South Padre Island, Yes, In Texas: Dolphin Cruise

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I’ve been eyeing South Padre Island like a secret admirer, my desire for it growing in intensity the more I look at it. There are claims that it’s one of the cleanest beaches either in Texas or the nation, I forgot. I just remember that it has that reputation. It also has the triathlon reputation of being one of the top beaches to visit. We live in Texas. How lucky can we get??! Yeah, it’s a 9 hour drive, but we’ve driven longer distances when we were living in New Mexico. Plus, we have two extra drivers now.

I played around with hubby’s remaining vacation days for this year. Just like how careful he is with saving money, he saves his vacation days pretty excellently too. The question was, “Should we grace South Padre with our excited presence during Thanksgiving weekend or Christmas break?”

H presented a solid argument that we couldn’t refute, “It’s in Texas. If we have a long break in December, we should spend it going out of Texas. For places in Texas, we can go anytime.” Can’t argue with that.

Then, after heavy research and discussion of itinerary and hotel choices between H and I, hubby complained of chest pain and palpitations two days before we planned to leave.

Long story short, coffee might be a possible culprit. We went as planned alhamdulillah. I didn’t have to drive at all because hubby and S and H drove and they drive non stop. Our first stop was Corpus Christi. B and her husband showered us with generous hospitality.

It took us about 3 hours to get to South Padre Island from Corpus Christi with the low speed limit and traffic lights as we neared it.

We had booked a dolphin cruise at 1:30pm on that Thursday. Anxiously, I kept glancing at the clock, hoping that we could check in at the hotel and refrigerate the frozen cooked meals I had laboriously prepared two days prior. We needed to be at the dock by 1:15.

As we crossed the bridge from Port Isabel, which is still part of the mainland, to South Padre Island, hubby, who has studied the map beforehand, told me, “The dolphin place is supposed to be just right after the bridge, somewhere there,” as he pointed towards the right. Sure enough, I spotted Sea Ranch Marina written in a white building with a blue roof. We drove past it and headed towards the hotel. The clock showed 12:43. Alhamdulillah the hotel wasn’t that far. We checked in, prayed Zuhr and Asr shortened and combined, I shoved the frozen meals in the fridge, and breathed a sigh of relief as we bolted out the door. We made it to the dock in time!!

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When I researched South Padre Island, I learned that October through December is a good time to visit because the summer and winter crowd are missing, plus it’s not hurricane season. That explained why there weren’t really that many people at the dock, which was nice.

I am grateful for my big straw hat that is now my companion on outings that involve long sun exposure. It really helps prevent headaches for me. This cruise was right smack in the afternoon, 1:30-3:30 pm. It was a really good deal, $13 per adult and $10 per child, but there were $3 discount coupons, so it came down to $10 per person for 2 hours. The Original Dolphin Watch. At first I was eyeing Osprey cruises which was $17 per adult, but TripAdvisor showed me other cruises and The Original Dolphin Watch was my ranked #2.

As we left the harbor, dolphins quickly came into view. In fact, one even swam alongside us. Alas! I didn’t catch it on camera. I’m directionally challenged, so during the cruise, I was blissfully enjoying the relaxed pace of the boat and ocean breeze without knowing which direction we were headed. It was only later on, days after, that I studied the map of South Padre and realized where we were. We were mostly cruising in the bay, in which the tour dragged a big net along the bottom of the bay (which I discovered later was VERY shallow). As they dragged the net, we left a trail of muddy water, a result of the bay bottom being stirred up. img_20161124_140150653The net didn’t really reel in much, upon first glance. I even thought to myself,

Hmm…what are they going to do for the presentation? There’s nothing in there!

They dumped the contents of the net into a big bucket, and proceeded to begin the presentation. I was awestruck at what actually were in the net. There was a squid, a Pig Perch which if eaten tail-first, will score a painful wound along the predator’s mouth due to its razor sharp dorsal fins, and a Look Down Fish with no scales. I find this last one interesting. It kind of looks like Dory, but it’s white and very shiny. What fascinated me about this particular fish is that it could grow up to be about a foot or more, and because it’s very curious in nature, it will head towards divers head on and suddenly turn sideways. Because of its scaleless body, divers can be blinded by the sudden glare. This fish is a diver’s annoyance, as they lose a lot gear this way.

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2 hours on this cruise was a nicely well spent 2 hours. I kept looking at my watch and when I realized that we had about an hour more, I was elated.  We passed by a jutting rocky part of the island where people were fishing. On the other side of that was the beach. I wondered which part of the island that was. I wanted to go out to those rocks!

img_20161124_145255880We started going out to the gulf and out of the bay. This was where the real waves were. We stood at the prow and faced the bobbing waves head on. With the ocean breeze caressing our faces and toying with out skirts and hijabs, we rode each wave as it bobbed us up and down gently.

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The sun was also descending lower in the sky, and as it did so, it sprinkled its light on the surface of the water, scattering golden sprinkles on the undulating waves.

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Here, we spotted more dolphins, their shiny backs gleaming black against the sunlight. The sight of pelicans soaring above us, their wing span fascinatingly long, was also a sight to behold. As we were cruising along, the pelicans were having their afternoon  meals. Soaring high above us, they glided for a while, before suddenly aiming towards a meal they had spotted in the water, and dove straight in to get it. img_20161124_144514074I can now understand why some people are sea addicts. I can now understand why some people would save up money and go sailing for months on end. There’s just something about the rhythmic motion of the waves that relaxes your soul. The ocean breeze is like the winds of mercy from Allah. Out in the open ocean, by the mercy of Allah who allowed boats to float on water, your soul is allowed to breathe freely, away from the hustle and bustle of life that can really imprison you mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. Out here, you become one with the rest of the creations of Allah, and there is space for your soul to contemplate, to slow down, and recognize its Master, the Master of the worlds.

 

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