Monday, 18 June 2012

Grand surprises in Grande Anse d'Arlet

After Guadeloupe we made two brief stops, one in Martinique and one in St.Lucia. Martinique's modest, little coast towns were the perfect backdrop for days of leisurely activities. We were sluggish and unmotivated to do much in those days except snorkel in search of turtles. I had been waiting for an opportunity to swim with them and to watch them more closely under water. With the exception of Culebra in the Spanish Virgin Islands, I've only been able to spot them as they come up for air. Even then it's an event that prompts shrieks of excitement out of me. Finally, though, in a quiet anchorage of Grande Anse d'Arlet we found a number of them feeding on the grassy bay bottom. Mottled gray and brown, they were hard to spot against the grass, but as they moved around we saw that there was a whole group of them. They slowly nibbled on fine blades of turf, occasionally swimming up to the surface for air. One gulp, two gulps and back down for more salad. They moved slowly and awkwardly through the water. Their bodies waddled under the surface while they beat their way forward with one front flipper then the other, though there was certain gracefulness to their efforts. Gabe and I kept grunting at each other through our snorkels, pointing out individual turtles as they came into view. I was so happy I kept bringing my hands together into soundless underwater claps. As we swam away from the turtles and back toward the boat we noticed an enormous black cloud moving through the water. A bit spooked but curious we waited while it approached. It turned out to be a school of little fish swimming through the bay like an apparition. It was made up of what must have been thousands of tiny fish swimming in unison, swerving instinctively as we swam toward and into their mass. When we dove into the depth of the school the fish dashed in opposite directions then converged back into their formation ahead, over and behind us, engulfing us in its swift current of movements. We love getting in the water to explore even in the most unassuming areas, because we never know what we're going to find. 

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