I’m in my beach hut-tree house while the tropical rain thunders down all around me. My last day in this corner of paradise. Wanted to get out to a 'motu' (one of the even tinier islands inside the lagoon) today but that was impossible with the high winds and rain.
It’s been a great day though. A few metres from my tiny wooden balcony covered in palm leaves is the most incredible coral I have ever snorkelled in. A more usual version of me would jump in the sea every morning without even thinking about it. I have to be a bit more cautious. And it's OK. This current version of me can get strangely wobbly and quite often the room (or beach) can spin after the sea or a shower. I'm working on managing it - it went away in New Zealand and came back a couple of weeks ago. Something to do with my lymphatic and nervous system, perplexing symptoms that are just a part of life with CFS.
But if I pace it right I am having long snorkelling sessions, floating in the water while fish of the most extraordinary shapes and colours are busy doing their thing. Large bright purple starfish, angel fish all bright yellow, blacks and white. Tiny black and white striped fish crisscrossing into a shoal of the most exquisite cobalt blue. When I swim out far enough I can see a giant clam, about the size of a small child. A velvet burgundy brown with iridescent tiny turquoise and green circles all over its inner surface, glimmering like sequins. Less beautiful perhaps are the large black slug-like sea cucumbers that on our beach occupy just about every square foot of the sand below the crystal water. They serve an important function though. When you look more carefully you can see their suction pads; as natures' vacuum cleaners they help to clean out the sea water.
The most usual way to see the lagoon is though a tour or water taxi. I signed up for one run by a local called Andrew. In wasn’t able to do as much walking as the other travellers so we spent more time on the boat chatting. When he heard I was here for 2 weeks and without even knowing I was trying to find ways to get out to the lagoon as often and as affordably as possible, he invited me on another tour for nothing! I helped him with lunch in return; star fruit, watermelon, barbecued tuna, bananas and bread plant with a papaya curry salad. We ate on one of the motus while the island ants (they don't bite) and hermit crabs crawled and scuttled around our feet.
From Andrew's boat I swam with the Great Travellys and a Napoleon fish, all more than half my size, the latter an extraordinary version of the kind of exotic fish you might find in the fish tank of a Chinese restaurant. Snorkelling in deeper water feels a bit like flying it is so crystal clear below me.
I'm very pleased not to have come across a stone fish. They disguise themselves as rocks just under the sand and when trodden on emit a venom and swelling so painful that people usually beg for their legs to be cut off. And it can take weeks to recover. I'm wearing reef shoes all the time to avoid stepping on anything sharp, squidgy or venomous.
The Great Travelleys I jumped in for a swim and snorkel with.
An ME/CFS Thriver