Soon after this, I chanced upon Sea Change. Charting the transformative experiences of Craig Foster and Ross Frylinck in the Cape’s kelp forests, Sea Change is extraordinary photographic documentation of an equally extraordinary wilderness, populated with creatures as surreal as any I have encountered snorkelling in the Galapagos or off the east coast of Africa. As astonishing as the biodiversity spawned by the Cape’s cold waters was the fact that the authors chose to dive without wetsuits, believing that the naked skin gives a more authentic connection to the oceanic wilderness. Reading Sea Change was a game-changer for me: not only was the frigid ocean rich in treasures, but it could be explored wearing nothing but a swimsuit and snorkel. If I could just learn to deal with the cold.
'A marvellous elation started to flood through me. A real hoot-out-loud high, as good as that of any one of the silly narcotics I’ve consumed over the years.'
On an overcast day last August, I ventured into the crashing Atlantic. Three miserable minutes later, I retreated to the takeouts that line Camps Bay’s palm-lined beach, where serendipity struck in the Vida e Caffé queue. ‘But you must try the tidal pool!’ exclaimed Kim, taking in my bedraggled state. ‘There’s a group of women who swim there every day.’
Camps Bay tidal pool was a portal into another world. Before the sun’s rays breach the Twelve Apostles, a knot of women are already bobbing about, bodies submerged in the dark water, heads in woollen hats. These are the Water Babies. When (if) the sun reaches the pool, turning its mirror-like expanse into a sparkling aquamarine jewel, the Tribal Mermaids wade in, then the glamorous FireFish, rocking the looks vibe up a notch. These are Whatsapp groups comprising a loose mix of old friends and new – a lady in her 70s told me she had asked to join the Mermaids after she spotted them while walking her dog; only once in the water did one of the Mermaids discover she was the mother of a close friend.
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