Doing nothing much on a sandy beach with the odd dip in the warm sea reinvigorates me and gives me a healthy glow, a genuine suntan to arouse the envy of my pale-faced friends at home. This is the only place where you’ll see me do thirty lengths of the pool before breakfast – because only here is the water warm enough!
On my way to the beach this morning, I disturbed a long thin black snake that slithered rapidly away into the undergrowth. I was glad he heard me first, before I stepped on him (or her) though he probably wasn’t venomous. I apologised for my intrusion on his peace and quiet. Snakes were here long before people, as were the alligators and the turtles that come in the night to lay their eggs on the same beach I enjoy lying on in the daytime.
Not that I have seen any of them, only the warning signs. It really is very dark here once the sun has gone down, setting me to wondering if turtles can see in the dark like cats or are guided by smell or some other sense. Or do they wait for full moon?
Dolphins are also frequent visitors, cruising up and down, rollicking in the shallows and making a big show of catching fish with plenty of splashing and leaping about. Too fast for my camera, though. The indisputable charm and attraction of dolphins is hard to define. Is it their friendly appearance, their smile?
There’s no doubt that a visit from a dolphin leaves everyone on the beach looking delighted and thrilled, and as long as the visit lasts all eyes are fixed on its antics. We feel richer for having witnessed the dolphin’s display, which looks like fun. So does the dive of the pelican, another denizen of these shores that makes me smile: so ungainly when it waddles around the fishermen, its huge bill tucked down against its chest and its watchful eyes following every move, yet graceful as a swan when floating on the waves or soaring and gliding in flight.
Tourists buy kitschy paintings of a dozen or so pelicans flying in V-formation across a gold and pink evening sky, because the reality is such a moving sight. I have yet to see a painting that captures that reality. There is something prehistoric about the pelican, suggesting the missing link between pterodactyl and goose. Where the fishermen gut their catch there is a sign saying: “Don’t feed the pelicans” but the pelicans can’t read and the fishermen are focussed on their task. If a pelican were to decide it really wants a piece of fish, I don’t think there would be much argument. Luckily, they are so well fed that they remain well-mannered. But they are big strong birds. I saw one carrying a long thick branch, like a perch in its feet, presumably to its nest. It looked strange and out of place, as if a trapeze artist had suddenly taken off with the trapeze.
The prehistoric feel is everywhere, not only on the beach and among the jungly mangroves.
Not just pelicans and alligators, but horseshoe crabs, tortoises and lizards have barely changed in design for millions of years. Lots of little lizards live here, darting in and out of crevices and shinning up walls. One of them was sitting on the wall next to the lanai as I was having lunch, inflating and deflating a bright orange sac under its chin. Trying to impress? It would have been very scary had the creature been my size.
I am also very impressed by the sandpipers – they come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but all share one endearing feature: legs with an almost supersonic scissor-motion that propel them backwards and forwards along the shoreline like wound-up clockwork toys, coming to a sudden stop every now and then in their scuttling and scampering.
Sometimes they search alone or in a small group, sometimes there is a whole bevy. Despite the speed of their scamper and the abruptness of their stops, they never collide. If they did, they’d go down like dominoes. They can hop on one leg pretty fast, too: another comical sight. They don’t bother about humans, though obviously keeping a wary eye out and never allowing anyone to get too close. If pushed, they’ll fly, but it looks reluctant.
The sun rises and sets very quickly here, a visible reminder of how fast the world is turning and time is passing. There is only about half an hour of dusk, no more, separating velvety darkness from bright daylight. I have occasionally forced myself to get up before 7 am and walk down onto the beach to watch the sun come up, and it is indeed an intense moment;
yellowish sky, silvery sea, busy birds, a few people strolling silently by the shore, picking up shells, a palpable serenity. A red spark on the edge of the world that grows second by second into a blazing ball of fire; and the day has begun. Sunsets I love. Here, with the sea stretching to the horizon and no islands between to break the monotony with rings of fire around their black silhouettes, the sunset is beautiful but not as spectacular as some I have witnessed.
Bottles and glasses are forbidden on the beach, understandably, as glass shards would be very dangerous. However, extremely careful to avoid any breakages, we took a bottle of prosecco and some glasses for a sundowner at the water’s edge to toast our friendship and the sunset. It has been a great holiday.