“Crikey Mate” – Steve Irwin

We tied a bowline into the eye of the mooring and put on our equipment. Our friend Gemma told us that there was an amazing snorkel with many sharks and stingrays near the hotel south of our anchorage, so we cruised over in our dinghy and stopped where the tour boat and all the birds congregated. I put on my gear and did a backward somersault over the side. As I cleared my mask, my mom became animated and started pointing. I looked underwater and saw a three foot wide stingray coming directly towards my chest.

All I could think about was Steve Irwin, the Australian from Animal Planet who died from a stingray barb in his heart. I was going to go out like Steve Irwin. But then I thought about my dad, and how he would not be able to complete the trip if I died, so I back peddled, only to have two more join the chase. Then, I realized that people must feed them, so they probably were just looking for a handout, which I could not give them. They lost interest and swam towards the more generous tourists.

One of the perpetrators.

My parents joined me in the water and we swam towards the tour boat. It was a frenzy, with blue trevally, black tip sharks, and stingrays everywhere. We splashed around with the 15 or so sharks, which seemed as tame as dogs. They passed within feet of us, and swam slow circles around the boat. They actually looked bored, like this was their 9-5 and they couldn’t wait for the tourists to leave so they could go have fun. We didn’t stay long since it is more rewarding to see them in a natural habitat.

We picked up another mooring just off the narrow channel that cut between two reefs. There was strong current, but the fish congregated there because they are lazy and like to sit still while the food comes to them. There were schools of fish everywhere, from titan triggerfish and orangespined unicornfish to sergeant majors. I used the steep drop off as an opportunity to practice free diving, descending 30 feet and working on my floor time while observing the vibrant fish. Two green turtles frightened me as they jetted out of their reef hiding spots and across my peripheral vision. Although I am very comfortable scuba diving with sharks, when a large object quickly approaches it still is scary.

We returned to the boat and relaxed while watching the chromatic sunset. It was the stereotypical evening on a boat in the tropics with a sundowner, a light tropical breeze, and waves crashing on to the barrier reef. Oddly, we have been so busy there have been few opportunities to slow down. It was a good reminder to take more time to soak in these islands, instead of our usual frantic work hard play hard mentality.

My mom was fearless.

4 thoughts on ““Crikey Mate” – Steve Irwin

  1. Always an adventure! So glad Jamie has arrived and you get to relax and enjoy some scuba and hiking adventures. Safe travels….Always!


  2. Travis, I don’t know what’s better . . . the descriptions of what you are doing or the amazing photographs you take. Thanks for sharing with us in both ways, which lets us feel just a bit that we are there with you! John Bacon


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