Crow’s Feet
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Crow’s Feet

Who Said Snorkeling Was Easy?

And how I felt like a beached whale

Photo by Analia Ferrario on Unsplash

Pop on a mask, stick the snorkel mouthpiece in your mouth, jump into the water, and start to explore! Certainly, the non-amateurs would say something similar, and I hoped it would be that easy. Not! At least not for me.

During an unforgettable beach vacation to Costa Rica recently, we were two sisters and two other family members, all adults. We basically avoided tours and such, avoiding unnecessary expense but also avoiding excessive contact with other people because of the Omicron surge. Still, we made an exception and, after haggling with different tour guys, finally found a fair bargain for a two-hour snorkeling cruise around the bay, just for the four of us.

I was slightly nervous, as I often am around bodies of water, especially when I can’t touch the bottom. I’ve never been too brave about opening my eyes underwater, but now there would be a mask. So nervousness and excitement competed as I anticipated our adventure.

As usual, the day was warm and the sky was clear and blue as we set sail, as I guess that’s the way to say it even in a motorboat. A flock of some sort of sea ducks appeared, fishing near the shore. The humps of two or three miniature islands beckoned to us; we learned that they are called Las Pelonas, the Baldies. They were indeed rather bare, with only cacti and rather dry trees in sight. As we approached, we could see the rocks surrounding the islands, a sign that they should harbor many sea creatures. Our captain suggested that we not get too close, to avoid scrapes! Sea urchins were another hazard of the area, as one member of our crew had found out days before.

Photo by Aviv Perets on Unsplash

After we anchored, the two braver members of our family quickly dove or jumped into the clear, warm water. I wondered if I should have practiced breathing through my mouth. After struggling to get my mask and snorkel on — both duly sanitized — I finally plopped over the edge. The snorkel promptly fell to one side and salty seawater began to enter my mouth.

Boatside again, I was given another snorkel, which stayed vertical as I tried once more. Water began to come into my mask. “Get your hair out of the way.” I obeyed. Then, little by little, I tasted saltwater again. Panic… back to the boat. “You could try with just your mask.” Fine!

That was doable, even if it meant coming out to breathe every so often. I managed to see a few little fish, even a few colorful ones. However, as I got closer to the rocks, my wariness got the best of me and I soon headed back to our small vessel. Even if technically I hadn’t snorkeled, I could at least say I had “masked” –a total amateur — and had gotten a small taste of underground beauty.

Just when my fears had subsided, then came the least enjoyable part of the adventure. There was a small textured step at the back of the boat to help one get back on board. Ideally. “Just put your arms on the step and lever your body up.” Easier said than done. I got my tummy up there. “Try again, harder.” That time I managed to get my bony pelvis on the step, pretty uncomfortable. Suddenly my body was not as buoyant!

Even as a senior, I consider myself to be in decent shape and am not overweight. However, for moments I felt humbled and embarrassed, like a total failure physically. Later I realized that I had felt somewhat like a beached whale, unable to budge and get to where I needed to go. That’s when I was glad there were two strong men on board, who helped haul me up.

The next stop was at a nearby reef, where our two braver companions found many more colorful fish and even different types of manta rays. This time I was perfectly glad to “enjoy vicariously” and hear their reports.

An additional treat as we headed back through the bay was watching our young captain fishing and finally reeling in a huge jurel or pompano fish.

Now I’ve tried snorkeling and I’ve found that it’s not always easy. That doesn’t mean I’ll never try again, and I’m glad I tried!




“The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes.” (Frank Lloyd Wright) Non-fiction pieces, personal essays and occasional poems that explore how we feel about how we age and offer tips for getting the most out of life.

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Margie Hord de Mendez

Margie Hord de Mendez

Canadian-Mexican linguist and translator, Margie loves to write about cross-cultural living, faith, family, aging gracefully… and more!

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