By Martin Rowe
My partner, Mia MacDonald, and I have just returned from a winter vacation
to Belize. Actually, I bid on the vacation at an animal rights conference
last year, having thought about going for some years. The fact that part
of the proceeds of the auction would go to FARM, the Sea Shepherd Conservation
Society and to help out the SHAC 7, only sweetened the deal.
I’d never been snorkeling before, and so thought I should give it a try
when we got to Belize. We were taken by boat to one of the many reefs that dot
the coastal waters of Belize. We had our snorkeling gear, were told not to touch
the coral, and to leave the fish alone. And that was it.
We jumped over the side of the boat. I put my goggles underwater, and I was in
a whole new world. About nine feet below us were little pods of coral, both of
the brain and sea-weedy kind. Amidst the coral and around the sands, we saw butterfly
fish, colorful little blue fishes, and five unimpressed barracuda. On our second
dive, on the reef over, two sleeping nurse sharks were pointed out to us, hidden
under the coral. We kept our distance, tried not to brush against the coral (for
its protection, and ours), and just swam in awe.
To be honest, it was a privilege to be in their world. The fishes sauntered along,
took one look at me, and decided, all things considered, that it would probably
be best if they hid. But there was no mad dash for safety, and I felt like telling
them: “It’s okay. I don’t want to eat you, shove you in an
aquarium, stroke your back, or destroy your world.” The diving made all
of us on the trip aware of the fragility of that world. There was a bit of bleached
coral, and we heard that some of the diving and snorkeling around the reefs was
causing problems. On our way out, we’d passed development happening on
some of the islands, with mangroves being cut down in favor of non-native trees
and luxury resorts, and we could only think to ourselves how short-sighted such
an investment would be, next time a hurricane or tidal wave came through and
there was nothing to protect your property from the winds and tempestuous seas
of the Caribbean.
There was the opportunity to go diving later on in the week. But, that seemed
too invasive, too much an attempt to be in their world, rather than touch the
surface and look down and recognize that the aquatic beings belong there and
you don’t. If you’re lucky, however, you may just spend a few moments
dipping your face into it. And perhaps that is just enough.
Martin Rowe is the Founding Editor of Satya. For
more of Mia and Martin’s
Belize musings, see lanternbooks.com/blog.
© STEALTH TECHNOLOGIES INC.