We are really missing family and friends at home right now. It is pretty awesome to be spending the holidays in a surfing town though! We are volunteering at a small hotel in Santa Catalina, basically doing a lot of customer service stuff now, and also worked on some plumbing and water tank cleaning when we first got here. The hotel is located on the top of a very steep and long hill so we are getting in some amazing accidental exercise going up and down all day.
There is one other volunteer here with us, Karlien who has been in the area for several weeks before us. She is very helpful in showing us around, is fun to hang out and work with, and lets us use her surf board. The board is much smaller than we have been used to - it is called a "funboard" or a "mini-malibu", which is something like a step down from a long board but wider and a bit bigger than a classic board. We tried a classic board a few days ago and it was very difficult, though we did both manage to stand up briefly once or twice. Karlien's board is a bit easier, but still a challenge compared to the long board. For me, I think I would like to work on paddling harder to catch the waves. Andrew seems to be catching more than me (on account of his manly muscles) so I think I'll go out tomorrow all day and see what I can learn.
The chef that works here is also very nice. He has been here for almost two years and still loves it. The four of us have a great time hanging out. I am very happy to be spending the holidays with some cool people, even though I miss home, just a little tiny bit (but it is -38 in Whitehorse and icing over in Ontario so not THAT much, lol).
We also spent a day diving in the Coiba Islands, a Island national park off coast from here. Many people call them the Galapagos of Panama, and I can certainly see why! The first dive was pretty good, we saw a ton of fish, but we didn't see anything new. Diving in the Pacific is much different than the Caribean. There aren't as many corals, but the fish are really incredible! On the second dive we saw so much more! Right when we got down to the bottom we saw a few white tip reef sharks, and then a 4-foot turtle swim by, it actually swam within probably 4-5 feet of me as I just float there, breathing and taking in the spectacle! It felt very magical. Next we saw hundreds and hundreds of jackfish, some barracuda, a devil ray, I saw a dolphin in the distance (not clearly, and heard it singing), the frog fish was insane! You have to google this thing because it is just the weirdest looking fish! And so colourful. We also saw SEA HORSES!!! They were incredible - about 6-in long, hooked onto small fan corals coloured almost the same as them. That for me was so cool! And of course we saw a bazillion other fish and moray eels etc. Amazing.
Our last dive beat all our previous and probably many future dives for most memorable of all! We thought there MIGHT be a chance to see a whale shark before we arrived at our dive site, but were trying not to get our hopes up. I jumped in when the boat stopped, before I had put on my gear, and the guys on the boat threw me my BCD so I could put it on in the water. I had my goggles on and thought I would just peek into the water to see if there was a whale shark around - not actually expecting anything. And then BAM! Whale shark in the face! Literally feet away and it came right up to surface so one of its fins was out of the water! Everyone was in the water within seconds, I had my reg in my mouth but no gear on and I swam closer dragging my BCD. It was pure magic! The dive was unbelievable - we saw the whale shark (not sure if it was the same one or not) a few times deeper down where we actually watched right in front of us as it came upward with its mouth open, feeding on crill, and then turn over and wag its tail at us!!! We watched three times and used up all but the reserve oxygen in all of our tanks just trying to see it again and again. Incredible! However I was very nervous for a few of the other divers, one of whom was quite out of shape and nervous as he had already ran out of air on the first dive and had to be calmed down, and two of whom asked me if I could stick around them to share air if they ran out. I had the same amount as them, and we were 55ft deep! eeks!
I should also mention that the Coiba Islands that we stopped at (two of them) were absolutely beautiful!
Well we hope that the holidays are going well at home and everyone is keeping warm through all of these ice and freezing storms! Sending warmth!