Maldives5: Manta as Metaphor

I’ve been dragging my feet with these last few entries. It’s been nearly a month since I was in the Maldives. I don’t want to lose my reasons for revisiting those warm blue memories.

The above pic was one of my favorite moments of the trip. It was our next-to-last day, and our swim guide said, “Before breakfast, we’re swimming with dolphins and mantas.”

Have you seen the Kristen Wiig character Super Excited Sue from SNL? That was me.

The next morning, we all showed up with snorkeling gear and piled in the dhoni in search of dolphin.

Our local guide on the bow would shout and point directions to the captain in the back, steering the boat toward whichever pod was closest. Then he would suddenly shout, “Dolphins! Get in now!” And we’d all throw ourselves off the boat and swim like mad toward the fins.

Not everyone would make it off the boat before our guide would then call out, “Wait! They’re too far away. We’ll go find another group.” And off the dhoni would go, leaving the group of swimmers that had just leapt out, bobbing around by themselves in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

I loved this so much! Not just the trust piece of both parties, but the sheer craziness of leaving those swimmers. That would never happen in America, land of the overly cautious and lawsuit-laden.

We were in and out of the boat multiple times in our quest, so I was part of the first group off and left behind, as well as the group that stayed on and got closer.

So close. The pods of bottle-nosed dolphin that swam under us were elegant, squeaky-chatty, and enviably free. They would roll their bodies slightly every once in awhile to check us out, with a look that said, “You call that swimming?” Then promptly leave us in their wake.

I also discovered that spiritually speaking, I’m more of a manta than a dolphin. Right when I thought I’d missed seeing a manta forever, one glided directly underneath me. I swam my ass off to keep up with it as it gently flew below me, barely moving its six-foot wing span.

The irony didn’t escape me. I was flailing on the surface trying to keep up, as the giant below me cruised effortlessly in deeper water, allowing me to follow. Manta as metaphor.

I have so much to learn.

–TJ Wiley Forsyth

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