A few hours later, at around 10 am, the rain ceased and the sun began to rise. We checked the Weather Channel and it forecast a very sunny day. It was my first time spending the summer far away from my country and my parents. I was in Sydney, Australia with my aunt, visiting her two daughters, who now lived there. We had planned to go snorkeling to Bawley Point that day and we were glad it was going to be warm. I had never done snorkeling, but it was something I had always wanted to do.

We packed our things in the car and headed to Bawley Point at noon. It wasn’t that far away from the house so we arrived in about twenty minutes. Once we got there, I was in total awe of how beautiful that place was. The coral reef we were going to do snorkeling in was amazingly colorful and you could see everything through the clear water. I couldn’t have been more excited at that moment.

As we unpacked our things and started to get all the equipment ready, my cousins, Ximena and Chachi, began to tell me basic things I should keep in mind and precautions I should take while snorkeling. My aunt was nervous, I could see it on her face. Even though she wasn’t going to do it, she was worried that something might happen to me—the typical fear when a child that’s not yours is under your responsibility. I tried to calm her and told her, ” Tranquila, todo está bien,  no va a pasar nada.” She would smile at me but kept feeling worried anyway.

When we were ready, we headed towards a big black rock next to the coral reef. We placed all our stuff in a spot we found kind of comfortable for my aunt and slowly got into the water. Despite the sunny day, the water was still very cold, but our swimming suits helped us regulate our body temperatures.

Before being consumed by the water, we heard someone say out loud, ” Hey, Ximena!” It was one of her co-workers, who was also spending the afternoon in Bawley Point with his friends. The guy and his friends approached us and came by where my aunt was sitting. Ximena, who was still on the edge of the rock and hadn’t yet gotten into the water, introduced them to us and said she was going to stay out accompanying my aunt and talking with her friends.

As we immersed ourselves in the water, I felt I was entering a whole new world. The variety of colors induced a magical feeling that was hard to describe—it was as if I was floating in paradise. Fish of all kinds, forms, sizes, and colors passed us by. They didn’t seem to be bothered about us invading their space; I think they were already used to seeing people every now and then.

We swam as deep as we could and finally reached the bottom. I would have never thought the coral reef was that deep; it didn’t seem so from the outside at all. There were millions of shells and rocks hidden in the sand. I was impressed at how clean everything was. I barely saw any plastic or container floating around—so different from my country. I saw little crabs crawling around with their small shining red helmets. There were also starfish and sea urchins of many different colors. A quick bright reflection caught my attention as we were swimming close to the sand. It looked like a pearl from where I was, but then I saw it had a small chain attached to it. I swam towards it and realized it was actually a necklace. I grabbed it and looked at it closely, it had the word “Kahio” written on top of a shiny silver plate. I didn’t know what it meant, but I put it inside my swimming suit pocket.

Suddenly, I felt a tap on my left shoulder and turned around right away. It was Chachi, pointing at something in front of us that I couldn’t really see, but after a few seconds, I saw it. In the distance, there was something big that seemed to be approaching us. When it got closer, we couldn’t believe our eyes. It was a dolphin! In my entire life, I had never been so close to a dolphin like that. We remained still, perplexed at the coming creature that kept getting close to us. I could see its grayish tones and the bubbling through his nostril up on his back. At some point, it got so close to us that I couldn’t resist extending my arm to try to touch it. Surprisingly, the dolphin let me pet him for an instant, but then quickly swam away.

We looked at each other in amazement and then looked around. We were the only ones snorkeling at that moment, the only ones trapped in a world where we didn’t belong, the only ones to whom the ocean chose to show one of its most majestic and unique creatures.

We swam up right away to tell everyone what had just happened. When we got to the surface and reached the rock where my aunt was sitting, Ximena’s friends were still there. They were all talking and laughing, they seemed to be having fun.

They called us over as soon as they saw us coming out. We were so excited;we immediately ran over to where they were sitting without even taking off our equipment. As soon as we got there, we told them the story. My aunt and Ximena got super-excited too, but for some reason, Ximena’s friends seemed confused and were very surprised; they couldn’t believe what we were saying. They told us that it was very unusual or even impossible to see dolphins in these areas, especially in this specific coral reef. In their years of experience, they had never been through a situation like that in Bawley Point, neither had they heard of anyone seeing dolphins in the coral reef.

After all this, we started packing up and getting ready to leave. Ximena’s friends stayed with us the entire time. As I was taking off my swimming suit, I remembered the necklace I had found. I took it out from the pocket and asked the guys, “Does anyone know what the word ‘kahio’ means?”

One of them replied, “Of course, every Australian should know. ‘Kahio’ means miracle in the aboriginal dialect.”

Maria Tinoco is a freshman majoring in Illustration.  She was raised in Bogota, Colombia, and moved to New York in 2013 to pursue her dream of becoming an artist.