First time snorkelling

Yesterday, I kicked off my Top 31 Destinations in Time list with my 1994 solo trip to Bali. Which got me digging in the diaries. So expect a new category and a few Dear Diary moments over the next little while, in fulfilment of New Year Travel Resolution #5. It’s the first time they’ve seen the light of day in 16 years and I’m a bit of a travel ingenue in them, as shown by my first ever snorkel…

5th June 1994, Lombok, Indonesia:

Did the most AMAZING thing today – snorkelling. Heidi, A German guest [at Pondok Santai, near Senggigi in Lombok], wanted to offload some stuff so she gave me an excellent snorkel mask. I borrowed the tube bit from Pearl and started paddling out – after spitting in my mask and rubbing saliva into the visor, of course.

With the snorkel on, the view above water, was hazy but as soon as I put my head down, it was incredible. The sharpness and clarity of life below the waves. I followed Doug and Julie out over the reef, about 75m from shore, and suddenly it was like swimming in a vast fish tank.

There were hundreds of fish – none of which I could name – fluorescent blue, flurorescent green, bright yellow, black stripes, black spots, fat fish, thin fish, small medium and very occasionally arm’s length-sized fish. There were puffer fish, angel fish the size of your hand, trigger fish, fish with long pointed noses. No sea snakes or tiger sharks today though, but there were regular stingers – tiny little painful stings, that Doug later told me were sea mites, or bits of broken-off jellyfish, who knows.

The coral, though mostly reddy-brown, threw up the occasional bright green clump or a vivid blue-edged one, or soft wavy coral blowing in the water currents. It’s really hard to describe things with no names!

After an hour, we were nearly past the headland so we started to head back in – which was a hell of a lot more difficult than the float out there. Suddenly all the front crawl in the world was ineffective. I was going nowhere.

Only the occasional incoming waves helped shunt me on my way. I was breathing heavily through the snorkel and trying not to panic. The tide was going out and with the water levels very low, the reef was a lot closer to the surface. I didn’t dare swim a stroke for fear of scraping across the poisonous coral and cutting myself.

I tried to look for depressions to swim over, but in between waves, the water sunk to inches above the reef.

It was a huge relief to find the deep, wide boat channel – a clear underwater road back in to shore. I was disoriented and dizzy with the exertion and over-breathing. But also completely exhilarated. I can’t wait to go out again and watch fish television.


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