Sometimes it feels as though we’re living inside a travel magazine, where the glossy photos have sprung to life and the flowery descriptions of a picture perfect world are in fact recounting the lazy minutes of our days. As you turn the page, the photo spread shows a sailboat floating over its shadow in the white sand, but the gentle ripples that are skimming the water have come to life as a cool breeze softly touching my face. The seemingly over saturated aquamarine colors of the sea seem dreamlike in the photo but are true in my eyes and reveal the various depths around us. The wispy clouds against the deep blue sky are the background for birds that certainly must have been photo-shopped there; it’s just too perfect, but then why do I hear the chirping call of an osprey and the descending notes of a wren?
It’s one of those mornings of flat calm and total silence; I must be out there. I grab my paddleboard, snorkel, sunglasses and hat, and head out to the reef that is a stone’s throw from where we’re anchored, then venture all the way to the point. Once in the water it feels a little like being in an aquarium, but someone removed the glass. The schools of yellow striped Sergeant Majors are not worried by my presence and mill around me as if I must have something more to offer than bubbles. The blue gray tangs with their graceful fins and large black eyes monitor my movements as they harass the schools of tiny gold striped reef fish. Then there is what I call the fans, feathers and ferns of all varieties growing on the rocks, creating a beautiful feast that moves in the current.
Brittle starfish with their five skinny arms are attached to the rocks in crazy arrangements, like some solo twister game, alongside chubby red starfish covered in thorns. Blue green parrot fishes with big puffy lips and an orange outline of each guitar pick sized scale are very shy but oh so pretty (and oh so tasty if I could grab one!). The balloon fish, porcupine fish, and puffer fish, with their polka dots, big eyes, and silly grins, and the court jester diamond designs on their backs seem to be the goofiest of the group. Triggerfish are aptly named for the sharp spike and tough skins that they wear, but when watching them in the water their grey delicate fins move like satin flags on a gentle wind. Ouch! A sudden wee sting from a transparent jelly surprises me; they’re not in the magazine photos!
Yellow striped angelfish, and pointy snouted butterfly fish always seem to grace the covers of the travel magazines and today I was treated to a show by many of these colorful creatures. But when I came upon a school of dinner plate sized yellow tail sawtails I actually stopped short and said (while underwater), Wow (then came up for air and coughed for a few minutes)! I had to return to the boat to look up their names, but I’ll always remember their iridescent grey bodies with black spots, white and yellow stripes, and bright yellow tails. When the sun hits them just right all you see are their tails and for a minute I thought I was back in the mountains watching the Monarch butterflies! These guys definitely won my prize for outstanding fish display this morning.
While paddle boarding back to the boat I came upon what I thought must be rocks below the surface but when the dark patch started to flutter and slowly move under me I realized I was looking at a National Geographic moment; a mob of mobula rays, 100’s of them, gently flapping their gigantic wings and enticing me to follow them around the bay. The rays lazily moved as one, sometimes near the surface, sometimes deeper, but always within reach. I put on my snorkel and lowered myself into their world of silence and sunrays, and felt as though I’d been transported into some other realm; or maybe I’d fallen into a deluxe edition of a Jacques Cousteau special! As I watched the rays turn this way and that, the sunlight reflected on the white undersides of their wings and around their eyes and mouth, adding flashes of light to a mesmerizing display of layer upon layer of rays floating ever so slowly beneath me.
Then the quiet motion changed to one of alertness as the rays started leaping into the air one after another, returning to the sea with loud slaps. Being so close to the multitude as they’re flying through the air it was like being treated to a front row seat of the Olympic synchronized diving competition, though this contest includes a top prize for best belly flop. Some rays do end over end forward flips, some jump for distance and some for height, and some just fly into the air shaking their bodies wildly to seemingly rid themselves of the suckerfish that are riding on their backs. Their dark bodies as they leap out of the water are shiny and smooth, and they seem to float in air for a second before falling back to effortlessly swim off to deeper water.
This travel brochure that we’ve found ourselves in is so full of photos that simply can’t be real, but we keep discovering that they are! So we eat, sleep, breath, and play in magnificent 8 x 12 glossy tour photos, and along the way we are creating our own life log, full of memories and mental snapshots.
P.S. – Where are the pictures you say? You’ll have to check with National Geographic or Jacques Cousteau. Ours won’t transmit from our brains onto a screen (or via SSB radio).