Did I mention great food, refreshing drinks and new friends?
Oh! And we have had a couple of adventures, too!
It was Michael's birthday last week, so we celebrated with a night on the town...drinks at Scorpion Bar (our new local), appetizers at Asia Caribbean, dinner at Rolandi's, and a stroll along Hidalgo street.
On Friday we went swimming with whale sharks. It was an epic photo fail, so I will try to do them justice with my descriptions of the experience. There were 10 passengers and 2 crew on the boat - a solid fibreglass thing about 28 feet long. We left the dock at 8 am and headed out into the open sea between Isla and Cuba. It was a little rough, with swells of about 4 to 5 feet, and we were all soaked from the waves breaking over the bow of the boat. We got to the general area where the sharks had been the day before after about 90 minutes of pounding through the waves. We could see several other boats around us, all of them looking for the sharks.
The whales were spotted about 15 minutes from our location, and we headed in that direction, as did every other boat out there. It was chaos! It's a highly regulated experience, meaning that each boat must be licensed to take people out, there are no more than 10 passengers on any boat, and only 2 people from each boat (plus their guide) are allowed in the water at any time. However, each boat was jockeying to get their swimmers close to the action, then again to pick them up when their turn was over and the next 2 were getting in.
In the midst of all of this were the whale sharks. Massive, gentle creatures just trying to feed on the krill that is carried by the strong currents out in the deep water. Our guide estimated there were roughly 200 sharks there that day. It really didn't matter which direction you looked, they were there, looming out the murky distance, cavernous mouths open to suck in as much water as possible to then filter the krill out as they push the water out through their gills. They are dark gray, with white circles all over, and their skin is soft and velvety over incredibly powerful muscle. Michael took a hit from one that came from behind, and it knocked the breath out of him.
I was in awe, and giggling like a kid as I was having so much fun. But not everyone was happy. Many of those waiting their turn succumbed to seasickness as they sat on wallowing boats in heavy seas. I was lucky.
After we had all seen as much as we wanted to see, we headed back towards Isla for part 2 of the trip - snorkelling a reef near Playa Norte here on the island. Our group agreed, however, that we didn't want to snorkel, but just wanted to go to the beach. While we relaxed in the calm shallow water, our captain made fresh ceviche for lunch. Delicious. We were home by mid afternoon, happily exhausted.
The next morning we were just about to pour coffee when a call came over the VHF radio from our friend Kat in the anchorage. She had word of a turtle in distress on the Carib side of the island. In fact, she (the turtle) had come ashore to lay her eggs during the night, and fallen into a crevice in the rocks. She was on her side and couldn't move at all. A tourist staying in the house had watched her lay her eggs, but was unable to prevent her falling in the crevice, and could not get her out on his own. Calls to the turtle rescue group on the island had gone unanswered. But the word was getting out on social media, and Kat rallied a few of us to go an do what we could.
The people who were with her had covered her with a wet towel that they kept soaking with sea water to keep her cool and hydrated. Someone else was holding a big umbrella over her to keep the rising sun off her, and the guys set to work moving some rather large rocks to make a clear path for her once they got her out of the crevice. Once the path was cleared, they turned their attention back to the turtle. They looped some ropes around her shell, and used them to lift her forward bit by bit. A couple of lifts, and a good push from behind, and her flippers were free, and she was out of the crevice, back on the flat. She quickly propelled herself forward towards the incoming tide - one, two, three strong strokes and she was gone, looking very strong and determined. We all cheered and whistled and grinned and laughed, knowing that without our help she surely would have drowned - total strangers coming together for a wonderful cause.