We successfully avoided the holiday rush, allowing Michelle and her two high school cronies (Dori and Mereille) to mess around in the water. The hit of the day was the massive human sized blow up hamster ball. Just like laughing at your hamster flipping around in your living room, the large inflatable allows you and your friends to look ridiculous as you ‘run’ around the lagoon.
I left even earlier with two of our students from the summer college Bible study to snorkel up the reef. Generally, I anticipate (hope for) one large ‘cool’ animal per snorkel, but by the time we got back to Kwaj, the 4th of July snorkel of 2013 had reached infamous status.
We began up the reef seeing a sting ray enjoying his morning breakfast, sifting through the sand at the bottom. We saw a few small sharks at a distance before swimming up on a very large nurse shark sleeping under some coral (we only saw his tail, but that was plenty).
As we started back, we encountered a 7-8 foot manta ray casually passing back and forth eating algae. This was my first sighting of this beautiful creature and it did not disappoint. Compared to many other larger animals, Mantas are generally friendly and will hang out with you for some time. Our friend journeyed most of the way back with us, passing within about 10 feet at points.
As we continued to enjoy our Manta friend, a spotted eagle ray joined the party along with another black tip shark. By the time we got back, our group was as happy as a clams (we also saw a giant clam). The afternoon saw your more typical holiday celebrations with games, food and music. It was especially meaningful celebrating our nation’s birthday with our new perspective on military communities serving all around the world. We are blessed!