Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Truly Magical Day

Have you ever had one of those days where you feel like you are being rewarded for something you did, but you don't know what you could have done to deserve such an incredible day?  Or in my case, a day where you are just reminded on a minute by minute basis how great and amazing God is and how perfect (even with all of our human imperfections) He made our world?  The second day of our trip was one of those days for me.  It was truly perfect and will go down in my history as one of my favorite days ever.

It started out pretty normal for a day in Palau.  We woke up early, sat out on the balcony reading magazines, headed over to Sam's, grabbed a bite to eat, got on the boat with about 8 other divers (when I say "other divers" I don't mean to give you the impression that I actually dove.  I didn't.  I don't.  I won't - too many rules. It's just shorter to type dive than snorkel, which is what I did- snorkel.  Everyone on the boat, except for me and one of the gals I went to Palau with, did dive. Deep. With tanks and computers and instructions and too much stuff for me to keep track of.  I like jumping in the water with a mask, fins and a snorkel.  I like being able to pop my head up out of the water whenever I want to.  And mostly, I like having the ability to summon the captain to get my ass out of the water at the first sight of sharks.  But I'll get to that in a minute).

Our boat with 8 divers, 2 snorkelers (of which I was one) 2 dive guides, a captain and a mate took off around 9.  They said we would have a calm ride, which was good because I hadn't been on a boat in a while, and although I have always had pretty good sea legs, the last time I went on a long boat ride in the middle of the ocean, I made plenty of fish food while hanging my green head over the side of the boat.  But true to their word, the water was like glass and our boat skimmed over the water, which was a constantly changing kaleidescope of blues and greens.  And so clear, you could see the coral formations below.  They took us to our first dive spot, Turtle Cove.  Our guide told us that we should just jump off the boat and go with the flow (it was a theme for the whole trip I tell ya), let the current pull us to the end of the wall.  He said we'd see lots of fish, that was an understatement.

At certain points of my snorkel adventure I felt like I was in a scene from Finding Nemo or Shark Tale.  There were so many fish riding in on the current due to the tide change, I just kept pointing because they kept coming.  Schools and schools of them.  All different types, so many different colors (the underwater pics in this post were taken by my fellow snorkeler, with her super cool snorkel mask cam, the pictures are great, but even they don't quite capture the magnitude of what we saw.

The guide also told us we should see a turtle or two. I was hoping with a name like Turtle Cove it wouldn't disappoint.  It didn't.  I figured, my whole trip had been made, swimming with a sea turtle.

He also mentioned we might see some sharks, I hoped not.  He was right, we saw this one first, my first official shark spotting...
A harmless nurse shark.  Had no clue we were even there, I liked it that way.

We continued to float along, in awe of the fish and the coral.  The sun streaming through the water changed the color of everything.  We saw more and more and fish.  The current started to pick up as we got to the end of the wall, so waved the boat over, hopped back aboard and they took us back to the start of our swim, let us jump back in and see it again.

By this point the current had really picked up, I was really thankful to be wearing my snorkel vest (aka life preserver). Even though I'm a pretty strong swimmer, I liked having the extra flotation just in case.  The only kicking we had to do was to slow us down.  It was amazing to me how even though we were floating over the same area we had just come from, it had changed.  There were new fish, we saw different corals.

And Nemo, a Clownfish, popped out of an anemone to say hi!

We even saw a reef shark. He was far away, far enough that I didn't feel like I was on the menu.

With the current, came all kinds of plankton and the water started to get murky, so we had the boat come get us and a few minutes later the divers surfaced.  And we headed off to lunch.  Our guide told us that since the tides were going out, the captain was taking us to a special place for lunch.  They took us to Now You See It, Now You Don't Island.    Basically, this island (large sandbar in the middle of the ocean) only appears at very low tide.  We were so blessed to be close by at low tide to get to have the experience to eat here.  They literally anchored the boat to the island (which got bigger and bigger while we were there).

And we got to have lunch in one of the most gorgeous, unique places in the world.  It existed only for us and only for a short time.  It was amazing and I felt like all the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders.  I just had a turkey sandwich for lunch, but thanks to the view and the company (and being starving from all the ocean exploring I had just done), it was the best turkey sandwich I have ever eaten.

After our lunch break, we went to our next dive site, New Drop Off.  While the guide was going over all the instructions for the divers, they had to clip into the wall (yet another reason I am not meant to be a diver), I heard the following phrases, "don't stay on top, don't splash, sharks."  Since I'm not a diver and I only had "to go with the flow," and what he was telling them didn't pertain to me, I was only half listening to what he was telling them, and made his words into this, "don't splash on top of the water or the sharks will eat you."  But I figured, it probably wasn't dangerous since they were letting us in the water, surely there was nothing to worry about, we probably wouldn't see any sharks. Someone (knowledgeably) forgot to tell me that was the whole reason we were there.

So in my complete ignorance and still in a state of sunburned bliss from lunch, I jumped into the beautiful water.  We floated along for, what seemed like no more than 1 second, when I saw a black tipped fin.... reef shark.  Swimming quick and  to my eyes (that were wide as saucers) close by (cue the duh-da, duh-da)...

However, in retrospect compared to THE NEXT one we saw, that one was like a mile away.

Or maybe it was the same one, circling back to see if the large thing in a bright orange vest, splashing on top of the water would make a good meal.  My heart was thumping as my brain was trying to convince my fight or flight response to calm down because SURELY the shark would eat the fish that separated the two of us before coming after me.

And there was another one (and this picture may or may not have been edited just a little to make you really scared like I was to give you a sense of how close the sharks were to me.

At this point, I checked in with my snorkel buddy and we decided to go on just a little more. And we did, and then I saw this...
But there were more than the two we captured on film, and I decided I had had enough.  I was no longer enjoying my time in the water.  I felt like I was shark bait (the barracuda that came over to say hi weren't helping either).  I had a sense that with many sharks circling like that, they were surely having a conversation about how to round me up as a main course.  So, we gave our boat the thumbs up and they quickly came and pulled me out of the shark infested waters.  Because I spent good money on this trip am brave, I jumped right back in a few minutes later, this time with the rationalization (from my snorkel buddy) that the divers would be down there now and surely the sharks would eat them before us.  Once the divers surfaced, I was happy to find out that I was not exaggerating the number of sharks we saw, they counted at least 11. But I did hear the guide wrong, he said not to splash because the sharks are shy and will swim away... oh well, I guess I wasn't on the menu after all.

While the divers were getting back on the boat, we spotted a couple of dolphin jumping.  They started getting closer to the boat, so we all jumped back into the water in hopes of swimming with them. Our guide told us they'd rather play with the boat than with us, so we got back on the boat and suddenly we were surrounded.  Where ever you looked there was a pod of dolphins, literally hundreds of them.  There were two other boats nearby and the dolphins put on quite a show for all of us.  They were flipping out of the water and racing the boats.  Our wonderful captain did four passes with the dolphins escorting us through the water, we were all mesmerized- a boat full of adults and we were all standing and clapping and cheering them on.  It was such a simple thing, but it felt like they were experiencing joy and passing it on to us.  It was the perfect way to end such a wonderful day.


Amy Ray said...

I like the idea of snorkeling better than diving. I have never snorkeled but I have gone diving once in a lake... I nearly drowned in the first 5 minutes in 6 feet of water. My friend forgot to tell me how to release the weights that help you sink! I was not a fan after that but I did swim down to 13 feet before deciding I had tried and was done for the day. Maybe another time...
Snorkeling, you don't have to use hand signals to tell your diving buddy that you are scared and need to get the surface as fast as possible but not too fast as to make your lungs explode!

Jennifer Wilmore said...

This was a great story, and I can only imagine what it must have been like to swim with the turtles, to feel like shark bait, and to have a delicious turkey sandwich on your very own fleeting island! I'm so happy for you in getting to experience this, and hearing all about it makes me smile! BTW, I bookmarked your site for my mom, so she can now also read about all of your OOG moments! I told her, and she agreed, that you are a great story teller!

Kelly said...

I am so glad to have caught up on your adventure. I'm really happy you got to go and that you didn't get eaten by sharks!!!!

Sarah said...

How about dinner at Kramer's tomorrow? Oh yeah - we're not on Palau anymore.

Well then - I guess I'll see you on Monday! And to think I had no idea who you were before picking you up for the trip. I'm glad we met! PFF.

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