On one of our best family trips we found ourselves at the Dry Tortugas National Park near the Florida Keys. The swimming and snorkeling was great. But I knew that there were supposed to be some top-notch coral reefs around the main island but I wasn't sure exactly where they were located. I asked one of the rangers and she pointed out some buoys offshore and indicated that the finest corals were to be found between two of them.
I looked out at sea. It was quite a distance but I figured it would be a relatively easy swim, so I decided to go.
|Me and Andy on the beach. You can see the buoys where I needed to go out in the distance.|
The only problem for me was that no one else was out there. Now, generally, I like solitude. But for something like this I'd rather have company. But as I didn't foresee getting back to the Dry Tortugas for many years (if ever), I decided again to bite the bullet and swim out.
So I set out. The water all around the main island is relatively shallow. The deepest points I saw were maybe twenty feet deep. The farther out I swam the more fish I saw. The more distance I put between myself and the island the more coral I encountered. I was really looking forward to getting out to the buoys.
|Corals growing on parts of collapsed brick walls of the old fort.|
And then I paused to look below me to see what new critters there were to spy. And right under me was a shark. Now, I immediately recognized it as a harmless Nurse shark. But it was big. Well, to me it was big. About six feet long. I was hovering over it and it was as long as I am tall. And it seemed to be frightened of me, trying to push its head under a bit of coral.
I looked down at the great big fish. The great big fish looked up at me.
|I looked at the shark. The shark looked at me.|
And then I looked back toward shore, at the fort, at the tiny dots that were the people I'd left behind. I suddenly felt very far away from safety. I began to wonder what other great big fish were out there with me. Maybe stuff even bigger than the Nurse shark and not quite so timid.
I could see that the buoys that were my goal were still some distance out in the Gulf and I decided to turn back. I have no regrets.