Big (a.k.a. That’s a Moray)

I’m a bit behind on the photo challenge, so why not kill two birds tonight?

Week Two’s Challenge: Big.

Perusing my photo collection tonight, I came upon this one…

which would be me, pointing at a big-ass something in the background.

Years ago, my ex and I were in Oahu and decided to go snorkeling in Hanuma Bay. It’s gorgeous; I highly recommend going… and having some way to take underwater photos when you do so.

We started off on our snorkeling adventure, and my ex and I lost track of each other fairly quickly. Chasing fish with our cameras, we both were deeply focused on the activity. And I was so lost in the beauty of this underwater utopia, that I forgot to come up above water every-so-often to check my whereabouts.

When I finally did, I realized straight away that I’d swum quite some distance past some signs which marked “Caution: Do Not Go Beyond This Point”. The warnings read that tides were strong in the deeps, and … they would be correct. I found myself fairly quickly using everything I had to swim back in to the shallower water.

I came up to get my bearings a second time, and found my ex waving his arms madly from a bit of a distance, screaming something at me in a panic. I couldn’t hear due to sound of the other tourists and the waves crashing. I motioned him I was fine; though I was tired and quite anxious from the trek ahead of me, I was determined to get in out of these waves and was finding it easier to swim under them.

But whatever he did next cued me that I should look behind me and underwater. I dove back in and turned to find a most unpleasant looking creature. Bright yellow eyes, thick red scales and the body (and sharp teeth) of a gigantic snake, this Moray was clearly angry and much too close for comfort.

The swim was one-step-forward, two-steps-back as the tides were pushing hard towards the sea, and I found myself in an interesting dilemma. I had no desire to disturb the Moray any further, but was just plain being pushed towards him. I’d swim a few strokes away, he’d advance a bit towards me and the sea would push me back towards him. My terror grew.

Trying to illustrate my point, I just found this National Geographic image and became terrified all over again. Second set of jaws!?

But as we danced under the sea, this Moray and me, I began to realize something. The Moray was threatened, not threatening. It would never advance more than a bit as I swam away, and though it had the ability to come at me, it never did. It spun on its side, almost as though it was protecting itself or something. I felt that I just had to convince it that I didn’t want to hurt it: a very daunting task when I’m being flung towards it, every so often.

A likely four or five minutes seemed like an hour, and I made it back safely to the shallows. The Moray stayed in background for a bit, then went about its day. And a bit of gratitude I sent to it for taking pity on me and not making me it’s lunch.

We hiked back up the mountain and got into the van with our driver. As we told him the story, he became animated and scolding, telling us of a football player who’d snorkeled the bay with this team the week before, almost dying after having his Achilles taken out by what he described as a “yellow eyed, gigantic sea snake with razor teeth”. The driver said he’d been on the island for his whole life, and knew there had never been dangerous sea creatures in Hanuma Bay: these must be coming in due to the warmth of the tides. He couldn’t believe the sea snake left me alone, and we were all silent thinking about what could have been.

So… a cautionary tale. Snorkel Hanuma… but just maybe in this case you should actually follow the signs. The only place I’ll ever recommend paying attention to signs…

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