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Monday, 21 April 2014

Paint it Black

You really couldn't have asked for a much better day, with the sun shining and a light 4 knot North Easterly it was like a mill pond out there.

With being Easter the boat was a little busy but seeing as Dangerous Doug had four OW's to finish off mixed in with the usual mob of punters, you can't really grumble, not when the diving was as good as it was today.

Flat as a pancake!
Capt. Nige headed the boat Northward and we made our first stop at McCurleys Wall which sits right next to Babylon and with good air consumption, you can easily get two dive sites for the price of one. Bargain!

The North side has the best wall diving in the Caymans, (bar Bloody Bay Wall of course) and any opportunity you get to go shouldn't be sniffed at. McCurleys has some stunningly vibrant hard coral formations, sponges and sea whips along with an abundance of jacks, triggerfish, snappers, fusiliers, barracudas and multiple turtles cruising past.

Lovely, lovely colours.
With the birthday girl Sarah leading her charges off into the distance, and Little Jon bringing up the rear with his, we spent some quality time at depth to get some nice shots in amongst the overhangs and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Spot the snapper.......
The marine life is so healthy and abundant on this side of the island, it does put some other dive sites to shame which is no surprise when you think how much other areas get kicked to death by the multitude of tourists fins. However, that's a discussion for another day.

Turn right at Babylon pinnacle.
With over have a tank left, we arrived at Babylon and lapped the pinnacle several times to get some shots in before we cruised off back along the wall with our turtle friends and back to the mooring pin to off gas before tucking in into todays specialty, Cadburys Cream Eggs. It is easter after all and cream eggs are the most important part of any surface interval at this time of year!

After a quick recharge at the surface, we cruised along to Black Rock reef. It;s been a while since we'd been here and I had honestly forgotten how good it can be. Capt. Nige called it on the moray and the nudis in the pre dive brief and this site is an absolute macro photographers delight. Just make sure you've got plenty of bottom time after the first dive as you definitely don't want to come up to early on this one.

Small and perfectly formed
The first two minutes in the water, almost directly under the boat I found a beautiful juvenile Painted Elysia. About 2mm big if you were lucky but scampering over the coral like a cheetah. I nearly had to up the shutter speed just to get the shot! Give the abundance of nudis that we found here in day time, this would make a terrific site for night diving.

There were also plenty of Elysia Crispata, with some massive examples hulking their way over the rocks as well as more slender individuals like the one below.

The resident green moray also put in a little appearance for us and was more than happy to get up close and personal with the macro lens for some stills and a little video. We saw it again towards the end of the dive making a break over the reef away from some divers who were in hot pursuit. Swim on, Mr. Moray, swim on.

And as if the nudis weren't enough, we had a great selection of gobies, blennies and red legged hermit crabs on offer which just made the icing on the cake for a perfect days diving.

Smile if you're happy!!

 And last but not least, we had some wonderful tiny hydroids with some even smaller isopods sitting on it, wafting back and forth in the light current.

Look carefully to find the ispods.
Maybe if Mother Natures feeling lucky, we'll get another chance to head Northward again in a few weeks time the boys and girls at Tortugas Divers. 

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Love Sculpture

After several bouts of bad weather, we finally made it back in the water at our favourite shore dive, Lighthouse Point. And this weekend was extra special seeing as it was the sinking of the new feature here, the Guardian of the Reef statue as sculpted by Simon Morris.

Pre dive assessment. Sceptre *check*, shield *check*, crown *check*
You may of heard of Simon Morris before as he was the creative mind behind the statue of Amphitrite which graces the waters at Sunset house and has been a regular attraction for divers the world over. No doubt, the Guardian of the reef will prove to be an equal draw for aquaholics everywhere.

At just shy of 4 metres (3.96m to be exact) and half a ton, he's a big boy to be sure and when sitting on his plinth, that boosts the height to around 4.5 metres , so you certainly wont miss him when you swim out over the mini wall.

The Guardian faces the dive centre and reef to keep a close eye on things and to make sure the nudibranchs and sea horses don't wander to far astray. With the bottom of the plinth sitting at 21m and the head at around 16m, this is a very easy dive for divers of all levels of certification and well worth making a visit to see.

Dedication to Jay and Nancy.
Unfortunately there are always some morons out there and we saw other divers sitting on the statues head and knocking their tanks off it and it had been in the water for less than 24 hours. People like that we definitely don't need in the water. Muppets.

The Guardian approves of your buoyancy control vewy qwiet. The Guardian is sleeping........

Morons aside, we spent the majority of the dive getting the shots I needed for the mags and making a mental note of the new positions of some of the mooring and marker buoys seeing as they've shuffled them around a bit to mark the statues position amongst other things.

Conditions were surprisingly good give the poor weather we've had the last 3-4 days and we had a 4-5 knot wind ESE with a mild surge in the shallows which was nominal.

Sunset and time to hunt nudibranch
The hardpan wasn't exactly jumping with life this evening and it proved a little challenge to find a few of my favourite things (like raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles with warm woolen mittens, for all you Sound of Music fans out there).

On the way out to get a couple of macros shots of the Guardian, I spotted a really nice juvenile jawfish that was kind enough pose for a couple of shots. 

Open up and say "Ahhhhhh"
There was also an abundance of bristleworms out tonight in a multitude of different colours particularly some nice red-orange ones making their way over some sponges with baby bristleworms in tow.

Speaking of babys, there was the tiniest little Elysia crispata sitting all by itself. I've included my pinky finger nail to give you some sort of idea of the scale. It's positively dinky.

We had a reasonable selection of sailfin blennies and orange sided gobies hiding out this evening on the corals not to mention a few pea crabs, pistol shrimps and needle nose puffer fish to round things off.

All in all it was a nice night for a dive and nice to get back to the familiar stomping grounds after all rubbish weather recently and it'll be as equally nice to get back out to East End and jump off a perfectly good boat next weekend. Until then, safe diving everyone!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Undisclosed Desires

Off to the East End once again to spend some quality time with our good friends at Tortuga Divers, with Nige, Nat and Doug manning (and girling) the boat today. We had a slight overcast and a 7-8 knot South Easterly wind, so it was an easy choice to head North and pay another visit to Julie's Wall once again.

Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to get wet we go.....
 After splash down, we headed down the wall and West this time and were immediately accosted with some superb overhangs, sea whips and sponge formations with a healthy smattering of fusiliers and snappers. This is as close to diving Bloody Bay Wall as you'll get without having to fly to Little Cayman as the scenery here is good enough to make your camera blush with embarrassment and shame.

As always depth, time and SAC are major considerations, especially here where if you are not careful you can easily find yourself in a sticky situation particularly if you are focused (no pun  intended) on getting the perfect shot. If in doubt, stick you your guide like glue otherwise get in there and get some great photos of some truly epic scenery.

"One fish, two fish, eight fish, blue fish....."
The condition of the sponges and coral here are in excellent condition and we were also hoping to see some big stuff cruising by in the blue but alas, it was not meant to be today. Still with a plethora of colours and marine life at this dive site, how could you possibly feel hard done by?

After a good long dive at the depth, we reluctantly headed back up for the obligatory safety stop before motoring round to dive site number two, and today it was the turn of Little Bluff which we haven't done in quite some time, a very easy dive with long fingers of coral and crenelations separated with sandy areas to weave in and out of.

As always it pays to take your time and pay close attention to the small stuff hiding out amongst the corals like some lovely little female roughhead blennies.

Not to mention some fantastic little hydroids, which you definitely need patience and good lighting to get a decent shot of them, but they are incredibly nice.

There were a good selection of blennies scattered around with more than a few orange saddled more than happy to have their photos taken.

The surprise visitors of the day were the turtles however and fair do to Nige he did say that they were regular visitors here. We had three cruising around the reef on the day and although not totally comfortable with sharing space in the water they weren't out-right skittish and were happy to stop for a couple of shots before gliding off to do more important things. Like go down the pub. Or whatever it is that turtles do.

As always, another thoroughly enjoyable days diving with the boys and girls at Tortuga Divers at the East End. We look forward to seeing you there soon.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

How a moray eel eats

Very interesting fact about morays if you're not overly familiar with them. They have a secondary set of grasping jaws called the Pharyngeal jaw. This evolutionary adaptation is surprisingly common among fish with more than 30,000 known species employing a set. However, none are as mobile (or frightening) as the Moray's.

Since these eels can't suck in and gulp down their prey as other predatory fish do, they instead evolved this swing-out set of small, grabbing mandibles. The eel first captures its prey with its primary jaws, then swings out its secondary set to grab the fish and pull it down the eel's throat while the first set of jaws chomp down on the next length of flesh.

Check out the great video below as well. Superb. Thanks to UC Davis for this!