FISH, EYE TO EYE, IN VIETNAM

OR SNORKELLING AND BLISS IN NHA TRANG.

Dappled sunlight in limpid waters

I love snorkelling. There’s no doubt I am an addict. I’m always the first to leap off the boat and the last to get back on. I have been lucky enough to have gone all over the world to feed my habit and it rarely fails to enthrall me. It’s such a different magical experience every time to have your first glimpse of that underwater world where all those fish and sea creatures are living their fishy lives without us even realising when viewing the sea from above.

Fish chowing on debris

It’s also a time of great despair. When you visit a place and the tell tale knuckle bones of dead coral are brought in by the tide only to be crunched underfoot by passers by. When underwater I’ve seen the bright and beautiful different corals along with their specialist fish darting around and underneath them, only to see a mile or so beyond the dead grey murky landscape without life of a destroyed coral reef.

Anemone like little jewels opening and closing in front of your eyes
Huge flurry of small fish having a whale of a time (geddit?!)
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Top Tips for the protection of corals and sea-life in general: It’s time to be mindful as a tourist to do your bit and not damage the coral any further with your bit flappy feet and or fins, and certainly not to take any home. This is also ILLEGAL. You can also choose sustainable seafood whilst travelling www.fishwatch.gov. You may want to check your sunscreen, some are full of harmful chemicals, indeed when swimming with whale sharks we all had to shower before to remove any traces check out oceanservice.noaa.gov/sunsreen Don’t go with a local who anchors over coral and not on a sandy seabed for their passengers to get instant gratification. If you’re feeling you want to very proactive go pick up rubbish from the beach either that people have left behind in their horrible selfish ways or stuff which is washed up for the same reason. By the way, parrotfish seem to crunch their way through the reef but in fact are excellent for eating the dead coral and algae. They shit out sand as they munch munch munch but they are the good house keepers!

Live starfish at Nha Trang on a lovely healthy reef

The landscapes differ from place to place and that makes it all the more exciting. It can also be an environmental wake-up call when you’re dropped off in more barren areas where the coral has died leaving only the skeletal pieces of dead grey knuckles of it rattling around on the bottom of the seabed and the murky water it causes. So let me take you down to have a look.

Another brightly coloured star fish”blue star” sadly on a dying reef

The boat trip I found from an office nearby the hotel, and it was a good one, was well priced. Three dive sites and a full lunch on board with soft drinks. Of course they had beer to buy as it’s not the same not having one when you finish snorkelling, and also the mandatory post snorkel cigarette. Although you get a little bus to the port which makes you think it’s going to be, I don’t know, just a few people there, there are a plethora of other little buses also travelling to that particular boaty place. It’s a mad rush and rather pushy and shouty as they make sure each boat is full. Then a little shouting and screaming as the boots extricate themselves from the huge tangle of other boats moored alongside. I was in a state of shock. Surely we were not all going to the same place?

And then we were off, a mad chug chug, engine fumes and a sudden surge and it was life on the ocean wave. Frothy salty water blowing in our faces life jackets being chucked at us and the captain starting his speech. Jokey but stern as he went through his tired old routine. Faces upturned we tittered at his jokes then were serious about the perils of the sea and safety on board. Next was the usual scramble for the best masks and much shouting ‘mine doesn’t fit’ and doubtful looks at the snorkels mouthpieces that had seen so many foreign mouths before you but a quick swill in the sea seemed to satisfy all. Then we only had to gaze out at the scenery and the blue blue sea.

Now entering the sea is always pandemonium but I must say the Vietnamese boats took it to a new level. there was scrapping and bickering until you flung yourself off in desperation and then silence, you adjust your mask a bit and go exploring only hearing your heavy breathing and nothing more. This kind of silence and the new experience of visiting this other world is spooky and wonderful at the same time. when you start seeing larger fish then you start the fun. As I normally have my trusty underwater camera I get to keep those memories of exciting finds and amazing underwater landscapes. The sudden shelving off into the abyss can be initially alarming but you soon become accustomed to it then your daredevil takes over and you are a child again, fearless and full of awe. It’s always new and wonderful.After lunch whoosh! Off to another spot. It’s what I’d been waiting for so I squeezed out all that underwater yumminess. Now I have to say it wasn’t the best I’ve been on but remember I’d been in frigid temperatures since the beginning of my trip that had started in St. Petersburg. I wallowed in the feelings of hot, hot, hot to the cool mysterious salty water of the sea. By the third day I was suntanned and healthy and acclimatising to this totally new way of life. Glug, glug not choo, choo and brr, brr.

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Lion fish hiding

Then it’s time for lunch. What appears to be glorious fare is rather tawdry by the third day but we had spring rolls, rice, omelette, octopus, salad and some weird veg stuffed with meat. Each day there was rather a feeding frenzy and mostly by the Russians I’m afraid to say!

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Boat lunch.

After lunch whoosh! Off to another spot. It’s what I’d been waiting for so I squeezed out all that underwater yumminess. Now I have to say it wasn’t the best I’ve been on but remember I’d been in frigid temperatures since the beginning of my trip that had started in St. Petersburg. I wallowed in the feelings of hot, hot, hot to the cool mysterious salty water of the sea. By the third day I was suntanned and healthy and acclimatising to this totally new way of life. Glug, glug not choo, choo and brr, brr.

Into the abyss!Into the abyss!

Sandy, slightly burnt and super thirsty we arrive back at the crazy mayhem dock, get out bus and gratefully get back to our various hotels. Post snorkelling showers are a thing of great beauty as are the ice cold lagers in frosted glasses, then heading to the Yacht Club for dinner and gazing over the sea with a cocktail. Each day glowing skin becoming browner and hair blonder and my soul enriched by nature. Thinking back on the day, seeing a lion fish hiding in the coral and coral fans waving in the sea currents. Swimming through sudden icy areas of water and sunshine bringing out all the colours of flora and fauna. Life is peachy.

Other places for great snorkelling

I can’t leave you without some shots from other snorkelling adventures. When you dedicate yourself to finding the best snorkelling you have to be prepared to travel to more remote places these days.

Oslob Philippines for whale sharks. 2018
Cay Caulker,Belize 2019 Nurse sharks feeding frenzy
Pipe fish circling me.
Banuken, Indonesia 2018

OVER AND OUT FROM OLD BIRD FISH.

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