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Published: November 22nd 2015
Another breezy morning, one that Mango would come to terms with in an intimate way hours after breakfast. Today was our first activity day: SCUBA diving the Astrolabe Reef. The ride out to our first spot was choppy. Somehow, Dee, our Divemaster, spotted a manta ray and told us to get our snorkel gear and slide into the water for a peek. Even before I could hand Mango her mask and snorkel, she was feeling queasy and looking a light shade of green. But being the trooper she is, she grabbed the mask and hopped overboard, eyeing the 8 foot visibility, which almost entirely appeared as a deep purple with a bottomless floor of murky sand. We swashed around for about 10 minutes but didn't see anything. Dee kept pointing into the abyss and swimming around, but there was just no clarity to the choppy water. Back into the boat and off to the dive spot.
By the time we reached the dive spot, Mango was comfortably green. Still, she powered through and managed to don her gear and giant stride off the starboard into the water. I followed behind, deciding to forgo the camera in lieu of spotting Mango while this was our first dive since the Turks and Caicos trip about 2 years ago. Mango was fine, but I think she appreciated the extra hand. In fact, I know she appreciated it when Dee pointed to a tunnel at about 60 feet. I turned to Mango and she just shook her head. Obviously under water there's no verbal communication, but her body language said everything, "No effing way." I held her hand and signaled that we were going to go in together. And so we did.
With no current down there, the water was clear and it was easy to maneuver.
The approach to the tunnel was framed in multicolor and multishape corals; yellow, purple, white, and red, on top of stags head, brain, and soft-flowing anenomes. It was like a living Sisteen Chapel, and we floated like angels, then melded, into the scene. Inside the tunnel, there was just enough room for the two of us to enter and swim through side by side. After the first swim through, we floated beyond walls and walls of coral, up to probably one hundred feet tall. The floors, walls, and ceiling were coated in healthy, colorful coral. For such an exclusive location, only a few of the poshest fish came out to greet us. But their vibrant colors matched their surroundings.
After the dive, Mango surfaced feeling shittier than ever. While it was initially an option for us to head to a secluded beach for a snack, now it was a complete necessity. Mango was craving stable ground and wasn't about to get picky beyond that requirement. So, we tucked in to a beautiful, protected cove where the water glistened in every shade of blue and the sun beat down on the sandy beach, illuminating Mango's soon-to-be throne.
I'm not quite sure how Mango got onto shore, probably sheer will power mixed with sheer desperation. She cuddled up with a beach blanket and got almost a quarter of her wetsuit off before crashing onto the shore. While the initial preview of the beach made it appear ideal, there were some reality checks that while not insurmountable would've normally caused some ire: the sand was mostly made up of broken coral and ants were absolutely everywhere.
Some ants were carrying caterpillars, some carrying flowers. I definitely saw a cohort building about whether they could pick up Mango as a sacrifice to their Ant Queen. While Mango didn't move much, she must've played just hard enough to get that they didn't bother her. Not even a single nibble! This is a true Mango Miracle, as those who know the Zo (Mang-Zo) know that she is considered by insects the world over as grade A meat. She gets the ghost mosquito that can't be seen or heard, but there's the proof in a nasty bite. She'll attract the sand flys when she's not even near a beach. But these ants spared Mango today. And for that, we're all very thankful!
Another peculiar side show was taking place on that beach, too. While Mango was down for the long count, I felt spritely. In fact, I was pouring tea for our captain, who was hogging the shade for a half-earned nap, I was running snacks to the divemaster (who was forty yards down the beach by herself, stoning some dried fruit for herself for some inexplicable reason), and of course making sure that Mango had everything she needed; which despite my best efforts amounted only to a medicine dropper worth of tea, a sticky wetsuit removal, and a blanket to cover her skin from the increasing intensity of the mid day sun. I guess I had a lot of nervous energy built up because I wanted to make sure Mango was okay, though at the time I also just felt like I should take advantage of my energy since I normally come out from a dive feeling wiped out.
I eventually convinced Mango that she couldn't spend the rest of the vacation on this beach and we had to get back into the boat to take her to the Resort. Very, very reluctantly, she agreed and stumbled back onto the boat. It was a relatively short ride back, but I could tell from the look on her face that the ride seemed to be an eternity. On the bright side, extended vacation, right!? I got Mango to shore and brought her back to our Bure. I could tell that she had finally reached a happy place. Her color was coming back and so was her cute smile. So, I got back into the boat and headed just off shore for a final dive of the day.
When I got back to to shore, Mango was looking like herself again. Ready to eat some fish, rather than feed them any longer.
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