Moonlit Dinner with Sharks

Once I earned my scuba certification on the Great Barrier Reef, my group and I went on a night dive to watch sharks hunting. It was a creepy concept. Not because we jumped into dark water at night, and not because of the sharks waiting for us 70 feet below. It was creepy only because the boat crew was playing the JAWS theme song on the deck speakers the entire time we geared up into our wetsuits, still damp from the earlier daytime dives.

“Point your torches (flashlights) toward the coral. You’ll see thousands of red eyes shining back at you. Those belong to the shrimp, crabs, and other crustaceans that come out at night,” our instructor said before we submerged. “And the yellow eyes — those are the sharks and rays.” I’ll never forget the silhouette of the fat grey reef shark. He circled us, which let me assure you, causes a strange feeling, before disappearing into the foggy, moonlit water. I pointed my waterproof flashlight directly at him until he faded into the distance. The reflection of his yellow eye as he swam away was incredibly haunting.

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The day before the night dive was particularly rewarding. I saw a massive green sea turtle, and a white-tip reef shark, who let me swim on his back with my GoPro while taking beautiful footage of his swimming. Tons of colorful tropical fish and exotic coral made the day dives fantastic, like diving in an alien garden.

Still, something about being in the ocean at night and finding my way with a flashlight and glow sticks has a special place in my memory. Diving in the dark with hunting sharks may sound frightening, but it was enchanting. I’m looking forward to my next moonlight dinner with them.

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Sun Rays & Stingrays

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.

Exploring the city
Exploring the city

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.

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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.

Stingrays in all their elegance
Stingrays in all their elegance

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.

Riding the ray
Riding the ray

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.

Sergeant major damselfish swarmed us as we dove
Sergeant major damselfish swarmed

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.

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