Wednesday, October 7, 2015

San Pedro Martir

                                                     Sea Lions at San Pedro Martir

           We saw two of the largest sea lion colonies in the Sea of Cortez on our charter.
The craggy rock faces of the islets at San Pedro Martir are home to many sea lions and many varieties of birds and crustaceans . The shadowed grottos and cathedral like cave indentations provide shelter and shade for the animals living at the edge of the water.

    Once below the surface , divers were greeted by friendly beautiful sea lions gliding effortlessly among the boulders on the sea floor. The seals frolicked in the surging shallows at the water line.
 The animals pirouetted and spun in an aquatic ballet that was mesmerizing .

  If you observed quietly they floated toward you, eyeing cameras and lights, and posing like the most elegant doe-eyed models strolling a Parisian runway. The seals floated on their backs kissing their reflections on the shimmering surface.

                                                                   Peering upwards one could see the towering rocks above the shallows. The colors of the sea lions skin are echoed by those of the stones:dark umber, golden tawny blonde, gray like a storm cloud, black as ink.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Whale Sharks in the Bay of Angels

Tiburon Ballena en La Bahia del los Angeles

        Imagine you are in aquatic paradise, silky warm water, cloudy and opaque like a raincloud about to shower you with surprises. You are floating here, with only a horizon marking the separation of heaven and ocean.
 Suddenly you are startled by a presence you sense, but cannot discern. Something large and magical is right next to you!
 A dark charcoal spotted head the size of night table is right beneath you, and you scramble out of the way as the elegant creature the size of a mini-van slides past, its tail undulating .

   Our whale shark encounter lasted over two and half action packed hours, and I did not want to leave.
 The adrenalin rush and awe inspired by these amazing giants is indescribable .
The whale sharks are used to divers and come up to the shallows to feed. Several of them bumped right into me and I had to be cautious not to touch them lest it disturb the protective coating on their skin .

  The water was extremely green and "fishy", making for the LOWEST visibility. Taking photos while snorkeling next to them was challenging.

  The whale sharks' main agenda here is FOOD, the tiny krill and plankton they relish abounds in the Bay.
  The giants spiraled round and round, with their gaping mouths open , to consume vast quantities of nutrient rich " broth" and were  seemingly oblivious to their excited human observers.
 I had seen them before scuba diving in the Philippines( see my Oslob post) where the water was blue and one could see everything clearly.
 This environment was mysterious in a different way. The local boat operators took us to the middle of the Bay and we slid into the water in groups of four, looking everywhere and not seeing what was literally right under our noses until the animals brushed past us!

Midriff Islands , Sea of Cortez, September 2015

    07:00hrs   September 20, 2015

 Angel de la Guarda      Site: El Nido
 1 hour                  depth: 74 feet

         A wildly clanging bell awoke me after a rough night's crossing from Puerto Penasco at the northern tip of the Sea of Cortez.
         As I prepared for my first dive in over three years, I thought it appropriate to take the plunge in "Guardian Angel Bay."

     The air was sultry and gray skies dimmed the reflection on dark green water.
Nineteen divers scrambled to the bottom stirring sediment. On the bottom barely visible, tiny blue spotted jawfish peered timidly from their burrows in the sand. They emerged showing bi-color slender bodies , but vanished in a split second at the sight of an approaching camera.

   The rocks rising from the seabed were home to many large camouflaged scorpion fish, called stone fish by the locals, as well as timid and playful octopi.
  Small gray stingrays darted across the sand.
 The water temperature was bath tub warm at 84 degrees, and I drifted along beginning to wake up and enjoy a underwater vista I had not seen in years. The visibility was poor and there was a dull green cast to the sea.
  One had to be careful where to touch down for any contact to steady the camera ( which is why I dive with a pointer).

Monday, December 30, 2013

 Whale Sharks of Oslob, Cebu  the trip highlight!!!!
     Thursday June 7, 2012

            Since the Thresher sharks were gone from Pescador, this was the next best thing!

Wake up call at 4 AM,  5:15AM departure from Turtle Bay, and we sped off on a pre-dawn van tour along the sleepy Cebu coastline. The sun slowly peaked over the horizon and dogs ran in the streets, cocks crowed in the gardens and pecked at the edge of the thatched village homes. The water along the shoreline shined like a mirror , tuk-tuks zipped by our van , motor bikes with 4 people clinging to the seat and handlebars weaved in and out of traffic, rice paddies spread gracefully the border of palm tree groves.
 Small towns awakened and shopkeepers swept their entries and opened their doors for the day.

6:30AM  The van pulled down into a parking lot and stopped at the edge of a wall above the beach. Tan thatched cabanas line the sea wall, where we scrambled to don our gear and descend the stone staircase to the bay. We pushed off into the water and swam out to a line of small boats where the whale sharks congregate to be fed by fishermen.
 We dived down… to pandemonium!!

   Ten whale sharks floated beneath the boats, their big mouths agape, and were surrounded by eager swimmers. Below were 20 or more divers, holding cameras, columns of bubbles shooting up , everyone darting about to get a close-up view of the elegant graceful creatures.  These animals were juveniles, so there was room for everyone...sort of! It was difficult to get a clear shot as they were suspended vertically under the boats feeding with their enormous mouths open at the surface.
   In about 45 minutes , the boats retreated and the fish ventured into deeper blue water. The divers split off to get more images. EXCITING and adrenalin pumping action, beyond words!!!!!

   The macro life is abundant and dazzling ! There are ghost pipefish, black coral shrimp,pale green orangutan crabs, tiny mantis shrimp,shrimp gobs, adorable octopus with blue eye rings, ribbon eels, juvenile sweetlips, nudibranchs galore with eggs forming elegant flowery forms on the coral , scorpion fish, little devil stingers, flying guards, LARGE crinoid shrimp. Who knows what you might see next??

 Of course,  the famed green batfish of  Anilao !


           He barely grazed me head on, and I backed up while he still swam toward me , then glided past.
I could not swim quickly enough to keep abreast of him.
 Trailing beneath his belly were several remoras . He was blue gray with lovely spotted skin and a wide pale gray face.He looked serenely ahead and swam past the island. I hope I will meet him again before we leave for Anilao.
  On an afternoon macro dive we saw another example of a trashed reef, decimated by storms or dynamite fishing, or divers, who knows?
 I saw some favorite critters, like a hairy squat lobster with a thick tuft or pale orchid hair.
Banded pipe fish swam in pairs and jousted with the dive guide. A furry orange orangutan crab clung to a cluster of bubble coral .
  Minuscule white crinoid shrimp were were barely discernible in the murky dark water. Turtles abounded with remoras aboard, and then soared off into the blue.

                   Aniloa , Land of Frogfish and all Creatures Small and Exotic.       June 9-17 , 2012

      Hairy orange frogfish, small pink frogfish, giant lavender frogfish, HUGE black frogfish with white
 scalloped toes!

Turtle Bay Resort and Oslob, Cebu, Philippines

  Sunday June 3, 2012

     Typhoons seem to greet me almost everywhere I dive in the Philippines.
    I arrived in Manila at dawn and fly to Cebu, where our group departed in crammed vans over a winding road through jungle covered hills. Rain squalls smattered our windshield with large splashes.
The first day at Turtle Bay was at the tail end of a typhoon and there was no diving, just dark skies and windy blowing and bending the palm trees.

I then discovered my camera housing nada broken part, the shutter lever, so I was not able to shoot underwater. I have no idea how this occurred . The camera rig was working perfectly in Dominican Republic a few months earlier.
 Pescador Island  was a 20 minute boat crossing from the resort dive center. We had been told that whale sharks, schools of sardines, Thresher sharks and abundant marine life lived here. Unfortunately our first dive was in a lackluster wall area , that looked like a BIG storm had battered it to rubble.On the reef top at the end of the dive, I surfaced to see at least 8 or more boats loaded with swimmers, scuba divers, and instructors with brand new students.

  Things improved as our second dive began on the other side of Pesacdor. We rolled in over a gorgeous bed of hard corals sloping onto a wall teeming with schools of anthias , fairy basselets, Moorish Idols, sardines and red tooth trigger fish.I also saw a small school of silvery jacks.There were turtles cursing along. On a flat anemone we found porcelain crabs and banded coral shrimp. A large tomato anemone fish swayed and weaved back to and fro in an alabaster colored bulb tip anemone.
   I could have spent the entire dive at the head of the wall. It was a gorgeous natural aquarium, the
 sort of scene one always hopes to discover but rarely does.

Tuesday June 5, 2012
                                A whale shark encounter at Pescador Island

   My second outing to Pescador began rather routinely, but ended up being the highlight of the trip so far. I had been lucky to dive with my own guide and he was a most excellent spotter!! Two species of frogfish awaited me on the wall- a large pale gray one on a gray sponge, and a small painted yellow and red one with a long pointy nose.
 I saw schools of fish including sardines that glittered and formed into balls and abstract shapes as it passed overhead. Two silvery barracuda slipped past, and turtles were floating silhouetted on the surface.
 Coming back from the second dive, I swam cautiously through murky water filled with jellyfish .I was ever so careful not to get stung.
 I felt a presence to my left out in the blue water . Sure enough to my surprise there was a large beautiful whale shark coming right at me.