I Saw A Shark!


A white-tipped reef shark, that is. We spent the morning ashore at Granito de Oro, the cartoon-like island in Coiba marine park off the coast of Panama. I didn’t snorkel here last week, but today I couldn’t wait to get in the crystal clear water. We could practically see the bottom from where the ship was anchored 150 yards from the beach (that’s exaggerating a little bit, but the water was very clear). Anyway, after we sorted the guests out by helping them with their snorkel gear and launching those who wanted to kayak from the beach (one of whom promptly flipped over), I grabbed my mask and fins and waded into the water. Granito de Oro is not a big island. As its name suggests, it’s really just a grain of sand. But the reefs and marine life around the small islet are magnificent and extend many more yards in all directions. I saw countless colorful fish, black spiny sea urchins, coral in all colors, sizes, and textures, and yes, even a white-tipped reef shark! I was swimming around, enjoying the underwater Eden when one of the naturalists, Christian, grabbed my arm and pointed down to the sea floor. Underneath a large coral-encrusted rock I could just make out a long-gray shape. I took a deep breath and dove down to the bottom for a closer look. Sure enough, it was not one, but two reef sharks. After a bit of waiting, one finally left the shelter and swam off toward deeper water. I followed for a ways, swimming at the surface while he was skimming the ocean floor. As his name suggests, the white-tipped reef shark has a little triangle of white at the tip of his tail and dorsal fin. Even when you know they won’t harm you, it’s still eerie to be swimming in the same waters as a shark.

Back on dry land, I was absent-mindedly looking at shells and bits of broken coral on the beach. I saw a nice looking one half-buried in the sand and dug it up. Suddenly it grew legs, I yelped, then dropped it, and it scuttled away! Apparently my “shell” was actually the shell of a rather large sand crab. Fico, another naturalist, got quite a kick out of it. To complete the day, as I stepped out of my office (aka spa) after a massage, I was greeted by a dozen on dolphins jumping in and out of the wake from our boat. Some were leaping five or six feet into the air before plunging back into the water!

Tonight we enter into the Panama Canal and slowly make our way east toward Colon on the Caribbean side. Crazy to think that I’ll be halfway done with this contract! It feels like I just got inboard, but next time we go through the canal, it will be my last. Until March, that is, when I’ll be down here for another four weeks. Why is life so hard?

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One Response

  1. I am a bit worried, that you may be close to burning out. Life should not be this difficult.

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