Here on South Caicos, SFS students have the opportunity to go on two waterfront dives or snorkels each week. Waterfront is a great opportunity to learn in the field and explore underwater. Before I describe waterfront activities, it may be beneficial to share that I had minimal experience snorkeling before arriving on South Caicos. To me, exploring and learning about underwater environments is a new frontier.
After safety briefings and a snorkel test we were ready to go on our first snorkel trip. The destination was Admirals Reef, not far offshore from the SFS center. One of the interns working here was swimming with me, identifying organisms we came across. We would duck dive to see underneath corals, get a closer look at sponges, and try to find other organisms on the seafloor. On one of these duck dives we peeked under some coral and saw an octopus and I could not help but smile. On the same snorkel I saw barracuda, Sphyraena barracuda, for the first time – initially unsettling but I was overwhelmingly intrigued, and continued to observe.
It was a quiet Wednesday morning as we rode the boat out to Shark Alley (the snorkel site that day). The staff and interns here have mentioned how majestic an eagle ray is so I only hoped to come across one in the water. That Wednesday morning I saw 2 eagle rays on the snorkel. I had a unique feeling I have never before experienced, one I would relate to seeing a moose for the first time – hard to describe and humbling. Prior to being a student at SFS I knew the ocean is a huge place with different environments. The experiences I have described have helped establish a personal connection and interest with marine life and increased my desire to learn about what is happening under the surface.