Rabida Island

The engines roared into life at six this morning and, wide awake I went on deck to see the sunrise. I was surprised to see the woman who cleans the rooms at the wheel but I guess they all take turns so the captain can get some rest. We were heading past a long low island like a turtle topped with cloud. On the other side was a much bigger island being rained on heavily but it never got to us. Our destination was Rabida Island and we watched a couple of sealions rolling around in the surf just offshore. The pangas took us to a black sand beach with its usual compliment of dozing sealions. Behind the beach was a salt lagoon and there were a couple of flamingos snoozing away with necks, heads, beaks and a leg all tucked away under their wings. From a distance they looked like two candy flosses that someone had stuck in the shallows.

This was another chance to snorkel and P and I took turns to take Tom out with us to a couple of rocky atolls just offshore. There, the sea life was simply amazing. I watched a huge turtle nibbling away on the grassy fronds on the reef and he was completely unconcerned about my being there. His beaky head snatched and nibbled while his flippers held him in position. I floated over him for a bit and then something else caught my eye – it was the sealion that we had watched flipping about through the waves. It moved with such tremendous speed and agility, vanishing out of the water in a stream of bubbles and splashing back into it. I don’t know if it was fishing or playing but I watched it zip about for several minutes, before it shot back towards me and away to a different part of the reef.

I swam back to get T who was resting on the beach and took him back in the hope of seeing the turtle. It had gone, but all of a sudden the sealion appeared right underneath us perhaps two feet away. I could hear Tom shouting through his snorkel “Look! Look!”. The sealion flicked around us and swam away, with Tom in hot pursuit. He didn’t catch it (probably that was a good thing…) but it was thrilling to be so close and feel like we were with it for a while.

Without flippers, the snorkeling is hard work for Tom and I dropped him on the beach and went to find Philippa. She was on the other side of the atoll and as we met up we suddenly saw a sealion hunting about six feet beneath us. It was motionless apart from its head which slowly scanned left and right looking for fish. We floated right over it, carried along at the same speed as the sealion and it didn’t give us a second glance. Everyone else had gathered on the shore waiting to go back, so we left the sealion hunting and swam back to the black beach, feeling we had been let in on a secret that no-one else knew about.

Author: Richard Lister

Chasing horizons...

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