the sandbank

We landed on Ibo Island on a Sunday, and stayed at the romantic lodge Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday nights.  Tuesday morning we got a preview of our Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, when we woke up with the sun and sleepily walked to the docks.  The four of us piled into a tiny, wooden rowboat with an African gondoleer at the helm.  With his long, skinny stick of an oar he paddled us out to the sister of the dhow we'd call our own the next four days (ours was being prepared for our journey), and we shakily climbed aboard.
The morning was chilly and we huddled under towels while we watched the crew raise the sail.  Then we awkwardly climbed the narrow ladder to the small, upper deck for a 45-minute sail in the crisp air to a sandbank in the middle of the sea.  Nervously we watched what seemed like huge waves and ominous other boats (the lodge manager had regaled three of us with tales of pirates over cocktails the night before; he terrified O).  Soon enough the crew called for us to go ashore, so ever the lady that I am, I hiked up my dress and got my feet wet.  Joey, L&O followed, and we explored the small mound of sand we'd inhabit for the next few hours.

I wish I could take credit for this amazing picture of the sandbank, but I have to give  it to L.
Even though it was still quite cold, one of our crew said it was time to go snorkeling, so on went the flippers and masks, at least for three of us.  I'm not exactly the most coordinated person, and snorkeling is high on the list of things that freak me out and can't really do (escalators, specifically descending ones, are also on that list).  I've tried snorkeling three other times - and only one of those have I even managed to kind of do it (I blame one of those instances on alcohol.  Booze cruises should never be accompanied by snorkeling.  Or kayaking.  That was really bad.)  It'd been about four years since my last attempt, so I decided to give it another try.

While L and O were off enjoying the reefs, Joey was teaching me how to breathe and trying not to laugh hysterically.  Maybe it was because I was going off about Darth Vader with the tube still in my mouth.  Eventually, though, I figured it out - until it was time for the flippers.  How do people swim in those things?  I felt certain I was going to drown immediately with those giant fins on, so I left them on the bank.  Finally we were ready to snorkel, and off I swam.  I made it to the first reef and I panicked.  Although heavily breathing, I seemed to be managing, but what would happen if I accidentally sucked water?  The coral seemed so close I was sucking in my stomach - I couldn't put my legs down and all I could see was coral.  Where were Joey and L and O?  By then I was completely flailing in every direction.

Thankfully Joey saw my panic attack, and swam up and held my hand.  Instantly I felt better, and with white knuckles I squeezed his hand as I continued to flail about, albeit less, in the water.  But hand-in-hand we explored the reef and the amazing colors of the ocean.  We saw a bright red, puffy starfish, a kingfish, and innumerable shimmering schools.  Although the breathing apparatus still scared me, with Joey holding my hand I almost could feel the peace of the underwater world.  Unfortunately my "swimming" did not bring anyone else peace, as L and O had to come up several times to contain their hysterical laughter at the sight of my flailing body.

After we'd snorkeled for a while, it was time for breakfast.  The other members of the crew had erected a table under a tent on the sandbank, we warmed up with hot coffee before we were served fresh scrambled eggs, breakfast sausage and toast.  Then we stretched out on our towels in the sun and let the food settle before another round of snorkeling.

The rising tide soon swallowed up more and more of our shore - it was time to get back on the dhow and head back to Ibo Island.  On the upper deck once more, it was time for a beer and tanning.  I looked over at Joey and he wore one of the biggest smiles I'd seen on him in a long, long time.  The sunshine, the bright blue ocean, the wind in our face had made for a pretty hard-to-beat morning.  An hour later we returned to the dock in high spirits.  We all breathed a sigh of relief in anticipation of the next four days.