Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Atlantis Submarine Adventure (part 3)

A day in DePalm-adise on the Atlantis Submarine Adventure (pt. 3)
Down the hatch
Elton and the light at the end of the tunnel
Stepping out of the life-size aquarium and onto the upper deck of the submarine, the wind hits my face like a train. My hair tangles every which way, and the smell of the seawater meets my nostrils as the salt sticks to my face like icing on a cake. I step towards the hatch and head down the hole backwards. 

Inside the sub
There are 26 small viewing ports along the side of the sub and a larger one in the front that is as big as an over-sized beach ball. The blue light at the end of the tunnel from the large viewing port glows as the Sun’s rays hit the water, and Elton the Captain motions me his way. Once everyone has taken their seat, the sound of radio signals and beeps blend in with the humming noise of the submarine beginning to submerge. The only things visible from our individual view ports are bubbles and white water from the churning of the engines. “Momma, it looks like we’re on an airplane in the sky,” says the youngin’ next to me. Eager beaver to see the fish, he holds in his hand a set of binoculars, how cute. 

The bubbles begin to churn as we head down
The only kind of snow you'll see in Aruba
Elbert the co-captain chimes in over the p.a. system – “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard. Is this everyone’s first time on a submarine? [People nod] Mine too!” There was a second of silence before the crowd began to giggle. As we start to plunge towards the depths of the Bacadera Reef, I notice the white sand that powders over pieces of broken coral reminding me of a winter’s first snow back in the forests of Greensboro, North Carolina. Taking a slight slant downwards, the “snow on the ground” soon disappears and is replaced with villages of coral, sponge, and other marine life. “Open your eyes,” Elbert says, “This isn’t an aquarium; it’s the real Caribbean.” Not sooner than “…bean” left his tongue were my eyes graced with the presence of a school of Bermuda Chubs. “HOLY MACAROL” says the little one next to me. I can’t help but get as excited as he is.

The Bermuda Chubs
Soft and hard coral
The Bacadera Reef isn’t flat, but more like the side of a mountain. My sight is blown away as soon as we are out on the channel and onto the reef. Soft and plant corals sway with the current and look like soggy tree branches, while rock coral resembling brains, potatoes, and mushrooms rest along the hard surfaces that stand as a perfect playground for fish. The natural light of the sun hitting the water gives off a glowing aqua blue shade that is complimented by the purples, oranges, and yellows of the sponges as they sit nestled in between the soft and hard corals. “Kids,” Elbert chimes in, “Open your eyes and take a look at the sponges. If you stare hard enough, you might be able to find Sponge Bob!” My little friend in his skipper hat next to me gasps, “DO YOU THINK WE WILL SEE DORY AND NEMO TOO????!??!!?” Everyone in the submarine laughs. He turns to his mom with a pout look on his face because he was as serious as a heart attack and didn’t understand what was so funny.    

A school of Yellowtail Tuna
As we head deeper, we pass by a sunken ship called the Morning Star. Sunken on purpose to create an artificial reef, we’re graced with dozens of Yellowtail Tuna that zipped here and zigzagged there as if they were playing tag with one another. The deeper we go the less coral we spot because, as Elbert informs us, all that we see is alive. Coral need sunlight and warm temperatures in order to survive. So after 60 feet or so, it’s pretty much only fish that we see. And tires, as the little boy next to me points out, “Mom! LOOK!!! It’s a tire!” “That’s great hunny. Wow. But, I am on a mission to find fishes.” Elton gives me a headset so I can communicate with Elbert and ask questions for the blog. “Hey you ever seen a shark?” I eagerly ask. “Well,” he radios back, “in Aruba you can find sharks in two places: the casino and the timeshare office. HA! 
At the bottom!
135 feet, baby!
Wait. Is that the Star Wars theme song by John Williams I hear? I look to the right of me and see the depth gauge reaching 130 ft…….. 131 ft…….. 132 ft…... 133 ft…..134 ft… I’ve made it 135 feet below the sea! Looking out my little view port I see nothing but white sand and rocks before we begin to ascend up to reality. Like a plane taking off, I slide to the side of my seat.

Nerd alert!
 Lucky me, I get to take one last gawk at the colorful marine life; well, the last time for now at least. I'll be posting about my SNUBA adventure on De Palm Island next week, so be sure to tune in for some more underwater action! 

Doin' the SNUBA!

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