Today I was able to go out on a 6 hour snorkeling tour with the island’s supposed “fish whisperer”. Evidently, this man has a special relationship with the fish out on the reef and is the best on the island. And let me tell you, he was.
This morning I crowded onto a tiny sail boat with my Dutch friend Hilda and 5 very friendly Italians, and headed out to multiple locations along the reef. The little sail boat did not move quickly (it took us almost 1.5 hours to get to our first location at the sound end of the reef) but we didnt mind bc the breeze was good and we finally got some cloud coverage.
Once we arrived at our first location, we geared up (thanks for the snorkel gift certificate Margo! Having my own gear has been awesome! ) and set out for an hour of snorkeling. And wouldnt you know it, as soon as Juni entered the water, things changed. He immediately started snapping and rubbing his hands together to mimic the underwater sounds, and the fish started surrounding us! Not only were they hanging out around us, but they were actually swimming up to Juni so that he could cradle and pet them. It was crazy! I mean, seeing this happen with dolphins is one thing, but watching a 60 year old man cradle and rub a monster fish is pretty insane. So each stop we went to, Juni’s fish friends would find us and start to play, letting each of us rub them and hangout. Incredible. And of course this happened with the huge stingrays as well. At one point Juni motioned for me to lie on my back and the stingray swam over my body and face. Crazy and awesome is all I can say about that. The eels, rainbow fish, nurse sharks, and coral were cool too!
After our 2 dives, we sat and ate our lunch, and I got to talk to Juni a bit. I know, I joked before my trip about becoming “granola crunchy” and meeting people that will change me, but it is actually happening. There was just something about this man and his love for the fish and sea that was so relaxing and beautiful. He explained that he has been playing with these fish for 30 years and loves them like family. He has even named some of them. Evidently, growing up, he would swim from the island to the reef to escape an abusive home and eventually became connected to the creatures he came across. In the 1960’s he started taking marine biology students and professors from American universities (UNC was the first ironically enough) out for dives with their glass boxes (long before snorkel gear existed) and eventually he became the master of the island (though he wont admit it!)
I know this may sound corny to some people, but this is what I’m looking for on my trip- being influenced by people that are so passionate about life and are doing what they love. I can only hope that this is the start to the amazing people that I meet along my journey.
And finally, please excuse my blog mistakes as I’m writing these from a tiny slow tablet!