It was my second day in the Maldives and I found myself awkwardly huddled against the ocean, in splash defying task of pulling on flippers while wearing goggles so tight they would leave marks for days. We were going snorkeling- our resort, Bandos had a fully equipped dive center although a minimum age of 16 years was required.
Once I was ready to go, I followed our snorkel instructor Jana using movements that could only be described as the antithesis of graceful in a strange attempt to propel myself forward. When the water was finally deep enough to swim, I put my head under and pushed off, promptly beginning to choke on the saltwater filling my lungs. There was a whole world under that blue canvas, but I remained above, spitting out the water and emptying my snorkel.
A quick reminder that I had just made the rookie mistake of letting water enter the snorkel, and I tried again. The frothy bubbles made by kicking cleared as we swum deeper, through the coral reef. At first, we were greeted by small silvery fish that swum past strange translucent orange bushes; corals. The corals multiplied and the fish grew in size and changed shape the deeper we went. Some swam in schools; a lucky peek behind a coral would reveal a clownfish, or a baby shark being pulled in by the tide.
Suddenly I stopped. The sandy ocean bed below me dropped away, a sheer expanse of jagged cliff that led to the depths of the ocean. The reef stopped here, there were bigger schools of fish that surrounded me and an adult shark that calmly dove into the nearest corals. Everywhere I looked…was a new world. It was almost incomprehensible to picture this treasure trove of wonders hidden under the crystal sea. I drunk in the sights I was seeing as I swam along the reef. Scales of glowing hues and queer intergalactic plants lay along the jagged base rocks, and eels were hiding, camouflaged against the ocean floor. Regrettably, I left the mythical world, tempted by the idea of stretching out by the sand at the shallows.
The next day and the day after that fell hostage to rain. The ocean was too rough to swim in properly, but we were lucky enough to have another single day of marine clarity. The whole family promptly stopped what they were doing and ran to grab snorkels. I wouldn’t miss this ocean for the world-or as my dad put it, “National Geographic on steroids.”