Snorkeling and the Sea

Well, I’ve got just about a month left of my trip to Honduras. I think it’s fitting that this last stage has been opened by a lovely trip to the Caribbean, from which I just returned last night. I was staying on the island of Utila (off Honduras’ northern coast) with a few friends, and I  really had a lovely time. One of the friends I was with, Amanda, has been interning here for the past two months; the official reason for the trip was to debrief her before her return to the US, but we spent most of our time enjoying the island and the ocean.

 

Oh, the ocean! Every time I see it I fall more in love. During this trip I got to go snorkeling for the first time in my life, which showed me a whole other side of it that I’d never really seen before. I’ve been to some very nice aquariums and seen videos of the undersea world, but never experienced it personally, and it was absolutely enchanting. On the first day we snorkeled in the very shallow water right near the beach. At this part of the shoreline, the sand only extended a short way into the ocean before being overtaken by weeds and sea grass, which were mostly too near the surface to swim over (the spiny sea urchins living in the grass would’ve made it dangerous to crawl or walk over it). But swimming along the edge of those weeds was still fascinating. It was like going along the edge of a tiny cliff, with a whole host of life living there. Dozens of varieties of tiny, colorful fish lived along the borders of the weeds, so that it was like swimming through a painting alive with splotches of color. At times the weeds would circle around the sand, creating a sort of very shallow underwater grove, which was delightful just to hover in and watch as the fish swam by. At other times a whole school of minnows would dart in front of me and swim off into the distance, so that I would feel almost as if I was flying along with them. I never knew how much life there was along the shoreline! Looking at the water from above, even if it’s clear, doesn’t show a fraction of the fish that live within it. A little later I found a section of shoreline where the weeds were deeper, so I was able to swim out over them, and there is nothing quite like the feeling of looking down upon a vast underwater field as you swim over it, the occasional fish darting past the water receding into gloom in the distance.

 

The next day, we took a dingy out to Water Cay, a tiny island to the southeast of Utila. It was like being on a little desert island, like the sort you would imagine being shipwrecked on, though it was much closer to the shore than those generally are. I could walk across its length in probably five minutes or less. That was fun in and of itself; but more exciting was snorkeling around the island, which had much more variety of environment than the shoreline of Utila (or at least the section of it where we had been). There were rocky portions, fields of grass of a different variety than at Utila, sunken trees, open sands… and most exciting and beautiful of all, a coral reef. How lovely that was! How magnificent! I can’t adequately express the delight of the place. I swam in between the reefs until they opened out into the wider sea, a sandy bed which stretched off further than I could see. I was afraid to go out too far, so I stayed close to the reef and didn’t go looking to see if there might be even more impressive reef on the other side. I wish I had! But snorkeling uses muscles I’ve never really used before and I was pretty tired by that point, having had to take a somewhat circuitous route to reach the reef around all the rock beds. Swimming amongst the coral was like swimming between panels of stained glass. It was so lovely.

 

I think it was snorkeling that made the biggest impression on me during this trip, although I did a few other things for the first time as well. Overall, it was quite excellent, and I look forward to my last month here and especially to going home.

 

~ Jared

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