Samoa: Fish-Watching

Posted by on Oct 29, 2018 in Unmowed Blog | 1 comment

Somehow, I am just not a birder. I mean I like birds fine, but I seem to lack the driving urge to leap out of bed at 4am to go and birdwatch. I can never get the darn binoculars to focus. And the birds, while beautiful, are so elusive, so hard to find. But to go fish-watching, I would get out of bed before the dawn. I’d get up at any ungodly hour to watch fish.

 Fish? Watch fish? Fried, with tartar sauce, is the way we usually think of fish. When do we ever see fish, other than in a refrigerated case in the grocery store? They live out of our gaze, not with us in the open air like the birds and the insects and the mammals, but in another element altogether, hidden beneath the water’s opaque surface.

 But put on a mask and a snorkel, and venture into the water, and suddenly everything changes. You have, quite literally, entered a new world. Breathing, instead of being something you never think about, becomes a conscious act, each breath sucked in through the snorkel’s tube and blown out again like a whale’s spout. And you are now an awestruck visitor in the fishes’ kingdom. 

 Coral reef fish are almost too colorful to believe. They’re the craziest, gaudiest, most unlikely hues, like a kid run wild with a paintbox, God on a binge of sheer color. Splashes of lemon, stripes of neon blue, jet black edged with turquoise and the hottest of hot pink. Each fish is a work of art, a moving, breathing piece of artwork that’s looking you right in the eye.

The fish seem only mildly curious about these hulking, splashing, heavy-breathing giants that are spying on them. Sometimes the fish stare at you head on, warily contemplating the intruder. Sometimes they turn sideways, casually showing off their beauty. They have the purse-lipped disdain of fashion models, well aware of the glamour they carry on their backs. Birds flap their wings to fly, but the fish move in subtle, unpredictable ways. They’re here and then they zip over there, and there’s no way to tell how they got there. A tiny flick of the fin, and they fly through the water, doing tricks not even a hummingbird could manage: stop on a dime, hang head downwards, and loop the loop.

There’s something, for me, so magical about snorkeling, entering the underwater kingdom that is usually off limits to humans The world back on dry land seems always a little drab by comparison.  

Thanks to George Steele for fish photos!



One Comment

  1. I, too, do not relish getting up at 4 AM but luckily our birds spend the whole day in the backyard. Must know I’m a lazy kinda birder! 🙂 Thx for sharing the lovely fish photos!!!

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