Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Story time: the coolest thing I have ever seen.

I've never told you about the most amazing 'whoa' mind-blowing thing that's ever happened to me in my life. It happened in Mexico. I can't remember where in Mexico because when I was a teenager my step-dad always had these corporate retreats in touristy towns all over Mexico. He'd bring the whole family along, so I have seen a lot of Mexican resorts and hotels and beaches over the years. No complaints here!

Him and my mom would always arrange some sort of memorable experience. We swam with dolphins once (their tails are strong!!), we snorkelled in terrifying underwater caves and cenotes, we got to try steering a sailboat through the Pacific Ocean, we got to go to tourist bars like SeƱor Frogs when I was 14 and drink alcohol somehow (WHAT) we got to see humpback whales breaching...even a baby one! I tell you, now that I look back on it I can't believe how lucky I was to have experienced this kind of stuff. Touristy or not, it really gave me a love for adventures and an appreciation for the extraordinary.

But the coolest thing I've ever seen was on a pretty darn small boat. I assume this happened near Puerto Vallarta, but I'm not sure. We were on a whale watching tour I think. Maybe this was the same time we saw all the humpback whales. There was me, my parents and my brother and sister, two of my step-dad's hungover co-workers and then the two Mexican tour-guides. That's all that would fit on the boat.

We must have been looking for something to look at because when we saw what we thought was a dolphin fin off in the distance, the guy turned the boat around immediately and chased it. Everyone on the boat got pretty excited and I went right up to the front to peer over the edge.

You guys, it wasn't a dolphin.

It was a giant manta ray. The water was so clear and blue, you could see for like, a mile down to the bottom. And so we could watch it gliding towards us. And it kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger. This thing was bigger than our boat. It was huge. The "dolphin fin" we thought we saw was actually the very very tip of its ... uh ... wing? Arm? Fin?

I swear I will remember this moment with clarity for the rest of my life. Our guides cut the motor of the boat and we all shut up and it came right at our boat. The sheer enormity of this thing was intimidating, but so awesome. I was standing at the front, and it went right under us. I could have reached down and touched it. This gigantic dark shadow. AAAH

I don't even have the words to tell you how this affected me. Normally I don't care about nature's beauty. I just don't feel it the way others seem to. Sunsets are meh, mountain ranges are giant oppressive rocks, little baby deer are cute or whatever, flowers are okay ... but gigantic manta rays are the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. I bet if I had the chance to see one again I'd get all Kristin-Bell-with-sloth.

I was thinking about this moment and wondered if maybe, over the years, I may have exaggerated the size in my head. But I distinctly remember someone saying "it's bigger than our boat". I googled how big they can get and the answer is that they average around 22 feet across but can get up to 29 feet. That seems about right.


Then I became obsessed with manta rays all over again. Does that ever happen to you? It starts innocently enough but then you get REALLY interested in something totally random on the internet? You've got fifteen tabs open and can't get enough poor-quality youtube videos of whatever it is?

I found out that manta rays are closely related to sharks, they like attention from scuba divers, and they especially like it when the divers' bubbles from their equipment tickle their tummies!! That's the cutest thing I've ever heard in my life.

They also get silly when divers are around and flip upside down or do this:

I officially declare that I am in love with manta rays.

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