Curious Sea Lion Pup, Los Islotes, Mexico

Curious Sea Lion Pup, Los Islotes, Mexico

I was floating in a fold-boat kayak paddling away from the cabin on the little bay just north of Sitka, Alaska. It was a cool, late summer day and we had 21 miles of calm channel water ahead of us. As my muscles warmed up and the motion worked into a rhythm, I was able to open to the world around me. A mass of dark green mountains swept overhead and into mist. Below was clear water. It was as though I were suspended on a sheet of glass, air above and liquid below. In the 10 or so feet beneath each sweep of the paddle, I could see salmon and kelp. Other creatures darted between rocks. The long moss on the shore boulders slipped into a swirl as it dipped beneath the water. The variety of life was stunning in this buffer between worlds. I couldn’t have known then that one day I’d be transitioning again as a scuba diver in La Paz, Mexico.

Now, decades later, I’m reminded of that abundance in the seam between worlds. Our dive boat left the dock with a load of excited photographers on board. Within 20 minutes a small cadre of vessels was circling an area not far from the harbor. The small spotter airplane spiraled overhead and we knew luck was with us. The boat coasted near a shadow. It was an adolescent whale shark feeding at the surface. Slowly we drew closer and as it swam alongside, snorkelers slipped into the water, cameras ready, paddling for all they could.

The shark was gulping slowly as it fed on plankton in the shallow water. It circled and scooted away, then turned back and swam past – teasing us to continue the chase. We had been coached not to swim over or across and to avoid its tail. These creatures are not true whales or sharks, but the largest fish on the planet. Spotted head to tail, it bared its creamy belly once while feeding vertically, just a foot from the surface.

It was just amazing, such a rare encounter. So far from the busy-ness of my regular life, a life continuing far away and so removed from this primal connection with the powerful world just beneath the surface. On other dives too, I’ve found that the depth doesn’t matter, the variety of life is greatest nearest that zone between worlds, air above and water below. I’m grateful for the reminder and look forward to doing more scuba diving in La Paz.

Copyright 2010, All rights reserved, Elaine Masters, RYT, Trip Wellness Specialist,