banks there was a flurry of movement as what looked like an eel retreated into its den. I swam over into the sandy dip on the other side and I could see two holes. In one of them, a few small eel-like tails whip backwards and forwards and in the other I saw a big, dark mouth covered in long barbels like whiskers. Catfish. A mother with her young. I watched the scurrying shapes of the little baby catfish for a few minutes, hoping that their mother would emerge once more. Her head inched out from the hole but did not expose more than her shadowy eyes.
By this time the light is nearly gone and the water becomes murky as twilight settles in. I pull the mask off my face and rinse myself in the shallows of the water, looking up at the horizon as the sun sets.
What a preposterously beautiful place.
- Whacking plants at the farm
- Social media planning and set up
- Dusk snorkel
- Morning snorkel
- Swahili lesson
- Fish revision
- Marketing strategy planning
- Tae Kwando lesson
- Dusk snorkel
- Watching Wolf of Wall Street