Sunday, March 10, 2013
I’d always wanted to snorkel. It’s on my bucket list. So, since I was going to the Cayman Islands, it only seemed appropriate that I go snorkeling. My friends and I made sure we put snorkeling on our list of things to do while in Grand Cayman.
I’d gotten a couple recommendations from friends who had traveled to the Cayman Islands and they said to go with Captain Marvin’s boat to go to Stingray City and snorkeling at some of the reefs in the area. We set up a time to go snorkeling for an afternoon.
I was excited. I had my swimsuit on under my clothes, my bag packed with my towel, sunscreen, water, snacks and more. I was ready for a tropical snorkeling adventure, which I was sure would be just as easy as it looked in photos.
And then the boat started moving into open water. And then I began to get that familiar nauseous feeling in my stomach. The winds were blowing hard that day, and the waves crashed against the boat. I rested my head against the side of the boat.
I remembered that I hadn’t even thought about taking my motion sickness medications. I get nauseous on the Tilt-a-whirl; I should have known I’d get nauseous on a boat on the open ocean! I finally took the medication.
Then we arrived at Stingray City. I’d heard this was the highlight for a lot of people. We got out the back of the boat, and there, everywhere around us in the water, were giant stingrays. As we stood in the shallow water on the sandbar, they would brush against the back of our legs and our arms. It was startling, but it was so much fun.
The crew guys from our boat held the stingrays so we could pet the stingray, which was a bit slimy but soft. They let people feed the stingrays squid, and the stingrays would suck up the squid in their mouths. Apparently it’s seven years good luck to kiss a stingray, or so the crew guys told us, so then we each kissed a stingray… Well we’ll see if that’s true!
The stingrays were so graceful, flowing through the water. I tried snapping photos under the water with my underwater camera and just watched everyone around me. I’d hear people react, giggling, as stingrays startled them, gliding along side them.
Later we got back on the boat. We arrived at the first snorkeling stop, at one of the reefs. Several feet in front of us, huge waves rolled towards the boat, which rocked with the waves. A line of foam lay several yards away, and the water color changed past the foam. The line marked the edge of the reef, and beyond it the water became very deep.
I was ready to snorkel. I had my goggles and breathing tube, and my flippers. I asked the crew if I had it on right and the guys said it was fine. So far so good. Then I went down the ladder at the back of the boat and into the ocean. The waves rocked me as I tried to place the mouthpiece in my mouth. Salty sea water rushed in my mouth and down my throat and I started coughing.
I tried to put the mouthpiece in my mouth and tried to breathe through the tube, but I had trouble breathing through it, and seawater kept going down my throat. I sputtered and coughed. I decided to get out of the water and breathe for a minute, and try to readjust my mouthpiece out of the water.
I got out of the water and sat on the back of the boat. The older crewman, who was possibly the captain, asked if I was ok. I said I was ok, I just couldn’t really breathe. He pulled my mask off and said that would help. Ah, fresh air. I could breathe a bit.
He asked if I could swim. I said I could swim but I hadn’t snorkeled before. It was hard to breathe. He took a look at my mask and he said it was a kid’s mask, with a smaller mouthpiece and a smaller breathing tube. I’m guessing the combination of a small tube to breathe through and having some breathing problems caused me to have difficulty breathing during my first try at snorkeling. I kind of wished I’d tried snorkeling at least once before jumping into the big ocean.
I sat and rested for a minute, deciding whether to try snorkeling again with the adult mask or wait until the next stop to try again. I watched the rest of the group swimming out in the water, their heads and breathing tubes bobbing in the water as they looked down at the sea life.
After a while, one of the younger crew guys offered to swim me out to the reefs. He grabbed a life tube and told me to hang on to it and just focus on breathing, and he’d swim me out to the reef. I felt a little silly since I’ve known how to swim since I was 5, but having someone with me helped me to just focus on learning to breathe while snorkeling.
So I held the life tube and he swam, pulling me along. And then I realized, once I had the adult mask, I could actually breathe in and out without any trouble. And then I could look down into the water, and see the other world. The world of fish and sea life, coral, stingrays, starfish and more.
I kept looking all around me, trying not to miss anything. My guide pointed out different fish and coral and told me their names—pirate fish, tiger fish, angel fish, seahorses, stingrays, fire coral, sea anemones. So many different types of sea life, many of which I wouldn’t have noticed or known the names of if he hadn’t told me. I kept looking at the blue of the water, the brightly colored coral and the different fish. Just awesome.
Soon we had to move on to the next stop so we headed back to the boat. I got out of the water, with a smile on my face, happy that my snorkeling experience was turning out to be a fun adventure.
At the next stop to snorkel, I felt confident I could swim and snorkel. I jumped into the water, and swam around, looking down in the water at all the different fish and sealife. I took some photos of the fish and other sea life. I could breathe through the breathing tube this time. I was enjoying my time on my own looking all around me at the sea life.
Then, my guide found me again. Maybe it looked like I was drowning. Or maybe he just decided to show me more of the sea life in the ocean. Either way, I was happy he found me, and I grabbed his arm and we swam around.
Before I knew it, the snorkeling adventure was finished. As I left, I thanked my guide. Without my guide, I don't think I would have enjoyed my first time snorkeling.
My first snorkeling adventure, which started out difficult, turned into an awesome experience of viewing the world under the water. I can't wait to go snorkeling again someday!
*Thanks to Marissa Fitzgibbons for the use of several of her photos.