Bona Fide Beauty - My Family Travels

In the fall of last year instead of bundling up with sweaters and sheepskin boots I was stuffing my suitcases with swimsuits, sandals, and a myriad of sunscreen. Instead of worrying about exams or essays like my peers; I was packing for a school sponsored Bahamas escape. At the time I figured it would be like any other archetypical trip, but looking back on it now I realize it was a truly unique and life changing experience.

San Salvador itself was a tiny island, measuring around only 7 miles in length with only native residents. The airport, if you could call it that, was a two room shack with a handful of benches, although I doubt they ever had a problem with housing too many passengers. The island attracted mainly research students, like us, that stayed at the research campus. This disappointed me at first; I had been daydreaming about a luxury resort, but luckily I learned to love it for what it was. We arrived, and were surrounded by tropical flora, crystal clear oceans, and pristine beaches untouched by developers. This is when I first started to appreciate the purity of the unspoiled island. We arrived at the dorms we would be staying at; a frisky lizard was waiting to greet me, and he was kind enough to have brought friends. Luckily this was the low point in the trip.

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The area around the dorms was gorgeous: picture perfect palm trees housing ripe coconuts, a secluded beach within arm’s reach, and the base of reggae beats from a native celebration playing in the background. I was in awe, but the true beauty of the island awaited me at the dive sites. We loaded into our trucks, packed like sardines, and drove to a sheltered beach to snorkel. I awkwardly put on my flippers and waddled backwards into the water. The first thing I noticed was the warm water that blanketed me; a huge adjustment from the frigid Atlantic I was used too. In the water, huge coral reefs housed the most beautiful animals I had ever seen. Vast schools of tiny neon colored fish swam intricately through the reefs, reminding me of excited children on a roller coaster. I dove down expecting to see more fish, but this time I was met with dozens of purple sea urchins with pointed tips; they were beautifully terrifying. I was about to turn back to shore from exhaustion, but something caught my eye. I saw a flash of silver moving at lightning speed, maneuvering the twists and turns of the reef like a pro. I hopelessly tried to follow the creature until finally it slowed down. I had been chasing a shark. Luckily, it did not seem half as interested in me as I in it, and I made a disaster free swim back to shore in what I am sure was an Olympic qualifying time.

Each day was a new glimpse into the underwater world I had never experienced and every time I caught a glimpse I was spellbound. I truly started appreciating the opportunity I had been given, taking full advantage of the wildlife and the ambience. I drank in as much as I could for the short time I was there, and when it was finally time to go I felt like my heart was breaking. I still feel a little sad when I go to the overcrowded, frigid beaches of the East coast, but I can still close my eyes and pretend that I am back in paradise reliving a trip that truly taught me to appreciate beauty.

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