Yep, It Pretty Much Looked Like That
One of the three free trips we got as part of our auction offering to go to Belize
was to go snorkeling on a reef, followed by a boat trip up the Sittee River. I'd never been snorkeling before, and so thought I should give it a try. We were taken by boat out to one of the many reefs that dot the seas around Belize and, along with the islands covered (unless felled) by mangroves, provide the mainland with a modicum of protection against the tempestuous seas of the Caribbean. We had our snorkeling gear, and were given no instruction as we jumped over the sides. I had always wondered how you made sure not to breathe through the nose in the goggles. Well, the goggles had a nostril guard that stopped that from happening, so you were forced to breathe through the mouth.
Well, I put my goggles underwater, and I was in a whole new world. About nine feet below us were little pods of coral, both brain coral
and the sea-weedy kind
. Amidst the coral and around the sands, we saw Butterfly Fish
, these guys
, and five unimpressed barracuda
. On our second dive, on the reef over, two sleeping nurse sharks
were pointed out to us, hidden under the coral. We kept our distance, tried not to brush against the coral (for its protection, and ours), and just swam in awe.
To be honest, it was a privilege to be in their world. The fishes sauntered along, took one look at me, and decided, all things considered, that it would probably be best if they hid under the coral. But there was no mad dash for safety, and I felt like telling them: "It's OK. I don't want to eat you, shove you in an aquarium, stroke your back, or destroy your world." The diving made all of us on the trip, I think, aware of the fragility of that world. There was a bit of bleaching of the coral, and we heard that some of the diving and snorkeling around the reefs was causing problems. On our way out, we'd passed development happening on some of the islands, with mangroves being cut down in favor of non-native trees and luxury resorts, and we could only think to ourselves how short-sighted such an investment would be, next time a hurricane or tidal wave came through and there was nothing to protect your property from the winds and high seas.
There was the opportunity to go diving later on in the week. But, that seemed too invasive, too much an attempt to be in their world, rather than touch the surface and look down and recognize that the aquatic beings belong there and you don't. If you're lucky, however, you may just spend a few moments dipping your face into it. And perhaps that is just enough.