One week left to enjoy everything that South Caicos has to offer. The time is going by way too fast. When we first arrived here, a short three weeks ago, everyone was so vulnerable to this new, unfamiliar place that we would be calling home for the next 30 days. But something about the warm welcome of the locals, the same unknowing expression my peers’ faces, and the beautiful tri-colored deep, blue sea in front of us made us all feel that we were where we belong.
I’ll always remember the first ones to greet us when we arrived to South Caicos. The “potcake” dogs around here became our family; it’s safe to say that they have adopted us. They follow us wherever we go and partake in every activity we do. They even swim with us while we go snorkeling and we always have to swim them back to shore. Some fellow students and I would bathe them every now and then. For being stray dogs, they were more cooperative than dogs back at home. Right after we would wash them though, forget about towel drying them down… they immediately took off for the sand that was our volleyball court and rolled around.
On days of data collection, whether fighting the strong current in the coral reefs or fighting off Cassiopea and mosquitoes in the mangroves, there is a sense of accomplishment. Looking back, all we remember is everything that we learned and all that we saw. Having to do tedious tasks to count invertebrate species or look under reefs to identify fish opens our eyes up to a world we don’t normally look at every day. The experiences gained here are unforgettable, pictures and videos don’t give any sights justice. We will all remember experiences such as spotting five Caribbean reef sharks (Carcharhinus perezii) when diving to 80 feet, a Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) spotted with a flashlight during a night snorkel, or the southern stingray (Dasyatis americana) we swam over that was buried in the sand. It’ll be a big adjustment back at home to not be able to walk out of my bedroom every morning to gaze out into the beautiful sea.
Having the experience of being so close to a shark, I’ve never been so content. My initial reaction is nothing I could have imagined. Shock and worry quickly turns into relaxation and all I wanted to do in that moment was just sit back and observe. Being in the water, whether 60 feet down breathing from a SCUBA tank or snorkeling on the surface, I feel that I am a part of the ocean, and all of my worries and stress is left on the shore for that quick moment. I have found the more I am in the water, the more comfortable I have become with my surroundings and my confidence; it just becomes natural. Feeling salt water dried out on my skin and old sunscreen on my body just becomes a daily feeling; salt water showers and mermaid baths are my go-to, and that is quite all right with me.
Aside from the astonishing amount of fish found in the water, feral horses can be spotted at every corner. We even had the blessing to look out for a new baby foal during our time. We named her “Luna” because of the marking on her face. Donkeys and flamingos also can be spotted all around the area.
The nights are spent laying down on the dock, gazing into the night sky, pointing out constellations and just relaxing with friends, with no city lights or noises to interrupt the beautiful sight… just the sound of the waves crashing beneath. Any opportunity you get to go out with friends, whether it be dancing at the hotel or going out for some dollar fries and chicken, everyone takes advantage of opportunities to bond with friends and locals.
I came to this island nervous but excited to live in South Caicos for a month with unfamiliar people. I am leaving with the desire to stay longer with peers that I am blessed to call lifelong friends. I am leaving with funny stories, knowledge in marine research techniques, and pictures that hold a thousand words. I am leaving with happiness and achievement. I can’t thank everyone enough.
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Mahatma Gandhi.