I have so many favorite moments in the water. It is difficult to find my most memorable one. However, one particular story that I have shared many times, is a story where I felt like I was one with nature. It was perfect, it was beautiful. Until that is… I realized the fish I shared my moment with, were actually assholes.
It was a perfect day in the Bahamas; beautiful, deep blue water, hot, sunny, with flat calm conditions. We were looking for oceanic whitetips off Cat Island. We had been chumming for a while, but no whitetips. I decided to go on a scouting snorkel to see if I could find any sharks skulking around. This was pre gopro era, and the only camera I had was my big bulky Equinox camera. So I decided to go without it. My captain suggested that I swim in the direction of some sea birds that were out in the distance. The birds were pretty worked up, so I started my swim towards that activity.
There was not much shade on our little boat, so the water felt amazing. I snorkeled out around 100 yards from our vessel and I could see the birds getting closer. I was hoping they were following a shark, but marlin or schooling tuna would be amazing as well. The birds were flying in my direction, so I started scanning the area. I would pop my head up, look at the birds, see where they were, then look down to see what they were following. They got closer and still nothing.
I just kept looking, scanning and finally I could see a few fish hauling ass towards me. The group got bigger and bigger. Finally a school of about 20, 3 foot rainbow runners approached me and started circling me. Underneath them was a group of about 10 tunas (about the same size). On the outside of them were three dorados that also joined in the spin. They all circled me, over and over. I was totally blown away. They were within touching distance, but I didn't try to touch them. I crossed my arms and stopped swimming to enjoy this perfect amazing moment. I was glad I didn't, but at the same time, I was wishing I had a camera. It was so magical.
Moments later, a huge oceanic whitetip approached me. The swirling fish parted and the shark swam up to bump me. I put my hand on her head and gently guided her away. She swam around me and tried to bump me again. I put my hand out and guided her away again. She approached me for a third time. As I picked my hand up to put on her head, she winced and swam away from my touch. This time, she swam around me and dropped down into the blue abyss. The entire entourage of fish that was with me followed her and disappeared.
I was left alone in a daze of what I had just experienced. It was easily one of the most amazing moments I have ever had in the water. I have shared this moment with people countless times. It was perfect and beautiful, just everything we all dream of when we think about the ocean and the animals that live there. I was thankful for this gift…that is until, I really understood animal behavior. Then it hit me like lightning. Those dirty buggers were all there because they wanted to eat me!
Now, I see clearly what happened that day. Those game fish were out hunting for food. They probably were rounding up baitballs, which is why they had the birds excited. The oceanic was tailing them to join in on their action. And maybe to eat one of the distracted tunas or rainbow runners, while they were feeding on the baitball. I showed up, all by myself and the game fish found me. They started circling me to attract the oceanic in. Their plan was for the oceanic to kill me and they would grab a free meal, courtesy of the oceanic whitetip.
They left when they realized I was formidable prey and it was not worth the risk of injury. It is fight or flight in their world. Well, I ain’t gonna lie, I was a bit heart broken when I realized it was not this perfect zen moment with all these fish. Instead it was a tribal dance of death. Whatever it was, I still dream of something like that happening to me again, because even though those fish wanted to eat me…it was still was so great, almost getting eaten by those awesomely beautiful assholes.