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April/May 2007
Another World
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


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