Over the last week, I have been struggling to find other words for what has always been one of my favorite colors: turquoise.
As I help to write new website content for a Zanzibari hotel, and as I research other accommodations in the industry, I am struck by the dearth of alternatives. Hundreds of hotels, lodges, hostels and villas, and all any of us can come up with is, “the warm, turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean.”
Really? I mean, I love turquoise—the color, the word, the evocative sound of it—but there must be more creative ways to describe this coast.
The following words are officially out, for overuse: stunning; warm; turquoise; aquamarine; tropical blue; island blue; exquisite.
Not to say the Indian Ocean isn’t all of those things… only, words begin to seem trite when used in such limited permutations.
The ocean here is truly a bevy of hues, none of them simply blue. When the tide is out, there is a short stretch of water a few shades lighter than teal, then a wide bay of deep and surprising periwinkle, tapering into indigo at the meeting point with the sky—azure fading to white. Throughout this vocabulary test of colors emerge hints of sea green (a color none can replicate, it is mined from the ocean depths to fill a gap between green and blue). And at the border between every pair lie colors without names, achingly beautiful blues never seen before that moment and never to appear again.
Everything changes with the sun, of course. In the rain, add a few shades of grey to every hue. In full sun, the color at the horizon brightens to sparkling sapphire. The faraway depths become a cobalt seasoned by saltwater. The shallows at high tide almost insist upon the label of “turquoise,” yet if you look very closely you will find each and every shade from the imperfect white of the surf to the navy-black of the shadows. And in-between, a spectrum of blues, named and unnamed, which, lacking more and better words, we call turquoise.
Are there other words for turquoise? Undoubtedly. Can any one of them truly describe the explosion of color that laps at these shores? Unlikely.

And so, I am back where I began, watching the warm, turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean recede with the tide. Any other words I chose would be equally insufficient.
Bonus: Massive double rainbow spotted last week!