The reef at the back of Quest is like trying to put a jigsaw puzzle together. The rocks are living creatures and the living creatures all are grouped in the craziest patterns. Some are small and concentric, others wander around like a set of dominoes. Some even go for the brain look. The texture of these corals is all hard, but lined with something. If you touch, you feel it. Perhaps the best way to describe it is mucilaginous. The polite way of saying slimy. And in the water, you have the bits floating around. It’s like you’re swimming through an underwater spider net. I forget I’m breathing my own air. I don’t have to hold my breath. Also I’m seeing it with eyes that won’t touch it through my dive mask. In other words, I might as well have a hazmat suit on. That’s cool. Swim on.
In between these crazy patterned living rocks are sponges. But they’re not sponges in the way that we’re familiar with. Some jut up like thin tongues along the coral. Bright green alien’s fingers. They look squishy, but I don’t think it would be a good idea to touch these things. Sponges often give you the poison apple feeling.
Some are large and wrinkly and shaped like barrels. I like to swim over these barrels and stare into their innards. Sometimes you can see small, spidery-looking creatures. Like a tiny crab with the thinnest legs you could imagine. They live in these sponges. Surely nothing else would live in them – the inside of these sponges like the inside of Jabba the Hut’s mouth.
Surrounding the coral pattern and sponge strangeness are fish. Always fish. Small (usually) and delicately patterned. None of them are streamlined for efficient swimming. All are shaped like living helicopters. These fish were made to hover – and to look good of course. Purples and yellows. Greens and stripy orange. The coral may be every shade of brown, but the fish make up for it. They’d make a rainbow shy.
The best part for me is when the fish shiver at the same time. I don’t know why – if it’s because we divers are crawling along to scare them, or they hear a noise that reverberates through their swim lines. They all shiver at the same time. It feels like the fishes’ equivalent of the Mexican wave.
Today, we were greeted by an enormous stingray. It came as we got in the water. As we were returning to Quest’s swim ladder, it came back. Did a friendly-seeming fly-by. It was bigger than our table. Not sure why I compare everything to the table. The table isn’t pleased about it. It mostly comes up short.