One of the best things about my trip on the Arabella last week was that we had the opportunity to snorkel almost every day.
Before I met my husband five years ago, I had never really thought much about what lies within the ocean. Although I went to the local pool a lot as a kid, I’m not the strongest swimmer out there. And I have an irrational fear of the bends that prevents me from ever taking a SCUBA course.
But snorkeling, that I can handle. Since I’ve met Don, we’ve checked out fish in Thailand, Costa Rica, Key West, Tobago Cays and several other Caribbean islands. I even bought my own mask in Turks & Caicos that I carry with me on my trips (snorkeling equipment is included on the Arabella).
Our first few stops at Vieques and Culebrita – islands off the coast of Puerto Rico known as the Spanish Virgin Islands – were a little disappointing (maybe that’s because the U.S. govt. bombed the heck out of those islands for many years, leaving the coral a mess).
Christmas Cove, off the coast of St. James, was a little more interesting. The coral seemed more alive, with sharp urchins protecting it. We did see a large turtle far beneath us here, eating some grass.
That all changed when we entered the British Virgin Islands. We stopped at Norman Island (also known as Treasure Island, based on the Robert Louis Stevenson book) at two snorkel sites well known throughout the B.V.I., the Caves and the Indians.
Leaving from the dinghy, we did the Caves first. In the first cave, I kept swimming back until I couldn’t see anything. Creepy! I didn’t go all the way in, as I wasn’t sure how deep the pool was inside and we had been warned about sea urchins among the live coral.
The second Cave was shallow, with tons of fish inside, although these were mostly small clear ones instead of the larger colorful species.
The third and final Cave was our favorite. There were so many colorful fish here that snorkeling felt like swimming in an aquarium! We saw whole schools of blue tangs, yellowtail snapper, puffer fish, trunkfish, and parrotfish.
As we swam around the entrance of the third Cave, I spotted a 4-foot fish swimming about a yard in front of me. I squealed and pointed it out to Don. He grabbed my arm and pulled me back. “Barracuda!” he said. Although I’ve read that barracuda don’t attack, we felt it best to give it a wide berth (sadly, we missed a photo).
After a short break, we headed out to the nearby Indians, two large rocks that extend 50 feet above and below the water.
We circled both rocks and found that while the coral was healthier and more colorful here, there weren’t quite as many fish. Still, it was a gorgeous snorkeling experience. I would love to return to the BVI and tackle the Baths next time.
Now that I’m back, there’s only one problem: my right hand is covered with tiny red bumps that itch. I’m thinking that I accidentally brushed some fire coral or a jellyfish when underwater. Any one know what this is and how to cure it?
Also, where are your favorite snorkel spots?