Well it can’t always be fabulous. After a terrific day of diving at the Blue Hole and Half Moon Cay, we tried unsuccessfully to reach one of the Atoll’s top dive sites, Lindsey’s Back Porch. Swimming into heavy current for an hour really isn’t my thing, but my air did hold out. There were beautiful schools of fish at the beginning and a turtle in the distance, but it went downhill from there. We have been spoiled. I am also bummed because Donna is out for the rest of the week to give her knee the chance to recover.
It was a day of contrasts. The next two dives were what I like to call aquarium dives with colorful fish of an infinite variety everywhere. Found more of my small crab with the blue pinchers, beautiful soft coral with blue tips, a super huge crab, and a wide variety of Caribbean reef fish. We saw a free swimming green moray eel, unusual as they are usually in a small opening with just their face out and mouth open.
We saw even more on our last dive of the day and I introduced Rocky to Christmas tree worms that make their home in small openings in the coral. They are (surprise, surprise) shaped like Christmas pines and pop closed when you approach. Perhaps more fascinating is to watch them open again when they no longer feel threatened. The worm actually never leaves the hole and the “tree” part is really the breathing apparatus.
The following day we head to The Elbow at the the southern tip of the Atoll. This is the site to see large sealife and schools of big fish. We were warned that this dive could be rougher than yesterday’s botched attempt to reach Lindsey’s Back Porch. The Elbow did not disappoint. We saw large schools of spadefish and snapper, southern stingrays, a hawksbill turtle, several barracuda, and were very close to a small school of horse-eyed jacks. Of course my favorite was the beautiful spotted eagle ray we saw in the grassy flats that gracefully moved toward us before heading out. The dive was not as challenging as I expected. There is no predicting the current.
Our next dive was outside the reef and the visibility was poor. However, we still saw lots of goatfish, squirrelfish (with their large eyes), yellow-headed jawfish, a barred hamlet, a juvenile drum, along with the seemingly millions of small smooth trunkfish. I spotted another of the small Pederson shrimp.
Our final dive for the day was through clear waters and we saw another free-swimming green moray eel. Rocky found a spotted moray on his own and a really large lobster. I was treated to another spotted eagle ray and indigo hamlet. The great find of the dive was a spotted toadfish, rare, but a more frequent find on this atoll than in other parts of the world.
I have been taking a fish ID class through Oceanic Ventures and we had our final class tonight. It has really enhanced my dives and I find myself naming fish throughout and coming back to check the reference material when I am not sure of what I saw. There is only one more practice day; tomorrow is our last day of diving. Some people are doing two dives and then going to see the manatees, but I will be joining Rocky for all three. On the third, his open water dive total will be 100.
The first dive was another aquarium dive, only now I can name what I am seeing. Not only am I identifying the fish, but also their behaviors as well. I saw “hanging” Creole Wrasses, a “drive-through car wash” at a cleaning station, kissing fish, and who can forget Donna’s boyfriend. The second dive at Midway was even more populated. Of course since it is my last day, the Atoll treated me to the sighting of a spotted eagle ray. I found a ballonfish, a type of pufferfish. Our dive guide grabbed it and it puffed up fully. We all got to touch the spines and watch it slowly return to its normal size as it swam away.
For our final dive of the day and Rocky’s 100th, we were close to the resort in rougher seas at The Wishbone. We started with a picture (underwater) and ended with a cake (above water). Not the best dive of the trip, but we did have a few special finds. We spotted a goldentail moray eel, more rare than the green and spotted eels we have seen on several of our dives at the Atoll. Dive Mom found a file fish on coral and Denroy pointed out the first soapfish of the trip.
Turneffe Flats provides a cleaning service as part of the dive fee so once we identified our gear for the staff (and took along our mask and fins) we could head back to our rooms to pack our personal things. The boat captains and dive masters leave this evening so they can have a 36-hour break before the next group arrives. Rocky brought his cake back to share with the divers and staff during the send off.
During the appetizer “hour” our group gathered to vote on our favorite and unusual finds for the week and have the opportunity to win a gift certificate door prize. Donna and I shared a gift card for suggesting the (most popular) unusual behavior-Donna’s boyfriend’s boatside send-off. Dive Mom also presented awards to those who had reached milestones during the trip. Debbie Fuqua reached 300 dives on the first dive of the week, Fred and Janet Heyne each reached 100 dives, and Rocky was recognized for his 100 dives and new master diver status.
We have a early morning departure, so we headed back to make sure our dive gear had all made it to the room and spread it out for a little extra overnight drying. Bill had shared his pictures with me, so I enjoyed the recap of the trip through his photos until I fell asleep. Tomorrow we leave the Atoll in the morning and spend several hours at the Radisson before our afternoon flight home to Houston. It was a wow trip.
About the photographer: You’ll notice that the underwater photography is credited to Bill Fuqua, a member of our OVI group. Yes, Bill has special equipment, but the wonderful shots you see are the result of his sharp eye and amazing photography skills. You can find more of Bill’s underwater photography on his facebook page.