Sunday, November 18, 2007

Day 15 …two lost souls living in a fish bowl

The heat of morning crept into the hotel before dawn broke. But we had a plan to retrieve our day of giggles we were promised. Upon arrival of the island, we saw the place was crawling with tourist directors and travel shops that could arrange anything. After breakfast, we chose the closest scalper to our hotel and booked a full day of snorkeling and fun. The day was already hot, and not wanting to over do it in the sun again, we went back to our room for a nap under the A.C.

The alarm rang too quickly but it made us happy. At the beach, a local pointed to a bucket of fins for us to find our size. Equipped with fins, goggles and a small waterproof day pack, we waded through the sea to get to the waiting boat. The boat then stopped shortly after it came to full speed. I had my doubts about it being a great snorkeling place as we hadn’t even gone past the harbor. The driver grabbed a few bananas while the boat slid ashore. And that’s when I got it. We were going to see the other natives of the Phi Phi Islands, monkeys. They were small, but they weighed a lot more than they should have. Tourists handed over ripe bananas and chunks of watermelon with glee on their faces. As did I, but with an underlying fear of getting rabies in a third world country with little medical assistance anywhere close. The boat began pulling back, and we said our goodbyes to the mild mannered primates.

We shortly came to our first dive spot. Bread went flying off the side of the boat to assure that we saw fish. We planted our butts right on the edge of the boat, pulled on our fins, adjusted our mask and then, SPLASH! The water was already 80 degrees, but it was a lot cooler than the air. Ready to view the world bellow, the salt water was blown from my snorkel tube as I secured it in my mouth. Breathe in, breathe out, nothing to this snorkeling stuff anyway…right? Eager and full of excitement, I lowered my face into the blue plains that surrounded us. Choke, cough, sputter, and then everything went black for a second. I could hear champagne bubbles in my ears, and had no orientation as to where the air might be. Fear turned into panic, which turned into more choking. Pulling my mask off, and swimming as hard as I could for the few inches I was actually under, I found air and a sense of calmness. Determined not to have another panic attack, I shook out my mask, again blew the salt water and practiced breathing above the water through the snorkel. Getting a hold of my self, I slowly lowered my head again.

Coral of all colors and reef fish greeted me with enthusiasm. Giant sea clams, held tight in a clamped position as angelfish suckled on their algae. Spiny black urchins reached for the sun and neon anemones danced as if they were in a trance. Black fish, red fish, and rainbow fish that could bite rocks swam around me faster and easier than I could swim around them, so I let them. I could feel small reef fish nibbling at the air bubbles trapped on my body, and I laughed because I knew I would nibble on one of them a little later. This pattern was repeated for five hours, until the hot sun decided that had put in a days worth of work. And with the changing of the solar guards, the engine was killed on the boat, so we could enjoy one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world.

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