Thursday night, five of the girls in the program and I boarded an overnight bus heading to Holbox for the weekend. Holbox is a tiny little island located off the state of Quintana Roo, home to flamingos, pelicans, el tiburón ballena, and about twenty trillion mosquitos, most of which are now filled with some portion of my blood.
Friday morning we transferred from bus to boat to watch the sunrise over the water and the thin strip of island approach. We walked the five blocks across the island to our hostel, where we slept outside in hammocks until the office opened and we were able to check our things into our room, throw on bathing suits, grab a delicious mess of tortilla-egg-and-cheese goodness, and walk across the street to the beach. Where we swam, tanned, read, and slept all day.
It’s hard not to feel like the luckiest person alive when you’re lying in a hammock, watching the shadows from the leaves above you dance across your leg and the clear turquoise water glimmer beyond the pages of your book, listening to the waves crash and the breeze through your hair, swaying gently with your toes trailing through the sand…
By evening, all of us were ready to explore the island and half of us were horribly sunburned (relatives will be pleased to learn I was among the unburnt, though somewhat pink and embarrassingly freckly, half of the group) so we headed back to the hostel to change and walk around the island. Our wandering took us to dinner, where most people shared Holbox’s famous fresh lobster pizza and I had my usual (delicious) quesadilla dinner. After dinner was helado de arroz and after helado de arroz we went back to the hostel where we watched the sunset from the roof. Thus marking the first day I ever watched the sun both rise and set.
Instead of going out we went to the hostel’s mosquito-y movie den and watched Harry Potter 5.
Saturday morning we woke up early to get to our tiberón bellena tour by 7:00. I managed to sleep the entire two hour boat ride, ingeniously creating a pillow by sticking part of my towel into the side of my life jacket and letting my head bob against it. Somewhere along the line between the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, we found the sharks. From the boat, we could see their sharp fins above the water and the huge mass of their 40-foot bodies fuzzily outlined beneath. From the water, they were breathtaking. White spots lining an immense, navy blue back, huge flat mouth, gils lifting and closing, small fish hiding in the crevice of fins. It was the first time I’d ever gotten an adrenaline rush from just the image of something. Following its path mindlessly, feeling the pressure of the water from its beating tail, hearing only the sound of my breathing through the snorkel.
We each got to jump in twice. I was lucky (or very determined) and was one of the few to swim alone with a shark for a while both times. My second time in, I followed a manta ray too, wondering if it was safe to be swimming with.
Back in the boat we sailed around and saw dolphins, flamingos, and pelicans. We stopped along a marshy coast for lunch and more snorkeling through the shallow water with schools of catfish. A pelican flew super close to me which was exciting until it pooped about five inches away from me in the water, at which point it became both exciting and gross.
At Holbox, we beached and ate and at night decided we were too tired to go out to the raucous island parties so we grabbed our pillows and more bug spray and watched Harry Potter 6.