On the sandy bottom larger shapes came into view. Two sea turtles, then six, then a dozen, all resting on the bottom under the waves. Snorkeling along the cliffs to deeper water, I looked down about 20 feet to see a larger turtle, about five feet long, stationary in the water. Hovering around him like a cloud of brilliant butterflies was a school of king angel fish, with dark purple bodies, broad white stripes that seem to shine underwater, and neon highlights of orange and blue. The fish nibbled off accumulated algae from shells and flippers, making it easier for the turtles to swim while getting an easy meal in return. Generations of fish and turtles have been known to keep these “cleaning stations” in the same place for many years, always meeting up in the same place for this symbiotic cooperation.

water, flashing noses and tails as they jumped and dove, some with their entire bodies coming all the way out of the waves before disappearing below again. It was a spectacle of pure innocent joy. While they are called “seals” these are actually another variety of sea lion, and we watched these wild babies play from about twenty feet away while they ignored us completely. Our final deep-water snorkel took place near by. Again, the environment on this side of the island was slightly different. Exposed to the open Pacific the water was 5-10 degrees colder than on previous water days. (Though in nature-guide-speak, water is never cold, it’s just “refreshing”, or better yet “refescante” in Spanish). I was still very comfortable in the short wet-suit, but it was a bit chilly for some. The water depth varied more here, from as little as ten feet to perhaps as much as 70 feet in places, but visibility was perfect. The water moved with more force in some of the shallower places, moving huge shoals of aptly- named grey-striped shorefish passively back and forth as more colorful fish swam above and below. ©Charles “Shay” Brantigan

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