Snorkeling, for the uninitiated, can be an incredibly overwhelming experience. Setting aside the obvious and terrifying novelty of undersea creatures and the elaborate living structures in which they reside, the sense of floating aimlessly over an uncaring universe, breathing through your mouth while underwater, and the ever-present possibility of meeting sharks, there is also the eternal strangeness of moving in the vertical plane, like a picture of oneself projected on a screen. When I first did it, I nearly puked.
Nonetheless, here in what is arguably the best place in the world to snorkel, in the “triangle of corals”, it seemed like a risk worth taking to drag Kina along for the ride—literally, in this case, as our guide had procured a life ring to supplement her life vest and three attentive life humans, into which we plopped Kina for the journey of a lifetime.
Within four minutes, she was over it. For a while, I tried to calm her down, as we passed, weeping, over countless sea turtles and brilliant blue starfish. I perched her on top of the ring on her stomach—not good. I removed her mask—not enough. I held her hand—insufficient. Our guides propelled themselves dutifully through the reef, as Laurea and I took turns appreciating an absurdly vast forest of corals and comforting our daughter.
Finally, I put her in on the ring on her butt, like a little river tube, and coasted alongside her. She grew calmer. Periodically, I would stick my head up and say, “I see a bright green coral, all furry, with white tips,” or “I see a dozen inky black sea cucumbers,” or “I see a palace of orange coral, with five levels, like a stack of pancakes.” Each time, I would ask her whether she wanted me to continue, and she would nod silently. Eventually, we came upon another turtle, and I asked if Kina wanted to see it, which she did. I placed her back in the ring with her feet floating freely, and she allowed herself to peer into the sea as a turtle passed two meters below her. She pointed out sea stars and clownfish and schools of bright silvery wrasses.
Eventually, as we grew closer to shore, she got anxious again and pulled her knees into her chest again, so I plopped her back on her butt. Things had gone so well, and I asked her what she was worried about. “I don’t want my feet to touch anything,” she said, and I assured her she was totally safe—I saw nothing that could hurt her.
“But I could step on a turtle,” she whimpered, “and hurt it.”
Our publisher, our lady, the protector of turtles and the oceans in which they reside. Long may she reign.