Costa Rica’s Underworld
In Part 3 of our series on the natural world of Costa Rica, Jennifer Krissilas faces her fears of slimy underwater creatures… and lives to tell a really big fish tale.
If a day trip to Corcovado National Park is the most popular activity in Costa Rica’s remote Drake Bay, snorkelling near Cano Island is the second. So what’s a girl to do? Go snorkelling, of course! Except – wait for it – I’ve a fear of open water.
Don’t get me wrong. I can swim. And I love paddling. Truly, I’m not so much afraid of open water itself as I’m afraid of what’s in the water – the slimy stuff. I don’t like it touching me. Remember that.
So as the sun rose on Drake Bay, I waded out to my boat, excited about meeting travellers from other resorts during the hour-and-a-half ride to the island. And like all my boat trips in the Osa Peninsula, it wasn’t long before we were met by, oh, a sea snake, a giant sea turtle and a devil ray. That’s right! They all came up to our boat on our way to the island! Tico boat drivers have the keenest eyes, spotting those little creatures as the boat’s cruising along.
A bit farther on, and the coolest sighting ever: two dolphins jumped straight out of the water, like corks popping out of a champagne bottle! And then we spotted more surfacing…and more! Soon, our small boat was surrounded by at least 10 pairs of playful dolphins. That alone was worth the $75 trip. So. Much. Fun. And we hadn’t even gone into the water yet.
Did I mention how much I dislike being touched by sea creatures? Well, I wasn’t thinking about that as we approached the uninhabited island – all I could hear was the theme song to Jurassic Park (in my head, of course): Cano Island was the model for the aerial shots at the beginning of the movie.
As I half-expected dinosaurs to come out of the lush jungle to greet us, it was hard to relax and enjoy all the colourful fish swimming round the reef when we finally got in the water. I tried. I really tried. But full of fear, I floated alone, face down, far from the fish and comforted only by my life-jacket (they’re required here) while my group of six oohed and aahed at the tropical underworld.
Until a fellow snorkeller called out.
Three spotted eagle rays! Oh my! Heading toward me. Not a good thing. Suddenly, they were below me. And I swear – I really swear – they were quickly flapping their way up to me! Panic stricken, heart racing, I kicked like mad, desperate to get away from the very creatures I wanted to see. The dismayed expressions of my snorkel-mates told me how foolish I was being. But, alas, I wasn’t yet convinced.
Until that same snorkeller called out again.
Two whitetip sharks! They swam under me too! But this time, a tad more confident, I kicked a little less violently. You know, a quick getaway, but without disturbing the sharks. I mean, sharks! My anxiety was justified, no?
Apparently, seeing sharks and rays when snorkelling is rare, and I’d had close encounters with both. Filled with awe, I swam closer to the reef, wanting to peek at the moray eels below. And before I knew it, I let the waves carry me even closer, a little less nervous about the gorgeous schools of fish swimming around me.
I was even a tad sad when we broke for lunch. Relaxed from an hour’s stroll along the beach, I munched on our picnic of fresh pineapple, salad, homemade bread and a local bean spread, fortified and ready – no, excited! – for our afternoon swim at the reef.
This is Part 3 of a 3-part special series on the natural world of Costa Rica.
For Part 1, read Answering the call of the wild in Costa Rica
For Part 2, read Monkeys, Iguanas and Crocs… Oh My!