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Friday, August 31, 2007

NO PEANUTS ON PEANUT ISLAND

If you travel to Florida, they say that Peanut Island is one of the best snorkeling sites. How's that for hype! But I debated chickening out when they warned that sharks and barracuda also think Peanut Island is a great place to hang out.

Easy to get to, we hop the free trolley from our hotel to the Sailfish Marina.

Peanut Island is a man-made Island which served as a Coast Guard station until the mid 1990s. It was supposed to be JFK's command post during the Cuban Missile Crisis because it is located just across from his home on Palm Beach. In fact, I sat on the Peanut Island Beach looking at some of the beautiful homes on Palm Beach, barely a stone's throw away. Originally a peanut plant was supposed to be built on the island. That never happened, but the name remained.

Today one can make reservations to camp here. You can walk around the island on a brick paved road, snorkel in the lagoon, or just lie on the beach enjoying the views of Singer and Palm Beach Islands and watch the boats--sailboats, power boats--all kinds and all sizes--in the inlet and heading down the waterways to West Palm Beach or out to the ocean. Future plans for Peanut Island involve developing the artificial reefs and enlarging the snorkeling facilities. Sweet.

Rob and I come to snorkel. It's an activity we try never to miss. We walk toward the southern part of the island. We've left our rings and jewelry in the safe in our room. Our friend, Michael, warned us about sharks and barracudas. Barracudas have weak eyesight but love to attack anything that shines--no rings, no watches, NO jewelry! The woman at the water taxi stand confirmed Michael's warning but said she had never heard of anyone being hurt. She, herself, has snorkeled there and would do so again. Hmmmm

What we did bring was our beach chairs, water, a picnic lunch, and our snorkeling gear--the ingredients for a perfect day. Snorkeling is best two hours before high tide and an hour after, and we try to time ourselves.

How can I describe the incredible experience in the crystal clear, warm, calm waters of the lagoon among the rocks and artificial reefs? We swim amidst thousands of fish. No kidding. They don’t swim away from us; instead they ease close, almost as curious about us as we are about them. Fish appear in deep purples and neon yellows. They are striped, dotted, silver, black, and every shade in between. There are such tiny fish that we have to look closely, and there are fish almost as long as my arm. It is like swimming in an aquarium. It is like swimming in Finding Nemo.

We stay in the water about 45 minutes, and then enjoy the beach and the sun. Beautiful boats come and go through the inlet. At one point a double hull catamaran, Mariah, anchors with a boat full of girls who snorkel for a while, and then Mariah motors back out the inlet. We go back for another 45 minutes or so, and then enjoy the beach again. A ship, the Palm Beach Princess, comes back from an afternoon Casino Cruise. We snorkel a third time for another 45 minutes or so. We go to the far side of the rocks, and the fish are bigger and more colorful. We know we have to come back.

Oh yes, we did see barracuda, and that is the first thing the Trolley driver asks us when we board to return to the hotel. We saw at least two, but they were young and really not very scary. When we saw them, we just backed up and went somewhere else. No big deal. I felt kinda brave!

Remember Peanut Island. If you're a snorkeler, you'll love it. If not, go to picnic, soak in the rays and watch the boats and people passing through the inlet. If you check the Third Age Traveler archives for March, 2007; you'll see what happened when we got back to Bayside Marina. It just gets better!




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