Big Bird Goes Snorkeling: Adventures In Costa Rica

Costa Rica, a country smaller than West Virginia, contains four percent of all species that exist on the planet. It is also known for having the highest density of biodiversity of any country in the world. So, as a nature lover, you can imagine my giddiness when I was asked to be the guest writer for the Animal Sanctuary and Boat Tour on the Osa Peninsula. Baby blue waves and hundreds of species you can’t see anywhere else? Yes, please.

The tour was everything I could have hoped for. There were dancing dolphins, exotic birds, monkeys, sloths, and even Collared Peccaries. Somehow, in this elongated state of wonder, I managed to erase that we were also supposed to look at nature UNDER the water. Did I mention I don’t know how to swim?

When it was time for snorkelling, it was the promise of spying on sea horses and sting rays, that made me put on a life vest. A sympathetic woman, seeing my quiet panic, grabbed ahold of my hand and started moving me towards the first rung of the ladder. She looked in my eyes and pledged to “swim me into the ocean” with her. “Just one more step down the ladder,” she cooed. “One, more step, and then you’re in. Right…

I stepped off the ladder and splashed into the ocean like a turd.

I’m not a big lover of waves. The truth is, outside of having my arms mock swam as a baby, I haven’t really been in the ocean. Sure, I’ve walked around it. I’ve even waded into it, but I’ve never been IN it. Now I was at its mercy, splashing around while the lovely lady held onto the back of my life jacket.

I found the bottom when my flailing feet grazed against some coral. Ow. Evidently, it was right there. Nonetheless, this didn’t stop me from battling the life vest which had me bobbing up and down. “Don’t panic” I consoled myself. “All around you are people (older and heavier) swimming like Salmon. You can do this.”

“Take my flippers,” my angel in the snorkelling mask said. With one hand still holding me steady, she took her flippers off with the other. I was now in love with her. Unfortunately, as I put them on I realized the life jacket was now flipping me face down into the ocean. I kicked. Oops. One flipper lost to the ocean.

Finally, I put my face in. FISH! Yellow fish with black stripes! A pretty purple one! A blue one! A group of white and black striped angel fish! It was awesome enough to monetarily distract me. But then, there it was again, a striking need to breathe through my nose.

I am proud to report that I stuck my face in the water at least three times before being floated back to the boat. I also managed to only drink salt water twice. (Not bad for a newbie.) Back on board, a very kind man held ice on my bleeding toe while I drank juice. And the Captain, finding me cute or just slightly hysterical, let me steer the boat. Evidently, he was impressed with my first swim.