That time I fell in love with an octopus

Posted on 21 May 2015

Last week, I fell in love with an octopus. I was in the water courtesy of Craig Foster and Ross Frylinck of Sea-Change. We were swimming off False Bay coast, no wetsuits allowed. The temperature was below 17 degrees Celsius, and it was overcast. We did some push-ups, jumped about a bit, and Craig said, ‘Imagine a fire in your chest and let it spread out,’ which I did. Still, getting into that water took something, and imagining staying in it for 40 minutes minimum, with just my skin between me and hypothermia, took even more.

Eventually there was no delaying. We sank in, Craig and Ross striking bullishly out ahead, me lagging behind thinking: right, at least one minute must have passed; 39 to go.

We floated over a school of smallish green fish. We hung over forests of kelp. We peered into a small cave and saw a cat shark and a squid – or at least, Craig and Ross did. I peered into the dark hole and held my breath and wondered whether my brain was going to explode.

Then there, on the side of a rock, was an octopus. Craig coaxed it off the rock and swam to the surface, where I was gulping in air. ‘Look under the water,’ he instructed. There it was, big, the head about the size of a rugby ball.

‘Be calm,’ he said, ‘be quiet, send out good messages. They have a mean bite when threatened.’

And so I did, shaping my arms into a cradle in which the cephalopod settled. It curled up its tentacles into eight elegant curlicues and hung out. Then it floated onto my leg, and settled there, wrapping its tentacles about my thigh.

Sonya Schoeman with octofriend

I stroked its head. It was as soft as the most exquisite silk, mesmerising to the touch. I looked at its eyes and, while it did look rather cross, it stayed put. Then, after a while, it swirled away and we swam back to shore. Forty minutes done.

Nature is infinitely charming and engaging; it puts time in another dimension. This month, we feature so many places where the rhythm of life is determined by the beautiful outdoors: iSimangaliso Wetland Park in KwaZulu-Natal, the Waterberg in Limpopo, lovely Citrusdal (one of my favourite places ever), Sedgefield on the Garden Route – I fall endlessly in love with our country each time I step out my front door.

What I also love about South Africa is her stories. KwaZulu-Natal has been at the centre of a recent xenophobic storm. Sad, considering that the province’s chroniclers work hard at unifying people through strong storytelling traditions. This is the focus of ’Once Upon a Time’ (page 66), and it gives me hope that these good people will find unity. Kenya has also faced challenges, but we felt it important to be reminded of its tourism treasures; read ‘Hump Days’ (page 51).

This issue is jam-packed with inspirational destinations and good deals. Just keep reading.

June 2015

To our readers: In the last few months, we have had requests to find good deals for pensioners: read our Hot Spots (page 37) – this is the beginning of servicing your needs. We’ve also heard you want more camping spots: we’re on it. If you read Getaway, it’s your magazine, and we want to hear your views. Mail us at [email protected].

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