Monday, March 10, 2008

My favorite day on the island

Let me give you a bit of background here. I have a fear of water. Drowning is one of my biggest fears. Yes, I've heard it's a peaceful way to die, but really, how do "they" know that? I'm not buying it. I've been on a cruise and I did quite well, actually, but it was to Alaska and when we got close to icebergs and were inching along and I'd hear a big clump of ice go "bang" against the side of the ship ... it sent chills through my body. I've been on many a ferry and am alright until I look over the side and start thinking about how deep and dark it is down there. Ugh. I shudder even thinking about it right now. Now, you may ask if something happened to me when I was younger that put this fear into me, but no, there's nothing I can think of. Both my sisters seem to have the same fear. We weren't waterskiiers growing up and we didn't have a pool, so I'm not a great swimmer, so that doesn't help.

Anyways, my past snorkeling experiences have consisted of: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico - I'd never really put my fears to the test so I jumped off the boat into the deep, dark water and immediately started hyperventilating and sucking in the salt water causing me to gag. I back paddled to the shore and sat there until the bell rang on the boat to leave and my friend Darrin had to pretty much piggy back me to shore (I wish I could find the picture of me with my fingernails dug into the poor guys shoulders). Great Barrier Reef, Australia - yeah, didn't happen. I had some good beach time while my friend Greg went and saw one of the wonders of the world - I'm such an idiot. Cancun, Mexico - Brenda finally got me out there. It was in a waterpark called Xel-Ha that's pretty much a bay that had a gate that really large outside fish couldn't get through (which was fine by me). I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it. I could see the bottom and that's what mattered.

Fast forward to present time on Phi Phi Island. My sister's whole family was talking about going snorkeling and I just sat there quietly until, I believe it was Ashtyn, asked me, "You're going to come, too, right Auntie Fiona?" I said, "Well, Ash, I'll come, but I can't promise that I'll snorkel." She didn't seem too pleased with that, but my sister talked to them about the fact that we all have fears and that this was mine and they would have to leave me alone and let me decide for myself. My bro-in-law took me out the day before with their snorkel gear and helped me practice. Walking in from the beach and slowly lowering yourself in is a lot different than jumping off the side of a boat into the deep water, but it was good practice to swim out farther and farther. My b-i-l was trying to teach me how to breathe with the snorkel and that sometimes it can be hard because it seems so un-natural. I said, "Dude, it's not the breathing I have a hard time with. I'm scared of the fish touching me!" Why? I don't know. What can they really do to me. They're the size of my hand and smaller ... most of them. Anyways, it was good to practice and see what I'd be missing out on.

Here we are getting on the boat. My palms are already clammy.

Remember Ashtyn asking me if I'd go snorkeling? Well, she didn't want to take a small boat and the large boat was too expensive for us all to go on, so I made her a deal. I said that if she put her fears aside for us to take the small boat, then I promised I would get out there and snorkel. Poor girl. Here she is on the small boat hiding her face. Her and I have opposite fears. I'm afraid to be IN the water and she's afraid to be ON the water. Thanks Ashtyn!

We had some amazingly beautiful scenery along the way to our first stop.

Do you remember when I took you on my aerial view of the Island? Off in the distance was Ko Phi Phi Leh where Leonardo DiCaprio filmed the movie The Beach. This is us coming up to that beach.
If you've seen the movie, this is where that guy gets attacked by the shark. Isn't that a nice image to have in my head?

It cost money to get out and step onto the beach (I can't remember how much, but I think it was something like $6 Cdn). Everyone else had already done it before, so they stayed in the boat and let me indulge myself. I HAD to say I'd set foot on the same beach as Leo, didn't I? :)

We asked our "captain" where was a good place to snorkel. He pointed just off to the right side of the bay and said, "You see Nemo here." So cute.

You want to see what Jackson's looking at? Scroll down.

SOOOOO many fish just off the side of our boat. Wow! Who needs to really get IN with them when you can see them right from your boat? Ok, ok. I'll go in. I made Ashtyn a promise. Here's my journey. Snorkel and mask firmly on ... One leg over the side ...

Two legs over the side ... but still hanging on for dear life ...

Ok, I've let go, but need to assess the situation a bit more ... Can I see the bottom? Check! Can I see lots of fish already that might touch me? Check! Oooooh, what am I doing?

One, two, three!!!! Here I goooooooo........
Ok, so far, so good. No hyperventilating yet ...

Holy Cow!!! It's beautiful under here. Did you guys know there were so many fish down here? Why didn't anyone tell me? :) About 2 seconds after the above picture was taken, Sydney threw some bread right next to my head .. which draws all the fish. I had a few seconds of freak out time, but at least my hair was in a ponytail so they didn't get caught up in it. Ok, shuddering again just thinking about it.
THUMBS UP!!! I REALLY like this kind of snorkeling. When my Dad saw this picture (without seeing all the others), he asked who's pool I was in. Isn't the water amazing? So warm and it didn't smell like ... well, you know ... ocean/fishy water. It was so awesome.

Don't I look like a pro, here? Like I've been doing it all my life. :)

Floating on top of the life jacket makes it a lot easier. Not as tiring.

Here's the lovely couple. Isn't snorkel gear so attractive? ha ha

I just love this picture of Jackson. He wasn't even posing. We stopped her for our second snorkel spot and I think he just stayed in the boat and "suntanned." No worries. He had sun screen slathered all over him. We saw more of the same fish here and yes, we did see Nemo and we also saw Dori ...

and we also saw Gill. Gill was my favorite. He's an Angelfish.
I didn't realize they'd be in cartoon under the water as well. :) No, unfortunately, I didn't buy one of those disposable underwater cameras, but somehow I don't think they would've quite captured the brilliant colours we saw. There were so many fish that I literally felt like I was one of those little scuba guys you see in people aquariums. Amazing. I loved swimming away a bit and turning around and seeing my family's floating legs with all the fish around them.

We went into another inlet where we didn't snorkel, but the kids had fun jumping off the boat. Aren't these fun pictures? I hope these kids realize how lucky they are.

The little posers.

We did stop at one more spot where I wasn't going to get out. It was called Shark Point. Do you see why I might want to skip that spot? I think I pointed it out when I first introduced you to the Island and we saw that amazing sailboat. It was the least sheltered of all the spots we stopped at. Craig and one of the kids got out and said the reef was really cool colours there, so we eventually all got out to take a look. The water was still clear here, but if I pulled my head up out of the water, all I saw was open ocean, so that place was a little more scary for me. I had to try hard NOT to think about how deep and dark it got and if I got swept away how utterly scary that would be. Luckily we didn't see any sharks at Shark Point, but we did see a lion fish. Apparently they are rare, so it as cool to see it (see below).

As I was looking on Wik.i.ped.ia to find this picture, I learned a little more about the lion fish ...
A Lionfish is any of several species of venomous marine fish. The lionfish are voracious predators. When they are hunting, they corner prey using their large fins and then use their lightning quick reflexes to swallow the prey whole. The venom of the spines is extremely painful, and lionfish are recommended for only the careful aquarist.

Nice. I'm glad I didn't know that while I was enamored and thinking, "Ooooh, aren't you a pretty fish!"
Here we are on our way home after a wonderful day of snorkeling. My fear has largely been put to rest and Ashtyn is crawled up at the bottom of the boat. Thanks again, Ash!

Now THAT was a great day!


Unknown said...

I'm so proud of you for facing your fear and conquering it! I have a terrible fear of swimming in deep water myself, but went snorkelling for the first time last year. What a rush!

Anonymous said...

Fion, that was such a great day. I'm so glad you pushed through your fears and entered in and didn't miss out. Good times, good times. That's the last time my hair was pink...the day the dye drained away..ahhh.

Leana said...

Good for you my friend. The pictures are awesome. I can imagine that was an amazing time. Glad you didn't miss it. Way to conquer your fears. Love you friend.

Keri's Collage... said...

Way to go! I am also terrified of the ocean! When we went snorkeling in Hawaii I walked in to my knees, felt fish touching me, started crying and ran out of the water!
Loved your pictures!

Kori's House said...

That is so amazing!! What a great Auntie. I am sure the kids will be talking about that for years to come. Of course they may also expect you to do it again the next time you go :)