I thought it might try to kill me but it was only an eel and then I thought about how the only-an-eel definitely seemed to be swimming away from me as fast as its wiggly body could. As if I was the terrifying creature going to eat it. If only he’d known I was a vegetarian, I might’ve gotten a better picture.
So far, I’d lived in a seaside town for three weeks but I still hadn’t touched the water. Now, here’s the thing, I like the idea of the sea a whole lot more than the reality. I’m a bad swimmer who grew up in Scotland. Our seaside trips ended in the classic British beach game of walking along the water’s edge and playing chicken with the tide. Loser gets wet feet and a head cold.
It’s just so terrifyingly huge and unknown and deep and filled with things that look like they want to kill me. I mean, I don’t want to further the victimisation of sharks but I also don’t like knowing they can just silently float into my personal space. And I mean, yes it’s their home so technically I suppose I’m floating into their personal space but also giant squid have beaks. B E A K S.
Because my fear of missing out is greater than my fear of death (only marginally) I said yes when Mo invited me to go snorkelling with him that afternoon, but on the short drive over to a beach called Lagoona, Mo seemed to sense my anxiety. Possibly because I was giving the eye masks and flippers on the back seat the evil eye. He laughed and asked me if I was afraid.
“No. Except...maybe. I mean, sharks though” I mumbled. There had indeed been a spate of deaths and attacks off the Red Sea coast over a period of several weeks some years ago and those articles had become stuck in my head ever since.
He sighed. I wondered if he might now be regretting his decision to bring the new girl along. But then he told me a story. The month those attacks had happened, a ship carrying livestock had travelled through the Gulf of Aqaba (the thin slice of sea that sits in between South Sinai and Saudi Arabia, eventually coming to a point at Aqaba in Jordan).
During the journey some of the sheep died, and so for the sake of simplicity, and to reduce mess and disease amongst the animals, the crew decided to throw the carcasses overboard. Dead sheep = blood in the water = shark.
The Gulf of Aqaba is a very narrow stretch of water, so narrow in fact that Saudi Arabia can easily be seen from Dahab and windsurfers have even been arrested by Saudi police for accidentally crossing into their territory. Basically, the water to shark ratio was way off and people were attacked because of it. Of course none of that made me feel any better but I did manage to waddle in, knee-deep a couple of times before running for the shore. Some children doing water acrobatics nearby found it hilarious.
To Be Continued...