You’re Never Too Old to Learn to Snorkel in Vanuatu
An amazing thing happened yesterday when I discovered that I am indeed able to snorkel in Vanuatu. I had no idea it was possible. This was a revelation. My Aussie friends from the Eratap Resort encouraged me to at least put on a mask and stick my head in the water to see what I was missing. But I argued that I cannot snorkel, not in Vanuatu, not anywhere.
It is not like I haven’t tried to snorkel in the past. I bought snorkel gear when I decided to learn to SCUBA in the late 1980s. To get certified in California back then, one needed to take a US Coast Guard-approved course, which meant the first few weeks were spent in class. By the time we got to the water, we were put through simple drills such as falling backward into the water with our flippers on, followed by diving directly to the bottom of the pool, twirling as we rose to the top.
In less than 10-feet of water, I punctured my eardrum by diving too quickly to the bottom. To be fair, my eardrum was already perforated by the time my eight-year-old self for unknown reasons thought it would be fun to stick a soda straw into my ear. But the dive made it much worse. I was in so much pain, but I tried like a fool to continue with the class. At one point, I was on the deck of the pool, curled up in a ball and crying.
To make matters worse, I went home and put eardrops into my ear, thinking I had blockage in my ear. I fell to the ground faster than if I was shot in the chest. Just collapsed. This all happened just days before I was to leave for Cancun for my honeymoon with husband #4. Needless to say, even with Silly Puddy planted in my ear and a plastic cap, I could not perform even the simplest of functions of snorkeling. Eventually, I gave away my snorkel gear to my landlocked niece Laura, in Minneapolis, who probably swapped it for a pair of earrings.
I tried to snorkel when my present and last husband, Adam, and I traveled to the Inside Passage in Alaska at Hobart Bay. I made an attempt to snorkel a few years earlier in Tahiti and Rangiroa, and every single time I would inhale water either through my nose or into my mouth. Eventually, I gave up.
But yesterday was different. I picked up my snorkel gear at The Havannah. Brought it back to my room. I tried on the mask and examined how the snorkel was attached. I practiced in the mirror by inserting the suction part into my mouth, after washing it repeatedly in the sink to remove the stuck-on sand. Played with moving the snorkel high behind my head. OK, I would give it a try.
I ventured into the water wearing my reef shoes, cautiously and slowly. To not snorkel in Vanuatu would indeed be a crime. Once I had walked in about waist high, I put my face into the water. Wow, I could see stuff: fish, coral, sand. I moved my face out of the water and took a few more steps. Face back in, this time I tried to breathe through my mouth. It worked. I didn’t swallow any water. I kept my face in the water until I felt comfortable enough to let my feet leave the sand and float.
For a few minutes, I floated in the water, breathing through the tube. Still good. I moved my hands in an outward motion and began to swim. I swam and stopped every few minutes to lift my head from the water. Still good. Face down and off I went. Fear conquered. Minutes later I was faced with a giant cluster of Bellus Angel Fish. They were gathered together in a mound, 10-feet long and four- feet wide and high, just sitting in a tight group, not swimming one way or the other.
My first thought was how cool would it be to swim right through them, right into the middle of the cluster? But at the time I didn’t know what they were or whether their slimy little fish bodies would inflict pain or if they would bite. I thought it was better for me to check it out first with authorities on land. I swam all around them in circles. They are mostly white, oblong about 8 inches with a big yellow streak lengthwise on the top edge and in the middle. This is the most exciting thing that has happened to me since getting short sale approval on a Nationstar auction sale in Elk Grove.
Moving into my 60s, I have learned it is never to late to learn how to snorkel in Vanuatu. I have overcome that fear of snorkeling. That’s an accomplishment.