We’re going all the way back to April…On my way home from the surprise surf session on the other side of the island, I passed a lovely sailboat named, ‘Namaste’. Chris and Jessica waved me over. They invited me aboard for a timely warm meal, where I I learned more about their prior adventures as avid scuba divers, experienced cruisers, knowledgeable riggers…and just good people! They offered to let me tag along on a drift dive at the pass, as they had an extra scuba rig and local diver friends who knew the ins and outs of this technical sort of dive.
A few days later, I sat nervously on the edge of their dinghy at the outer mouth of the pass. From the limited vision out of my smudged mask, I realized I’d pulled a raging rookie maneuver. I’d turned to face the water, my fins already dangling in the translucent neon blue…It was too late to turn back. I was feeling exorbitantly weighted and had no choice but follow through with my blunder. The sea swirled with the turbulence of the incoming tide…
“Allez, go!” Called the lead diver in the other dinghy. All six other divers leaned backwards and plunged coolly into the sea, Jacques Cousteau-style. I bumbled to slide in feet first, the top of the tank knocking me in the back of the head as I slipped off the dinghy pontoon.
I fumbled to adjust my mask and regulator, then noticed that no other divers remained on the surface. Chris’ head popped up and he signaled with an enthusiastic ‘thumbs down’ to get underwater as quickly as possible. My anxiety dropped away once my rhythmic ‘Darth Vader’ breathing sound commenced. Chris eyed me to make sure all was ok as we slowly descended to 30, 50, 80, 100 feet.
Soon the sea floor was in clear view, and the tug of the current became evident as the reef passed below. We saw a few sharks right away, a brazen pack of barracuda crossed just in front of us, and a zillion other reef fish sought an evening meal as daylight dwindled.
Jessica reappeared and the three of us stuck together, riding the tide just a few feet above the reef—what a sensation! Underwater flight! I fixed my gaze ahead…
Jessica suddenly swam in front of me, eyes bulging and pointing to something behind me.
“Dear god, it’s either a tiger shark, a lemon shark, or an oceanic whitetip…” I thought, turning with a surge of adrenaline. To my relief and delight, a lone adult bottlenose dolphin hovered just a few feet behind me, gazing at the three of us with a curious smirk. I smiled so big that water leaked into my mask…The dolphin came nearly close enough to touch, then whipped around us in tight circles, stopping briefly to examine each of us. When his air ran out, he shot up to the surface to grab a breath of air than quickly came to find us again…
Meeting eyes with this magnificent and marvelously intelligent creature, a flood of emotions washed over me. There was an indescribable feeling of connection with this trusting animal. I wished we could have communicated better…I wanted to apologize for what we humans were doing to the planet. I wished I could look him in the eye and feel good knowing that there would be fish to eat and clean water for its offspring, and it’s offspring’s offspring…I wasn’t all that sure…The dolphin finally went on its way, but the sinking, hopeless feeling remained. The current finally sucked us into the mouth of the lagoon, the sea floor rose, and shortly after the three of us broke the surface.
As our chase tender arrived, we chattered in excitement about the dolphin encounter. What a gift, what a vision, what joy!!
That evening I ate with Chris and Jess aboard the catamaran of their French diving friends. They shared some unbelievable videos of their most amazing diving encounters. An overwhelming passion for protecting the ocean and its creatures filled the cabin, and a flicker of hope within me returned. Maybe the emerging consciousness among humans will save our planet before it’s too late…?
Not wanting to miss out, I dove with the crew again at 6am the following morning! Thanks for the awesome experience, Chris and Jessica!!