On Saturday, we were expected at the pier at 9 am. The weather was excellent: blue sky, not a single cloud in sight, bright sun, and above all, almost no wind. We were really looking forward to it!
We were warmly welcomed and given wetsuits (or, as we prefer to call them, “stinksuits”) and flippers. We were a bit disappointed that we couldn’t snorkel without them, but later we were told that we had to wear them because of jellyfish season. We took our seats and were handed some papers. We signed the usual insurance documents, and Ely indicated he has diabetes. The staff was concerned but very kind. They kept asking if he was okay. We set sail, and the breathtaking views took over. That’s why we came here! Before our departure, we bought a new camera and considered getting a GoPro, but we decided not to for budget reasons. Of course, now we regret it! Luckily, you could rent an underwater camera on the boat.
After an hour and a half of sailing, we arrived at our first stop, “Fish Bowl.” Those who wanted to dive were divided into groups. We chose only to snorkel. Ely can’t dive due to his diabetes, and I am kind enough to stay with him (as I am, haha).
Ely had some concerns about our day trip with his diabetes. He had never snorkeled in open water before. During snorkeling, his insulin pump must be turned off, and he can’t measure his blood sugar levels. We brought extra supplies and his emergency syringe, which he, fortunately, has never had to use in his life. We also tested our underwater pouches for our smartphones. Ely put some glucose tablets in it and tucked it under his wetsuit. It worked perfectly. Everything stayed dry!
With our wetsuits and flippers on and our underwater camera in hand, we descended from the boat. I was so glad I had the wetsuit on! It was so cold, brrr. I had snorkeled before in Egypt and Thailand, and the water there was always delightful! Here, of course, it’s winter. Ely thought it wasn’t too bad, all things considered. As we moved away from the boat, we were in more open water, and the reef was quite deep below us. We could still see the beautiful underwater world, but it felt distant. We swam further and were amazed at being able to admire the coral in all its glory. Now it was only 50 centimeters away from our noses. Our underwater camera came in handy, and we took as many photos and videos as we could.
We encountered stunning coral formations and swam among the fish. I had made some great snorkeling trips before, but this one definitely tops the list. It was a beautiful palette of colors, with both soft and hard corals. I particularly loved the way the soft corals swayed in the water. We felt like we were in Finding Nemo, although, unfortunately, we didn’t spot Nemo himself.
Trivia: Coral looks like a kind of covered rock or plant. It’s actually an animal, but it doesn’t look like one. Coral also includes sponges (tiny animals). It’s tiny, just a few millimeters. Sponges have little veins; in between, there are tiny holes, which are actually mouths. Coral is the collective name for them.
I regularly checked on Ely to make sure he was feeling okay. High blood sugar is unhealthy; if his sugar gets too low, he can faint, but he feels great. We snorkeled for an hour and a half and decided to return to the boat. That way, Ely could measure his blood sugar again, and I was getting cold too. Just below our boat, we encountered a barracuda, the big fish Nemo wanted to kill.
We took off our wetsuits and hung them up to dry, quickly dried ourselves off, and were ready for lunch because our stomachs were rumbling from all the activity 😀 A small buffet offered various delicious dishes like cold pasta salad, coleslaw, lettuce and tomatoes, bread, and cold cuts. We didn’t stuff ourselves too much because another snorkeling session was on the agenda.
Our boat continued to a small island called “Sand Cay.” Due to ocean currents, sediment accumulates on the surface of the reef. The island is actually a result of accumulated sediment and is made up of “biogenic sediment,” which consists of small skeletal remains of plants and animals. This coral skeleton is processed by various parrotfish. These parrotfish feed on and scrape algae off dead coral, taking small pieces of a coral skeleton with them. The parrotfish then remove the sand from the algae, which falls to the seabed. After 600 years, an island is formed. It takes thousands of years for a tropical rainforest to grow on it. It’s amazing how nature works, isn’t it? (Okay, Ely found this a bit too teacher-like. I think it’s a cool fact!)
We were allowed to snorkel again two hundred meters before reaching Sand Cay. We had two hours to snorkel or swim to the island. We chose the latter and enjoyed the beautiful underwater world along the way. Ely saw a reef shark, but it disappeared too quickly for him to photograph. I didn’t see it. Reef sharks are harmless. Upon arriving at the island, we saw some locals who enjoyed making a day trip out of it to relax on the beach. How wonderful is that? We drive to our Belgian coast, and they take their boats to come here. Taking off our wetsuits and going for a swim felt amazing!
As we snorkeled back, it was more challenging due to the strong current. It was quite difficult. As a precaution, I brought a dry sack with grape sugar, and Ely had his insulin pump in case anything happened. Thankfully, everything went smoothly. We saw colorful starfish, large shells (We missed Ariel from The Little Mermaid), and beautiful anemones.
Back on the boat, we were offered fresh fruit and enjoyed delicious papaya! We ordered a beer (or two :D) and enjoyed the beautiful view of the pier. We hoped to encounter whales as the area is known for them, but we weren’t lucky. We didn’t see any.
I hoped to see a turtle today, but unfortunately, we only saw one when we were already back on the boat. It kept popping its head out of the water for a long time, which was a bad sign. The turtle may have ingested plastic, causing it to float to the surface. It’s very sad because it means the turtle will likely die. Think twice before asking for a plastic bag at your local supermarket!
Tired but satisfied, we arrived back on land. We took the bus back to our Airbnb, made ourselves a delicious hamburger, and crawled into bed blissfully. Aussie, we love you!
X Inez & Ely
P.S.: The photographer was kind enough to transfer some of his professional photos onto our memory card. Below, you can admire his favorite gems. It truly looked as beautiful as depicted! Our camera was slightly lower quality, resulting in darker photos as it didn’t capture as much light in the water.