The current has been really strong the last few days due to the new moon. At our anchorage you could see the swirling water and the schools of fish feeding on the interface between the currents. What looked like drifting yellow leaves were really yellow and blue fusiliers breaking the surface for a meal. The ocean was alive with movement and what is usually a pretty calm morning had an electricity to it. The frigate birds were on the wing earlier than normal and in the distance we could see fairy terns feeding in a tight, rotating ball like a distant tornado of delicate white paper. A swirling ticker tape parade at sea.
We decided to do a cheeky snorkel while leading jet ski tours, so each of us took turns getting dropped off on a secret reef we found on the back side of the island a few weeks ago. It probably says a lot about this operation that we have to surreptitiously go snorkeling for just a few minutes. However, we figured out a way to spend more than 30 seconds in the water, and we made the most of our last visit to Aride Island.
When my turn came up, I spotted the bright blue sand patch that denotes the beginning of the reef. As soon as the ship was out of sight I quickly stripped down to the essentials and donned my mask and fins. Instead of drifting out to the main reef, I stayed very close to the island because I just couldn't pull myself away from the amazing light breaking through the water near shore. Waves were breaking against the granite boulders of the shoreline and the resulting haze of bubbles was a perfect accent to the crystal clear water. To my left I could see for a hundred feet over the shallow reef flats and patches of sand. To my right were dancing pillars of light cutting through the surf strewn water. The morning sun concealed most of the fishes' features, but their movements were accentuated and backlit. Fish that may have dazzled with their colors were reduced to their elemental silhouette. Swells rolled through, sending more waves to their demise upon the rocks but also breathing new life into the sea. Pulses of bubbles effervesced, temporarily concealing the maelstrom of life all around me.
The click and pop of a reef is something everyone should come to know and love. Despite the occasional bubbly blanket, the cacophony of reef sound was deafening. It's like music to my ears. Happy fish and invertebrates doing their reefy things. A quiet reef is a dead reef and I'm happy to say that this was one of the loudest reefs I've heard in a long time. Just about the time I was totally blissing out on my present status, I caught a glimpse of something through the bubbles. Teeth. Big teeth. And the fluttering fins of a hovering, poised predator. And just like that we are back to reality facing a very large and very attentive barracuda.
I've spent a lot of time in the water with big barracuda, but this might be the first time I've ever had one square up on me. It is not a fun sight at all. The closest thing I can relate is the feeling you get staring down the barrel of a gun. Actually, you can't see the bullet in the barrel, but a barracuda does not hide its weapons. They are out on full display for all to see. I immediately grabbed the surface marker buoy I had been towing around and noticed a shiny d-ring. Maybe that caught its eye? I buried it in my fist and kept my shiny watch behind my back. Still, the barracuda watched. It even changed coloration to show a faint barred pattern. Also a first for me. Maybe I'm too still and need to show that I'm really alive. I kicked a little bit and moved out of the bubble curtains and into clean water. My toothy shadow followed. I see rapid movement over the sand flats. I'm now in the current and steaming along. Oh, just a shark. It's a little shark, but it's moving quickly and is probably trying to feed in the current. Still, he watches.
The last 5 minutes of my snorkel were not the most mellow I've ever experienced. The barracuda stayed with me the whole time. Watching, moving to the side a bit. Going right under me. But always staring right at me, both eyes fixed on me, fins fluttering to hold position. Like a coiled spring it watched. I truly have no idea what was going on there. Perhaps it was the yellow buoy that caught its eye. Either way, I spent most of my time keeping tabs on my stalker instead of enjoying the rest of the reef. It would be just my luck to get bit by a barracuda on the last day of a long contract doing something that I wasn't really supposed to be doing. Luckily, peace prevailed and all was well with the world. Maybe this is the start of a beautiful relationship and next time I go in the water at Aride, I will have a friendly, probably bigger, barracuda to hang out with.