Solo Snorkeling in Paradise by Sunny Lockwood
I ignored the advice to "snorkel with a buddy." I was in my twenties, traveling solo, and didn't have a "buddy" in Hawaii. But I definitely wanted to snorkel in this Pacific paradise.
Having grown up on a lake in Michigan, and having swum in rivers and lakes throughout the U.S., I had no concerns about swimming alone.
The name of the cove escapes me, but I remember how hypnotically warm the water was as I slipped into its welcoming embrace. Warm, clear as air, with sunshine streaming through like god-rays. Its gentle swells lulled me. I could see my shadow on the white sand bottom as I swam.
And best of all, throngs of colorful fish enveloped me, hovering or gliding past, ignoring me or coming close for a momentary inspection before darting off. Oranges, greens, iridescent blues, covered with polka-dots or stripes, a massive cloud of living glitter.
Some were tiny, the length of my ring finger. Others the size of my forearm. Never before or since have I been so close to genuine wildlife. And they didn't seem the least bit bothered by my presence.
There were Butterfly fish in vivid yellows and oranges, parrot fish with parrot-like beaks, cardinal fish, their flamboyant fins waving like long silky flags. Even eels, slithering lazily in the water below me.
Sweeping, shimmering like a fluid galaxy, the fish seemed to be bearing me along on an adventure of exquisite beauty.
When I finally raised my head above the surface, I gasped, dropping my mouthpiece. The beach was far, far away and quickly disappearing. The current, no longer gentle, was pulling me out to sea.
Adrenalin-fueled, I swam with all my might toward the beach. But the current was stronger than I was. No matter how intensely I swam, the beach continued to recede.
The swells that originally lulled me, now held me firmly in what felt like a death grip. Was I going to be sucked out to sea and a watery grave?
"Please help," I prayed, pulling off my mask and snorkeling tube and letting them sink away.
To my left, was a spit of land slightly closer than the beach. Fueled by fear and determination, I turned toward it and tried to summon more strength. With every stroke, every kick, my arms and legs quivered from fatigue. I prayed and stroked and prayed and stroked, gasping for air, hoping I could keep this up as I struggled against the relentless current. Thank goodness for my swim fins. They added more power to my kicks than my bare feet would have.
And when I finally reached the rocks and mucky, reedy earth, my swim fins protected the soles of my feet as I stumbled along.
It took me almost an hour of slogging through ankle-deep muck amid rocks and bushes and knee high water to reach the beach where I had started.
Completely spent, I dropped to the sand. Exhausted. Exuberant. And safe.
I'll never forget the beauty or the terror of that afternoon alone in the ravishing waters of Paradise.