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May 2016    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 31, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Sonny Dive Shop, Isla de Providencia, Colombia

quirky, sleepless, sleeper of a destination

from the May, 2016 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Dear Fellow Diver:

It's 5 a.m., and the neighbor's roosters behind our cottage at Cabanas Agua Dulce have been crowing off and on since 3 a.m. The guests next door never heard them, but the damn fowls have been waking me every night.

I'm beat. Yet, just yesterday, I took delight in the diving, as divemaster Santiago identified one of my sightings as a leopard goby, explaining that in 26 years of diving on the island he had yet to see one. That find, a first for me, made my whole trip.

Cabanas Agua Dulce (sweet water, but not always hot water)The elusive leopard goby was just one of the treasures I found diving on Isla de Providencia, in the Eastern Caribbean, 145 miles east of Nicaragua and a once a favorite haunt of the pirate Henry Morgan. Not to be confused with Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos, Providencia is a tiny island with fewer than 6,000 inhabitants -- more Caribbean than Colombian -- and part of the Seaflower Biosphere Reserve. A 12-mile road more or less encircles it, passing through villages as it rarely leaves sight of the sea. The rugged dormant volcanic peaks in its interior don't invite development.

On my first morning, the talk among the young divers was all about whether we'd see sharks and whether they would be dangerous -- just what you would expect from vacation-goers making a diversionary dive or two. Sonny Dive Shop doesn't feed sharks, but its competitor, Felipe's Dive Center, does, and minutes into our 80-foot wall dive on the site named Confusion, a trio of sizable reef sharks swam in, nosing about, and circled our group. Having seen plenty of sharks, something more subtle captured my attention: a brown tangle of rope sponge wrapped in a bumpy sponge zoanthid that looked like coral polyp openings, not found in Humann's Reef Creatures. For me, diving is all about finding life I've never seen before, and I'd scored a personal first on my very first dive.

Surfacing in the tranquil sea, the chilly January water (77F at 84 feet) made me glad I'd worn my 5mm full suit and hooded vest. Our deeper morning dives averaged less than 80F, while shallow second dives hovered around 82F. Overall, visibility ranged from 30 to 70 feet....

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