I am in the crystal waters a couple of miles off the island of Makunudu in the Maldives. The boat that dropped us off will be back later, but for the moment, the two of us are quite alone, armed only with our snorkel gear. As I drift, gazing at the bright orange clown fish darting between the swaying fans of mauve coral, I become aware of a shadow. A reef shark, about 6 feet long, is circling me silently. As I watch in the stillness, it snaps up a little fish and swims away. I am left with a mouthful of salt water.
The Maldives in the Indian Ocean. Palau in the East China Sea. Yasawa Islands, Fiji in the South Pacific. Isabel County, Puerto Rico in the Caribbean. These have been my favorite snorkeling spots so far. I have frequently sought happiness in the wonders under water, and there is so much yet to explore. Three-quarters of the earth’s surface is covered by water, and oceanographer David G. Gallo notes that we have explored less than ten percent of it. Snorkeling is the poor man’s answer to exploring this underworld. It gives you a window into the shallows of the oceans. And what an eye-opening window it is! Electric blue, baby pink, bright purple, sulphur yellow, emerald green — I cannot think of a color missing underneath the waves. As you look around, the only sound you’ll hear is your own steady breath. Snorkeling is a meditative experience.
If you, like most of the rest of us, are just a little wary of an excessive adrenaline rush, snorkeling is the adventure sport for you. If you can swim, and keep your mouth closed around your mouthpiece, you can snorkel. (If you cannot swim, please go learn, and tell your parents that they messed up on the job!) Even if you are not a very confident swimmer, it’s not like you’re stuck underwater — all you have to do is raise your head. And you know you paddled yourself out there, so you can paddle yourself back. You can even buy your own snorkel gear for under $50, and pack it into your carry on luggage wherever you go. Then, walk out into the ocean to create your very own wondrous snorkel experience.