Tag Archives: snorkeling

A Gem in the Prickliest of Places

My top fears? Finding a dead person in a public restroom, centipedes, and stepping on a sea urchin.

Some say it was Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Whether or not she coined the saying, I believe that it’s a good one to live by. I don’t think it means that we should always do dangerous or ridiculous things. I think that it means we should slowly widen our comfort zone, one baby step at a time. When we first moved to the Caribbean, I was terrified of sharks. Irrationally so, especially since there has been no shark attack in Sint Maarten for about thirty years. I was shaking during our first snorkel expeditions. Soon, I was able to go further and deeper and enjoy it more. Now, I can happily surf offshore for hours with barely a thought in the back of my mind.

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Sea urchins still plague me, though. Ben got some spines in his feet during a tropical storm, when the urchins were washed onto the beach. My friend Jay got a massive urchin sting from barely brushing up against one while floating in a tide pool. The last thing I want is to be stabbed AND stung at the same time!

 

On Ben’s first day of break from medial school, we decided to explore a few little-known cays off the coast of Le Galion beach. This place is hard to find, but it’s amazing. In the winter, you can watch wales migrate from viewing towers. Year round, you can walk or snorkel to small cays in the shallow water.

Walking through the water to the first couple cays was easy. But the path to the last cay was slightly terrifying. We began to the slow trek through the rocky water, avoiding the little spiky balls of evil that dotted the sandy ocean floor. The water was only about ankle-deep, but the waves breaking on the nearby rock barrier sometimes spilled violently over into the shallow zone, roughening the water and obscuring our view of the rocks, shells, and urchins below. Slowly, we picked our way through the obstacle course. I prayed that I wouldn’t feel a needle-sharp spike shoot through the soft soles of my flip-flops. Why didn’t I wear water shoes?

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About halfway across, I couldn’t find a good place to set my foot. I searched carefully beneath the ripples, trying to find a clear spot. All I could see, for yards around, was the minefield of sea urchins. I could hardly breathe for a moment. My whole body froze. So this is what it means to be frozen with fear, I thought, How silly. I guess I can get out of this the same way I got into it. Still, I had an awful vision of slipping on a mossy rock and landing prone on the urchin-covered rocks. Ben stopped picking his way through the water and looked back at me to make sure I was OK. I looked at him, then back at the water. The red centers of the small black urchins glared at me from between the rocks, like wicked red eyes. “I don’t think I can do this,” I said, “There’s literally nowhere to walk.” Ben waded slowly back to me, watching his steps carefully. “Get on my back,” he said, “I’ll carry you.” He turned, and I jumped, clinging to his neck for dear life. He cautiously moved through the rocks, the thick rubber soles of his shoes protecting him from the smaller spikes.

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Before long, we reached the island, and Ben deposited me on the dry rocks. We had made it! And it was so worth it. The small island offered a gorgeous view of Saint Martin. Waves beat against the rock on one side, and a brilliant blue tide pool calmly beckoned on the other. A magical, lonely, unspoiled place.

 

Often, the places most worth going have a scary path. You have to face your fears and step out into an uncertain place to get to the solid mountaintops and peaceful tide pools of life. But you don’t have to do it alone. We need each other to face our fears and support one another. Don’t live in your comfort zone! Get out and do something that scares you, and don’t be ashamed to take a friend along.

 

 

Underwater Egg Hunt

How chances will I have to do an Easter egg hunt underwater? Not many! Each year, Divi Little Bay Resort hosts an egg hunt to support the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation.

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The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation does a lot of good work to protect the island’s ecosystem. I briefly wrote about some of their activities in my article for Seven Seas Magazine. 

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The hunt was not just for a good cause, it was also incredibly fun! Imagine hundreds of people of all ages on the beach, outfitted with snorkel masks and fins, ready to collect 1,000 painted eggs hiding under the crystal-clear surface of the water.

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It was a little bit cut-throat! People are competitive. I went with the other strong swimmers to the deepest area, which seemed to be about 15 feet deep. I strained my eyes for glimpses of color peeking out from the gray-green floor of the ocean and managed to grab seven eggs. Fish flitted back and forth below us, unnerved by the sudden influx of human activity in the water.

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In the shallow area, small children hunted for eggs in knee-deep water.

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At the end, there was a giant raffle with dozens of amazing prizes, ranging from inflatable pool toys to a tow-day stay for two at Divi Little Bay Resort. It was my lucky day– I won two prizes! One was a lunchbox full of beach items and the other was a free sailing lesson with a Sun Bum hat.

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What a great thing to do on Easter Monday! I’ll be back next year for certain.

Foodie Tuesdays: Parrotfish Fajitas

Before you can begin to cook these deliciously fishy fajitas, you must obtain a fish. You could buy one at the grocery store, or you could catch one with your own rod and reel.

We spent today adventuring around our island home: first to the French side for fishing and snorkeling, and then to the Dutch side to see Fort Amsterdam. My parents gave me a waterproof phone case for Christmas, so while Ben caught fish for dinner, I caught fish on camera.

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Parrotfish

Ben caught a parrotfish, two glasseye snappers, and two doctor fish. Since ciguatera toxin is prevalent in our area, we checked online to make sure the fish are safe to eat. We threw out the snappers because they are high-risk ciguatera carriers. The doctor fish were tiny and rarely carry the toxin anyway, so we kept them. We were a little concerned about the parrotfish since it was over six inches, but it’s low-risk so we decided to try it. I guess we’ll find out in the morning if we’re OK; Ciguatera poisoning hits within twelve hours.

I think we’ll be alright.

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Once the fish were home and cleaned, it was time to start cooking.

To make the fajitas, gather your ingredients:

  • four
  • water
  • salt
  • oil
  • fish
  • bell peppers
  • onions
  • shallots
  • lemon
  • Spices: salt, pepper, cumin, garlic salt

My favorite tortilla recipe is from Taste of Home. I never buy tortillas from the store anymore! Mix 2 cups of flour, a little salt, 3/4 cups of water and 3 Tablespoons of oil. Let rest, roll out, and fry.

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Season fish with salt, pepper, and lemon.

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Slice onions, bell peppers, and shallots into thin slices.

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Put a quarter cup of oil in a flying pan and heat it to medium heat. Mix in seasonings to your preference. Fry veggies for a few minutes and then add whole fish.

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Yum, yum! Smelling good, now. Make some rice while you cook the fish and veggies. The onions should be caramelized.

Remove from heat and allow to cool. Break out the salsa.

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Remove the skin from the fish, flake off the meat, and pile it all on the tortillas.

Enjoy your fajitas!

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