We are fortunate to have a dive site that is just as wonderful snorkeling than it is diving. That dive site is Phil Foster park — the Blue Heron bridge. This dive site is shallow enough that even the novice snorkeler could enjoy an up-close encounter with even the smallest underwater inhabitants of Phil Foster park. In waste-deep water it is not uncommon to see a plethora of marine life.
I had seen a manatee in the shallows just a couple of days ago and I was motivated to return again in hopes of another encounter. I grabbed my underwater camera with a wide angle lens and headed to Phil Foster park with my wetsuit, fins, mask, snorkel, and dive flag. Because I was a lot more streamlined, I could enter the water long before high-slack tide.
I slowly zig-zagged across the shallows looking around for my manatee friend. All the while, I was getting a nice bird’s eye view of the many creatures I usually see while diving. Numerous pipefish, cousins of the seahorse, moved through the alga-covered floor. Sea robins were busy scuttling through the sand in search of any tasty morsels.
As I was swimming around, a tiny orange object about a 1/4 inch in size drifted past my mask. I disregarded it at first, thinking it might be a radiolarian, but my instinct got the better of me, and I turned around to get a second look. A loud “wow” expelled out of my snorkel as my mind made sense of this tiny object. It was a tiny squid! I put out my hand beside it and it swam towards the palm of my hand and attached its tiny suckers to it as its body illuminated in vibrant colors. What a special treat! Had I been diving, I would have likely missed this tiny marvel.
I stopped to take some photographs of the beautiful cushion sea stars with Phil Foster park in the background. If it wasn’t for the iconic Blue Heron bridge in the background, anyone would be fooled to believe I was in the Bahamas. My friendly manatee was no where in sight so I slowing meandered toward the east side of the park. I came across one of our Pura Vida guest investigating the small sunken boat in the area.
With the freedom to move quickly in the water column, it wasn’t very long before I found another creature I was hopeful to see. Four classy-looking eagle rays swam in formation towards me. Swimming above them for a while, I was hopeful they would get used to my presence. My bird’s-eye view of these wonderful creatures was quite enjoyable. I could see how they would break formation into two pairs, but slowly they would turn and all join together again. Watching them glide through the water so effortlessly was humbling to see.
Hours had passed and I was still very much enjoying myself. Observing all the wonderful creatures at Phil Foster park reminded me of days passed. It was over 25 years ago that I found my first seahorse while snorkeling on Singer Island. Who would have thought that many moons later I would still be as enchanted by this place as I was when I was just a child.
Snorkeling at Phil Foster park is something everyone should experience — even those of us who are always here with a tank on our back. The freedom and peacefulness of snorkeling and freediving is a completely different world from that of scuba diving.
Best of all, you can share your experience with those who are not fortunate enough to be scuba certified (yet). Showing others the wonders of the ocean world at Phil Foster park is likely to turn them into ambassadors for our oceans. Teach them to be the quiet observer and respect the animals and their environment. Teach them the importance of preserving our natural area and leaving only bubbles. Passing along your passion and knowledge for this watery world is certain to keep this wonderful place around for many future kids… and kids at heart!