After the first taste of snorkeling from the Deep Water Solo’ing trip, Mark and I wanted to do more. So, we signed up for a “Sunset Tour” with a local dive shop. This worked out great for us. The boat didn’t leave until 2p, so we could climb in the morning and snorkel in the evening!
There’s a lot of fun pics in the gallery for this one too! Videos after the break…
The boat piled on about 30 people that afternoon, and we motored out to Poda island. They provided snorkels, masks, fins, as well as a big cooler full of water and beer. We hit three different locations, and got in a half hour to an hour of snorkeling around each area.
At each spot, the reefs were amazing. The coral built into weird, beautiful formations. Fish swarmed all around us, and all over the reefs. The coral makes a weird popping or crackling noise underwater, and I don’t know why. But I found it exotic and very wild. I always love exploring new places, and swimming through these reefs gave me the same sense of awe and excitement as I get when hiking into a new climbing area, or cresting the ridge of a high mountain.
Since we were showing up late in the day, areas that would have been crowded with boats and other snorkelers were quiet and peaceful. We didn’t get as much time in the water as the all-day trips provide, but it was plenty for us. After a few hours of swimming around, we were pretty exhausted, a little chilled, and ready for dinner.
After the snorkeling, our trip guides took us to a group of islands, known colloquially as “Sunset Beach” or “Chicken Head Island.” These three islands are connected by long sandbars, shallow enough to walk across at low tide, but completely hidden when the water rises.
We hung out for a few hours, and watched the sun set into the Andaman Sea. Sailboats cruised by, and snorkelers explored the waters near the island. As dusk filled the sky, the dive operation brought in dinner. We all sat on the beach and ate curries, shrimp fried rice, sweet and sour mussels and big piles of rice under the light of torches and stars.
Just after the sun set, a huge flock of birds started streaming out of the far island. Thousands of these huge, black, flying animals filled the sky. They flowed out of the island in a steady stream for almost half an hour.
“What kind of bird takes off after sunset?” I asked Mark.
“Those aren’t birds, Doll. Those are giant bats.” Mark replied with an excellent Indiana Jones impression. I didn’t believe him at first, because they were such big beasts, but a quick check with our guide confirmed that we were watching thousands and thousands of giant Flying Foxes fill the night sky.
Eventually, darkness settled completely. We cleaned up camp and climbed back on to the boat. We cruised across the sea in the calm, inky dark night, and we saw an incredible and mysterious sight. As the water around us was disturbed by the boat, millions of tiny bio-luminescent creatures sparked and faded. It was the most incredible thing I have seen in a long time.
It looked as if the boat was floating on a pillow of glow-stick green water in the middle of the blackest night in history. Each wave put off by the bow of the boat sparked, curled, and faded as we passed. After about 20 minutes of this amazing sight, we pulled up in the darker shadow of a black rock island, and the guides passed out masks and snorkels again.
At night, swimming in the warm sea water was an other-worldly experience. I imagine this is as close as I might get to a sensory deprivation tank, or enlightenment through mediation. The whole world was black and quiet. No up or down. But every hand wave through the water left a trail of bright green sparkles, and every kick of my feet left me suspended in a whirl of light.