Staring over the balcony in the middle of the ocean will heal any over-sized ego. Look any direction and you’ll see vast blue waves kissing the immeasurable horizon. Occasionally, a silver sparkle highlights the presence of a school of fish darting near the surface.
I promised myself that if my girlfriend and I last five years, I’d make up for the lackluster anniversaries and birthdays preceding. We agreed to give each other experiences rather than materials, so here we are, on a cruise ship hugging the tip of the peninsula between Progresso and Cozumel, Mexico.
I earned my degree in communications, but my goal is to be a professional sunset chaser. As I lean against this balcony with a salty breeze sculpting my hair, the wind catches the undersides of my unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt, whipping it in a motion similar to that of the animals I had met underwater a few hours prior.
Related to the shark and dangerous in their own way, stingrays are hunted for their meat and hide. For a $60 fee— taxi ride included— we explored a string ray reserve in Cozumel. They had a number of different stingrays— mainly southern stingrays, most rescued from fisherman and other threatening situations. The reserve offered cold drinks and beach-side relaxation, all to be enjoyed after a dive in the fenced-in coral nursery. The fence was large enough to allow native tropical fish to swim through the spaces and investigate the various sections of the coral nursery, but after moments of exploration in the deep area, we realized the fences were for keeping animals in, not out.
Enormous stingrays— ranging in size from two to ten feet— flapped their fins as they flew toward us. They moved like graceful creatures of a dream. Our apprehension faded quickly— these shark cousins came in peace, and as they surrounded us under water, we pet their silky, slimy hide, polished by crystal blue water. Their smiling mouths under their bodies sucked small pieces of squid from our hands as we trembled with excitement.
Take a look at the video I took underwater from my GoPro: https://vimeo.com/139417806
Being underwater mystified the experience with muddled sounds, colorful fish, and random bubbles catching glimmers of sunlight. The rays remained serene and glided across the sand, like a squadron of disc-shaped hovercrafts searching for squid from our hands. They really enjoyed squid.
The center released the babies in local reefs in an effort to sustain the population of Mexican stingrays in the face of poaching. It’s nice to spend time with an organization that gives back, especially when you get to float in a daydream with magical sand discs.