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This photo taken March 2009 shows porpoise swimming by a boat off Caye Caulker Island near the second largest barrier reef that runs along the coast of Belize. (AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach)
IF YOU GO

Road to Freedom: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement, 1956-1968

When: Tuesday through Sunday through March 7.

Where: Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles.

Cost: $10 general; $7 seniors 65 and over and full-time students; $5 children 2-12; free for children under 2. 310-440-4500, www.skirball.org.

It was a dark, rainy, gray day. We don't go for monochrome excursions during our tropical adventures, so this kind of day was not acceptable.

Nonetheless, my two teenage children and I were going to make the best of our snorkeling trip along the Belize Barrier Reef, the longest unbroken reef in the Western Hemisphere. We were near the island of Caye Caulker, which is situated just off the coast of Belize. The search for a diverse palette was our mission with our boat captain guide, Harry Woods of E-Z Boys Tours.

So, onward down into the water we dove. Looking up, we found a ceiling of rain droplets falling from the sky, patterned on the ocean surface. But our aqua world below offered a rainbow of hues.

Our meet-and-greeter was an independent, curious, jowly fish with wings like scalloped shells, a Nassau black grouper. Its face came right up to the camera, as if to say, "Welcome to my universe of color."

We saw creatures of all shapes and sizes, traveling mostly in groups, though a few, like the moray eel, cautiously ventured out alone from their homes in the coral. And back they'd retreat as soon as they had satiated their curiosity about us.

We gingerly tiptoed by stingrays and swam lightly through the many schools of fish, never once feeling like an intruder. Some schools tucked themselves behind strands of coral while others boldly glided about.

Our temporary visit almost appeared humorous to the fish whose mouths were permanently fixed in a grin.


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A shark took a look while cruising by us while porpoises playfully swam alongside the boat as they frolicked about, almost inviting us to join them.

As we made our way back to the boat, the merging of sea and sky seemed dreamlike, and the gray gave way to sun.