29 June – 4 July, 2014
Air Temperatures – Mid to Upper 80’s
Water Temperature – 82F
Winds finally declined to comfortable speeds of between 5 – 20 knot easterlies for the week, with a timely lull of 5 – 10 knots for our Blue Hole day on Tuesday. Overall, it was mostly sunny with some passing clouds and showers. Dive crew remained the same as the week before with Divemaster Denroy, and Dive Instructor Anne-Marie as dive guides, and Carlton (AKA Capt), as Boat Captain. There was another student, a gentleman, who completed his Advanced Open Water Certification with Anne-Marie by the end of the week.
Visibility at the first day’s western sites of Black Beauty North and South, and Creekozene North, were an excellent 80 feet. The Black Pearl sites are always filled with so many colours from the dazzling collection of sponges, corals, and reef fish that inhabit the stunning coral heads spread out across the sand bed here. Three large Southern Stingrays nuzzled around in the expansive white sand bed in the center of the Creekozene sites as divers descended at the beginning of the dive, and a 4-foot Great Barracuda seemed to hang black-phased and motionless over a cleaning station at the beginning of the coral wall while neon gobies darted over its body picking at unseen parasites.
On Monday, we used the Terrace for the Blue Hole check-out dive and Denroy guided those who wanted to do the Blue Hole that week on this deep dive to 100 feet. Some of the divers did not want to do the deep Blue Hole dive, so Anne-Marie led them on a shallower dive here near the edge of the wall. Visibility for the day dished up the same great 80 feet as the day before. Two Hawksbill Turtles swam slowly over the edge of the wall scoping out the area for favourite sponges, and a distinctly larger female Loggerhead Turtle was seen ambling along east of the wall in the shallow reef head area. The funniest point of the day, and only because of the benign outcome, was the muffled underwater scream of “Nooooo” that Dive Instructor Anne-Marie let out when one of the divers in her group reached out to touch a Scorpionfish Anne-Marie was pointing out. Thank goodness this typically sluggish creature only momentarily raised its dorsal fin, that is fixed with dangerously poisonous spines, and returned to an unmoving state once the unwelcomed caress was over. Subsequently, a very relieved Anne-Marie wrote explicit and succinct information about the Scorpionfish on her slate for the diver to read. The contrite diver apologized upon surfacing, and everyone had a good laugh about it. Dive two and three’s sites of Mandy’s Dandy and Elkin’s Bay, both with 80 feet of visibility, yielded Spotted Eagle Ray sightings for the excited divers who were able to see them.
Blue Hole Day started out with sunny skies, 5 – 10 knot easterly winds, and a 4-foot chop for the crossing to Lighthouse Reef. With 70 feet of visibility, three Caribbean Reef Sharks were spotted by divers who did the deep Blue Hole dive, and smaller critters were identified for those doing the shallow rim dive, with Lettuce Leaf slugs on the menu. For our Half Moon Caye dive, both Black and Nassau Groupers swam along the wall eyeing divers from safe hideaways as they passed by. An over 3-foot Cubera Snapper was spotted in a swim-through and was flushed out onto the wall showing its toothy open mouth as it swam in front of those divers passing through. One Caribbean Reef Shark joined divers along the wall and stayed for 80 percent of the dive, including following them over the sand bed to the north of the wall. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the Green Turtles that we usually do on the Turtle Grass beds in the shallows before having to end the dive after 50 minutes. Of course, we did our usual lunchtime stop at Half Moon Caye on our favourite picnic benches under the coconut trees, followed by walks to view the turtle nesting areas, and the Red-Footed Booby Bird Sanctuary and observatory in the island’s littoral forest. It’s easy to get captured by this island and not want to leave, but we had a third dive to do at Long Caye to the west before heading home. Since we had a current, we were able to cover a lot of ground starting at Painted Wall and drifting all the way to the Aquarium in the same great 80-foot visibility. A school of Bermuda Chub and Sergeant Majors followed Denroy for the entire dive, and we found out later he’d stashed a fried chicken leg in his BCD pocket and the goof was on us. A small curious Caribbean Reef Shark buzzed divers twice from below, two schools of three and then four Spotted Eagle Rays glided by below, a positively monstrous Black Grouper was found hidden in soft corals at the walls edge, and two Tarpons hung in mid-water seemingly asleep. Upon close inspection with the famous magnifying glass, Anne-Marie spotted the eyes only, before making out the transparent bodies, of three Black Coral Shrimp on the base of a Black Coral branch along the wall.
We decided on The Elbow for Wednesday morning since wind speeds and surface conditions were still on our side. In the 80-foot visibility and 1-knot current, divers were not disappointed and all the players showed up. Schooling Dog Snapper and Horse-Eye Jacks were seen just off the wall, while portly Black Groupers huddled against the huge stands of Deep Water Black Gorgonian Sea Fans that dominate the monstrous, towering reef spurs here. A few tight schools of Spade Fish, a Hawksbill Turtle, and three Spotted Eagle Rays were not to be outdone and made an appearance adding to this fish-busy dive. Sayonara on the southwest was chosen as the second dive, before divers headed back to the resort to have the afternoon off before the Night Dive. Since it’s the middle of the summer and the days are longer, our Night Dive leaves at 6:30pm and takes divers a short distance to the north inside the reef for this shallow dive. Lobsters were active, Caribbean Reef Squid showed up, and a large Octopus tried desperately to camouflage itself on the sand. The surprise find for the night was two 1-inch long juvenile Slipper Lobsters, only spotted because they were found crawling across the filmy white night cape of a Parrot Fish.
Thursday’s dive sites were Snake Point, Lobster Bay and Pine Ridge to the west, with 80 feet and then 70 feet of visibility respectively. Queen Conch egg pouches were found on the sand at Lobster Bay, and a brilliant collection of species were clustered together around an arrangement of sponges and Gorgonians at the edge of the wall that was particularly pleasing to the eye. Sizeable Black and Nassau Groupers tucked in under the Gorgonians and the sponges peering at a school of tiny silversides that circled the arrangement while clouds of Mysid Shrimp filled in the empty spaces. Two Bar Jacks swam frantically back and forth around the sponges and fans trying desperately to catch a silverside off guard; all this with colourful cleaners darting back and forth in the middle. Divers spent five minutes observing this scene before forcing themselves to move on.
For the last day on Friday, we had to remain on the west side as the easterly wind had picked up again, so we visited Sponge Shop and Camel Hump in the south west, and moved north to the western Creekozene South wall. Visibility started out at 50 feet at Sponge Shop due to the outgoing tide and the blow off from the mangroves, and improved to 60 feet at Camel’s Hump with a final crisp 80 feet at Creekozene South. Divers had extended bottom time on these shallow profiled dives and stayed for 50 and 60 minutes stretching out their last dives at Turneffe Islands Atoll for this trip, with all of them promising to return in another year or two.