We packed all of our stuff into our kayaks, which was difficult because it was my first time using dry bags. It took me a couple tries to get all of the air out of the bags and get things situated in my kayak. Once we were all situated (all 16 of us) we headed up island against the wind. I was frustrated during the first leg of the trip because the front of my boat kept getting pushed left, away from the shoreline and all I wanted to do was paddle straight. I’m the type of person that likes to be awesome at everything I try, not necessarily realistic, but the first day I had a lot to learn and lots of time to practice my technique. We paddled about 3.5 miles our first day and set up camp. I was tired and hangry (for those of you who don’t know what “hangry” means, it is a word that means anger induced by hunger).
Side note- We had four awesome people come with us on our trip. We had Jai and his wife Patty. Jai is like a nature God, he knows everything there is to know about the outdoors and a survival genius. A much more accurate description of him would be that he is the just like Bear Grylls. If you don’t know who that is then look him up. He also happens to be British and has a fantastic accent. He works as the medic at the Island School and his wife Patty is very smart and kind. She is sharp and very adventurous as well. She is a kayak champion and is a great teacher. She has lots of experience paddling and is also an expert dragon boat racer. I really enjoyed my time spent learning from both of them and hearing their stories.
We also had Tom on the trip with us. He is a new intern here at the Island School. He has only been here for five days and we were happy to have him with us on our camping trip. He has always loved the outdoors and has made this recent career change to start doing what he enjoys. He also is an experienced kayaker (if that’s a word) and contributed a lot to our success as a group.
Last, but not least, we had Kenzie who literally knows everything there is to know about marine wildlife and biology. She works for the Island School and is one of the bubbliest people I have ever met. She was a great addition to our trip because she taught us about several edible plants, how to identify different fish and was basically a walking textbook about anything to do with marine life. She came in handy and was able to point out which jellyfish would not sting and I learned so much from her. Because of Kenzie I was able to hold an actual jellyfish that came in with the tide. It was so cool!
Ok back on track! So when we arrived back on land, we set up camp and Jay taught us some tricks for anchoring our tents and making fires. Our first meal we made was quesadillas, stir fry veggies and brown rice. It was my favorite meal by far that we have had on the trip. We sat by the fire and visited for a while. I am a very curious person and love to know everything so I asked Jai to tell us a little bit about his life and how he got to where he is today. This led to everyone telling their stories, which I really enjoyed listening to. I also asked Jai how he and Patty met. This is one of my favorite questions to ask couples and is what I loved asking during my nursing home rotations. Then all of us under the age of 25 were lame and went to bed at 8 p.m. We were so tired from our first day and full of yummy food.
The second day we headed off to Green Castle, which is the third settlement from Cape Eleuthra. We set up camp here and then walked for about 30 minutes to a blue hole. A blue hole is a cave, or underwater sinkhole. They are also called vertical caves. Our plan was to snorkel at the blue hole. I was soooooo excited for this because sharks and rays tend hang around the blue hole. But before we got to the blue hole our group came across a huge termite hill (similar to the picture below).
Jai called us over, stuck a stick in it and then proceeded to eat some termites and told us our different options of how to cook them. He said they are very high in protein and will keep you alive if you need food to survive. I thought this was super gross at first because I imagined the bugs squirming around in his mouth. I would say that when I travel I tend to be a pretty adventurous person and try to do a lot of things outside my comfort zone. So of course I had to eat a termite just to say that I have eaten one. The termite honestly tasted like nothing, but some people said theirs tasted like pine. I was so proud of myself and excited I did something I thought was gross and off limits for me.
Once we reached the blue hole we were all anxious to get in the water. As soon as we swam to the blue hole we saw five Spotted Eagle Rays. One was about six feet long.
It was honestly one of the coolest things I have ever seen. Spotted Eagle Rays are so large and majestic in the water. I swam right above them and they were so close. It was something I was so excited to check off my bucket list. We also encountered a lot of jellyfish and then a large variety of other fish. The blue hole is a must see.
Dinner the second night was gluten-free pasta for me, wheat pasta for everyone else, and red sauce, mozzarella cheese and tuna. After dinner we warmed up by the fire and played a bunch of rounds of Mafia. Jai also used his laser pointer and showed us a lot of consolations and stars. He taught us how to calculate the longitude and latitude using a degree system that involves your knuckles and the horizon with the North Star. I can’t quite remember it though…. sorry! We went to bed a little later after a lot of laughs and fun.
This was our longest paddle day. Jai said it was about seven miles, but we had the wind at our back, which was a huge help! By the time we reached the Island School we were all exhausted and ready for food and our beds. It was rewarding to know that we could paddle that far in one day, which we had originally done in two days. I had so much fun on the kayak trip. The highlight for me on our last day was that I got to walk next to a baby shark. I freaking love seeing sharks here, they are so awesome and scary at the same time.