The main tootsie-related problem on our beach was one which I dare say affects a lot of beaches on the island, namely, coral. Fortunately it was not the type of coral we experienced in Mexico, which is sharp as razors and, if a tiny scrap breaks off under your skin, will grow inside you until it strangles your heart and you die (I exaggerate but only slightly). This coral was altogether more amenable, but it did start pretty much as soon as the sea did, and it was lumpy and pointy which is never great to walk on.
Fortunately the hotel owners had built a sort of artificial reef of rocks just off the beach which prevented the sand being washed off and created a swimming area within the sea where guests could bathe safely. It was shallow but large and we spent a happy twenty minutes on the first morning sculling around looking at all the tropical fish living on the tiny reef and in pots and globes half buried in the sand. The latter were clearly designed as fish hide-outs and had been placed within the swimming area to attract fish and to give snorkelling guests something to see.
After this, though, we got restless and wanted a proper swim. The only way to get one was to leave the sandy area and strike out across the coral, where the water was about two feet deep for quite a distance. This isn’t enough to swim, but it is sufficient to scull along, propelling oneself by fluid kicking. Good practice for the freestyle kick, since if you were bicycling or kicking from the knee rather than the hip, the lack of depth pretty soon found you out. Ruth and Kathrine showed how to do it, diving through incoming billows and surfing forwards on the backwash.
This turned out to be huge fun, and once one was out in deeper water it was wonderfully relaxing to bob around in the warm waves, being gently lifted and dropped by the incoming rollers, and idly chatting in between popping one’s head below the water to see what interesting fish might be swimming below. And when we got restless we had the joy of striking out to swim a little way up the coast and back, watching the beach gradually creep by and coral passing underneath, riding the waves.
It was the first time I’d really swum in such large waves and I genuinely enjoyed it, especially as it was warm, shallow and safe enough not to feel threatened at all. The only downside was that bane of swimmers’ lives, jetskis. Enterprising young men would race up to the beach on them and hire them out for fifteen minutes to tourists. This meant that there was a danger not just from the owners, whizzing into view and swooping showily around just off the beach to attract the attention of potential customers, but also from inexperienced drivers who had them on hire. This made swimming during the day less inviting; fortunately they didn’t appear until later, so we could enjoy our early-morning swims in peace.