Turquoise waters, great visibility, not a wave in sight. Sounds like the ideal conditions to go snorkeling, right? That describes the day as I dipped into the waters of Varadero, Cuba. The only thing on my mind was my (not so) little fear of water… You see, I’ve nearly drowned in just about every body of water you could think of.
Ocean? I was about 5 and I really wanted to go in the ocean. (We were in Rio de Janeiro, so could you blame me?!) I remember feeling scared as I went into the water without a parent, and the next thing I remember is waking up on the beach, exhausted, and with no recollection of how I’d gotten back. Apparently, I was toppled over by a wave and someone had to scoop me out of the ocean.
River? I was probably about 10 and had a moment of sheer brilliance. I had gone to the river with some friends, first we were in the shallow end, but then we started going deeper, and deeper, and deeper. The water was now up to our necks and only half of us could swim; I wasn’t one of them. We should have turned around, but we didn’t, we kept going further in even though we were now walking our tippy-toes. Next thing I know, we were all underwater, pulling each other down, fighting for a breath of air. Getting out of that one was nothing short of miraculous.
Lake? Another very close call. I could swim by this point and even had a life-jacket on for precaution, yet during my only dive off the water-trampoline, I managed to take in a whole lot of water. There I was gasping for air as my friend’s face turned to horror when she realized I wasn’t faking it. I stopped breathing that time. I really thought that was the end, again.
So there I was about to go snorkeling with all of that on my mind. Not the most relaxing start to your Cuba holidays. I was really starting to wish I were back on the mainland strolling the streets of Havana instead.
As I walked towards the end of the, they handed me a pair of fins and a snorkel. “In you go!” was all their advice for me. “Umm, could I get some kind of floating device?” I asked sheepishly. The guy handed me a simple over-the-head life vest while I looked around hoping to spot a pool noodle. There were none around. I carefully slipped into the water, attempted wearing the fins, put the mask over my face, placed the snorkel in my mouth…and started hyperventilating! My feet felt bound by the fins, the mask covered my nose adding to the feeling of breathlessness, and how the heck do people breathe through that tube because I was just swallowing water! I threw half the equipment back on the dock, and with only the mask and my vest to clench onto, I swam behind our group 200 meters out to sea.
Life below the ocean’s surface is incredible!
Seeing the depth below my feet, the bright corals 15 meters below, the angel fish and fish I can only refer to as ‘Nemo’. Being in the water and seeing this life with my own eyes was more beautiful than any National Geographic documentary I have ever watched (and I love National Geographic)! Yes, I was a ridiculous mess out there, flapping my arms around, freaking out every time my mask fogged up, and lagging behind everyone, but it was awesome! I want to do it again!
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Have you tried snorkeling?