One morning, after Hurricane Eta shifted direction, and the waves settled to their regular ocean wavey-ness, the stingray ray arrived. They’re as plentiful as midwestern squirrels and just as friendly. Stingrays are mostly solitary creatures, but this variety is like toddlers on a soccer field or middle schoolers at lunch. They bunch up and flap their…flaps? fins? bodies? around the sandbar – up and over they go, riding waves like underwater surfers.
The water is clear and when it piles up, before it breaks, it’s mostly transparent, like a thick pane of glass. Clear enough to see two great big stingrays shooting right at us. Being the shortest, Lucy was at eye-level with their unexpected smiling faces. Her eyes widened, her little body turned, and her tiny legs ran. The friendly rays changed direction.
Stingrays jump. A whole lot. They fling themselves out of the water like flipping pancakes. They do this to either A) avoid being eaten by predators, B) Find a mate or C) to have loads of fun. We like to think it’s C and are waiting for two rays to hit flaps in mid-air, a most epic high-five. But, it’s probably A. Not being lunch or dinner is an integral part in a stingray’s life.
We saw a shark at the edge of the sandbar on the same day the stingrays came hurtling at us. The shark was as long as Lucy is tall, and once again, Lucy’s eyes widened, her body turned, and her little legs started pumping towards the beach. Except running in water is hard, and she fell – half running, half swimming until I picked her up. Since this was the first time any of us had ever seen saw a shark outside of an aquarium, it took a decent amount of cajoling and a good amount of Googling before the girls ventured back into the Gulf, boogie boards in tow.
Another day, Eleanor was wearing goggles and swimming underwater when a jellyfish floated by, inches from her face. Calmly (although, this freaked me out way more than the shark), she pointed it out, and we watched it drift, aimlessly it seemed. It was sturdier than I expected but still challenging to see. This time we stayed out of the water for a bit. A jellyfish to the face would be no way to spend a day at the beach.
Crabs scuttle. Pelicans dive, beak first, gaining speed from twenty-feet high. They fly in groups, gliding between the swells, wings brushing the surface like a water skier taking a turn. Dolphins arc their backs in and out of the water. Yesterday they were jumping as high as a Brookfield Zoo dolphin show.
I’m still waiting to see an alligator, but it’s probably best we don’t stumble upon one.