It was midnight, but it was far from dark. I rested my head against the glass and tried to sleep. No. I was too excited. I stared out of the tiny window and the quiet wonder of city lights took hold of me. I was in awe of the sparkling skyline, as it got smaller and smaller and eventually disappeared. I was flying; flying to an island paradise that was as far away from home as I could get.
The next thing I remember is a glowing, red sunrise at 30,000 feet, and then winding waters cut into coastal plains. I remember airports, two more flights. Then I remember driving through a thick, twisted jungle and running through coarse, white sand into the crystalline waters of the Caribbean.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
People say the Caribbean is blue, but it’s impossible to explain how blue it really is. It’s more like a vibrant turquoise; a pool of tinted glass that you can see all the way through; a soft, warm glass that wraps around you, and stings if it gets in your eyes. It smells blue too, calm and salty, and it tastes like coral reefs and tropical fish.
When you get to St. Croix, the last thing you want to do is sail away, but soon enough, that’s what we did. My family and I surrendered our shoes and jumped aboard a tiny, pirate-themed sailboat called the Renegade. We were seated on the bow. It was hot, sticky and smelled like sunscreen, but the shade of the sail made it bearable, and the ocean breeze and random splashes of sea water made it perfect. When Buck Island came into view, the Caribbean captivated me again. It was even bluer than St. Croix, the sand was even whiter, and all I could see, around the entire island, was coral reefs. I practically jumped off the boat.
When we were finally set free to snorkel, I swam as fast as I could away from everyone else. I wanted to be alone with the reef and the brightly colored fish. I floated through schools of blue tang and comb jellies, followed needlefish through coral obstacle courses, and dove down to watch parrot fish nibble at brain coral. The pressure in my ears and salt in my eyes, nose, and mouth was nothing compared to the life and magic at the bottom of the reef, a place where only the need for air could convince me that I didn’t belong. I swam through forests of sharp coral that grew increasingly difficult to navigate through, until I found a small cove teeming with every fish imaginable. Soon, I was floating directly above a five foot long Reef Shark. I gasped abruptly, forgetting that my face was submerged in the ocean. After coughing up floods of salty water and clearing my snorkel, I trailed the majestic creature until the seas of jellyfish became so thick that I couldn’t see. I backtracked, swimming through the jellies and laughing, as they bounced off my body and got stuck on my face. By the time I could see again, I was face to face with the 140 terrible teeth of a formidable barracuda. I paddled slowly backwards, filled with fear and fascination.
Eventually, I found my cousin, Suzy, our captain blew the conch shell that meant it was time to go, and we swam back to the boat in a flurry of flippers.
I climbed the ladder to board the boat, and before I knew it, I was hugging my family goodbye, and boarding the plane that would take me back home.