We simply gaze over the rail to witness the thunderous splash of a giant manta leaping, the fin of a silky shark slicing the surface, wide-eyed flying fish barely escaping the gnashing jaws of silvery jacks. From the surface it can all be, quite frankly, a little overwhelming. We are sideline aliens in the hectic traffic of biology crashing into geology. We suit up anyway, slip quietly beneath the surface, and somehow everything changes. We are no longer separate, tourists, outsiders; we are a part, we belong. No longer tattered flags whipping in the wind, body checked by each slamming wave. Rather we’re floating, weightless. Surrendering, we peacefully glide within a river of swimmers from one side of the reef, to the other, from one side, to the other. In our stillness we become reef. Rainbow wrasses, busy as bees, dance and dart about our limbs. The Chinese trumpetfish suspended vertically, leisurely studying me, passively curious, translucent pectoral fins forever fluttering. A black jack, hanging stealthily in my shadow. This is without a doubt my favorite pastime, this becoming reef.
The water is alive in San Benedicto. Just a ride in the dinghy is an adventure. We regularly have to swerve to avoid giant mantas with a 12ft wingspan. We slow to look into the water and immediately a small shark cruises beneath to check us out. Every night we hear multiple thuds and take turns getting up to rescue a fish (a flying fish or needlefish) that is jumping around on deck. The amount of marine life is a small miracle.
We dove six of seven days anchored off San Benedicto and got the know the sites like a map of a favorite city. The Canyon near our anchorage has multiple fish-covered mounds and ridges, which slope steeply down to hundreds of feet. We would go down to 100-110ft and wait patiently behind a large rock for sharks to appear and then we’d go off-gas in the shallows with flashing colorful fish and invertebrates. The Lava Wall that extends around the lava flow with its lobes, caves, and stacked boulders is a perfect place to see sleeping white-tip sharks, huge lobsters scurrying under ledges, and green turtles resting lazily. And then there is The Boiler. This sheer mound that shoots up from 120ft to 15ft is a cleaning station for giant mantas. Not only are these gentle giants present in large numbers but they are also gregarious, curious, and forever awe inspiring.
“Under the sea. Under the sea. Darling, it’s better down where it’s wetter. Take it from me.” – Sebastian the lobster