I wake at 4:00, and we are out of the driveway by 4:30. Joining my father and I is the third member of the expedition, Kathleen Maier, an herbalist.
On the approach to Nassau, I get my first glimpse of the turquoise blue waters of the Bahamas. Islands and cays ("keys") are scattered here and there, with white waves marking hidden reefs.
This is my first time out of the country. My passport has its first visa. I am in a new land with different politics and culture and tradition. Also, they drive on the left. (Then why does the taxi have a left-hand driver's side?)
Stepping out of the taxi, I feel as if I am in the tropical section of a botanic garden. It takes a while for the realization to sink in: This is (more or less) the native habitat for these plants. The lizards are not imported. This is the landscape and bioregion that these people call home.
There are of course palms and plantains and bromeliads, and (amusingly) familiar ornamentals from home. That doesn't help the feeling of being in an exhibit, even though the ocean is just across from the hotel. But when I see the plants I have never seen before, I finally accept the full novelty: Royal Poinciana, Cerasee, avocado trees...
Oh, and the lizards! I love catching lizards.
More firsts: I head down to the beach with my snorkeling mask (complete with prescription lenses) and see my first coral reef creatures: Little orange and blue jobbies (apparently damselfish), tubeworms with frond-like filters, and a large, completely unexpected, and somewhat boxy fish hiding under a shelf. I also learn (relatively gently) not to put my hand down on the rock: My palm is jabbed hard by something small, accompanied by a very audible click. Mantis shrimp? Anyway, I'll be more respectful of the crevices, surfaces, and creatures in the future.
In all I take approximately 200 photos and videos in my first day, and I haven't even gotten to San Salvador island!