...Or is it Memorex?...

By Davida

It was my 12th dive and we were on Tormentos Reef. I was lucky enough to do my checkout dives in Coz and this was the last dive of that first trip. The previous 11 dives had been spent in awe and concentration. Of course, none of us ever forget that first back roll, especially in the aquamarine waters around Coz. The feeling of gently falling backwards, seeing the cloudless sky disappear in an explosion of tiny silver bubbles as you hit the water. As I slowly rotate my body to face the bottom, I adjust my mask and take a personal inventory, yepÖremembered my fins this time!

At 65 feet below, the reef looks as though you can reach out and touch it. The water has that crystalline shimmer that convinces you that you are truly in another world. As I look over at my buddy, I can see the other divers descending, silver bubble trails suspending them from the ceiling of the water like puppets. Iím only wearing my swimsuit and can feel the warm water gently flowing over my skin as we slowly descend. The current is almost non-existent today, a rarity in Coz. Just enough of a drift to eliminate the need to kick our way from here to there. The section of reef we are on has more varieties of fish than Iíve seen before. Or maybe itís just that for the first time, my buoyancy has finally kicked in, everything is just perfect. My mind is filled with what Iím seeing rather than wondering if Iím doing everything right!

We are slowly drifting along at about 45 feet and as I look around I see Queen and Striped and Stoplight and Princess Parrotfish weaving patterns of color among the fronds of the gorgonians and black corals. I see pairs of well-polished Banded Butterflyfish, flipping like irregular coins through the soft corals, always just ahead of me. I see shy Black Durgons that stayed far enough away that I could not see whether they actually had eyes or mouths; all I could make out were the hard black shapes of their bodies and the butterfly wing flow of their white-limned dorsal and anal fins. Have you ever noticed how, up close, a Durgon actually has an indigo body and a face shot through with chromium yellow lines? I see Rock Beauties moving like black paintbrushes dripping yellow across the purple and crimson of sponges. I see schools of Chromis spontaneously generating from the surrounding blue.

The impossible neon purple of the first full grown Trumpetfish my buddy found, and that shocked, hair-on-end look that Squirrlefish always have will forever live in memory. I had seen Queen Angels on previous dives and I may never feel that same thrill at the sight of a Queen Angel again, but the sight of a half dozen of them looping and spiraling their blues and greens about one another as they play among the reef still gave me goosebumps. A Moray Eel, dressed in his most drab olive green suit, comes out to see if we have brought him a squid snack. He remembers the days of old when the Divemasters catered to his every whim. His thick body undulates a sexy pattern as he approaches us, almost as if he just craves our company. But we know better. Although he lets us touch him, feeling his silky skin, we still avoid the pointy end!

Towards the end of the dive, we are at the edge of the reef where the sand flats spread out like a field of snow. The orange colored Cushion Stars walk gently over fields of turtle grass, standing out as the stars they are. There is a small coral head about the size of a coffee table that is sitting out all by itself. Of course, nosey me, I have to go see what's there. At first glance, it looks like every other part of the reef. But as I'm looking a bit closer, I see an eyeball! A wierd one at that. About the size of a quarter, a sort of silvery gold color with a horizontal pupil. I lay in the sand, just inches away, trying to see what it is. Wait, I feel something on my hand. As I look down, there is this very inquisitive tennacle slowly inspecting my fingernail. When I look up, the eye seems to be smiling at me! We lay there, eye to eye, curious about each other and connected by some higher power that maybe neither of us understand. When he had completed his inspection of my hand, arm and part of my face, we parted friends. The changling called Octopus will always have a special place in my heart.

Too soon it is time to start our ascent. On every dive up to now, this part of the dive has been spent with computer in hand, monitoring my ascent rate and eyes fixed to the timer so I would get exactly 3 minutes at exactly 15 feet for the safety stop. Thatís what weíre taught, right? My air consumption has been the best ever and I am aware of how much air I have left and am not worried. My body had at this point conditioned itself to feel the differences in pressure as I ascended to shallower depths so I donít even think of watching my depth slowly tick down to the target depth. Instead, my eyes are filled with wonder at the life that exists way up here above the reef below. Clear, almost invisible Salps gently pulsing their way through the water, clearly showing their family resemblance to their jellyfish cousins. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a flash of bright, metallic silver. BARRACUDA! My brain has two parts. One parts is yelling at me to get out of the water and avoid the vicious teeth and inevitable mangling of my body I was sure this horrible creature has planned for me. The other part is transfixed in wonder. The mirrored armor of this amazing creature is brighter than anything Iíve ever seen. Itís gentle eye, slowly moving up and down, trying to figure out why in the world this huge clumsy creature is staring at it. That big toothy grin now has a humorous look to it.

I return to the boat. For several minutes I sit in stunned silence. My memory already in overdrive, I want to share the experience of the most perfect dive to date with my buddy, my husband. But all we do is exchange big smiles. Words were not necessary.

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