June 21, 2016

“Dinnertime!” My mother’s voice rings in my ears as she relentlessly tries to get me out of the water. I was ten years old on a family vacation, my first encounter with the Caribbean Sea.

Caribbean Reef.

Living in the United States, it is the vacation destination you dream about. Warm, clear, aqua-colored water, vibrant culture, exciting cities, and lots of delicious libations, my family enjoyed all of it. I on the other hand, spent the entire week in the water. Swimming in bath-like conditions, snorkeling with the many colorful reef fish, and tumbling in the towering waves, I was hooked. Little did I know that this wasn’t only the beginning of a healthy obsession, but also the key to my future.

13 years and countless visits later, I was offered the chance to learn how to scuba dive in the British Virgin Islands with Ocean First Education. I jumped at the opportunity and was on a flight to Tortola one month later. Caribbean Reef.Breathing and beholding the ocean from 30 feet beneath the waves was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. Instead of gazing upon this unique ecosystem as an outsider, I swayed with the graceful gorgonians and swam with the fish. Unconsciously mimicking butterflyfish, I was darting all around the reef. Not wanting to miss a thing, I was swimming 20 miles an hour to catch it all and was surprised when I ran out of air!

I couldn’t believe it; this alien and beautiful environment had been here all along. I thought back to my countless hours spent flailing about in the shore, meanwhile underwater scenes played out all day not far beneath me. The Caribbean had somehow found a way to astonish me yet again. Now, having traveled to many different bodies of water around the world, I am lucky enough to see the various biological and environmental differences around the ocean and yet the Caribbean still holds a very special place in my heart.

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