Snorkeling the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef

I’ve never been a particularly strong swimmer and consequently, I’ve never been a big fan of water. In fact, I’d never swam in the ocean until my holiday to the Mayan Riviera in 2012 and as such it was here that I decided to push the boat out (figuratively, of course) and further my aquatic experiences.

The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is the second largest of its kind in the world (after Australia’s Great Barrier) and stretches from Mexico down to Honduras in a beautiful array of colour, rhythm and vitality. The coral fields are home to many endangered animals such as the West Indian Manatee and numerous species of sea turtle; creatures alone that are worth the journey. Therefore, it would be stupid not to pursue a visit when M and I found ourselves so close by.

Too-close-to-comfort- coral

I had no idea what to expect when we rounded the corner of a neighbouring resort and the beach huts cleared to expose the open ocean before us. I looked out towards the horizon. There, right over there, I would be swimming at the mercy of the water and the often unnerving inhabitants of whose territory I would be unruly trespassing in. I hoped they’d take pity on me as an innocent and curious outsider and spare me any grief.

Top right hand corner, fangs an’ all

Our tour provided us with two dives – one shallow water, one deep. Equipped with my lucky red underwater camera, I took the first plunge into the rolling blue waves amongst an army of fellow travelers. It was pretty difficult to navigate the waters and observe the treasures underneath without intruding into anothers personal dive space, resulting in a few awkward collisions. Coupled with the sheer proximity of kicking feet to sharp coral and schools of fish, the experience was enjoyable albeit claustrophobic. In an attempt for space, I swam ahead of the crowd, only to be faced with a large and quite terrifying looking fish. This underwater monster soon caught the attention of others who began to swarm my vicinity, pointing wildly. This caused him to dash away in the murky beyond. Only later did I find out that this was a barracuda, the fearsome fang-like predator.

I’ll stick to these lil’ guys, thanks

Returning to the boat, we pushed further into the horizon for our second, deep water dive – except that this time, a few faces appeared uncertain, M being one of them. The relentless rolling of the waves had rocked him into a state of sickness that was shared by a handful of fellow divers, assuming the position of head-between-the-knees. It’s safe to say that they didn’t make the second dive.  Out of guilt, I remained on the boat with M which eventually caused me to also feel sick. Another man shortly joined our merry gathering once experiencing a panic attack due to the claustrophobic nature of the snorkeling equipment.  Together, we looked grimly over the waves and awaited the return of our diving partners.

Apparently we missed a stingray sighting on the deep water dive; this is something that I somewhat regret. On the other hand, I learnt a lesson that day: the ocean is not something to be taken lightly. The almighty force that water holds should never be forgotten and maybe sea sickness is a mild way of remind us of how vulnerable we are to its power. I respect the ocean that much more now and I’ll carry this respect with me on my further, inevitable, brave aquatic endeavors.

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