Beqa Lagoon Resort Shark Dive - But Not World Class Diving

Above is a video of the Shark Dive at Pacific Harbor and below is a TripAdvisor review I wrote for our trip to Beqa Lagoon, Fiji, in April.  As you will see it is not very flattering.  I am on a mission to get folks to tell the truth about dive locations and operations.  A fools errand I am sure but considering that you will spend thousands of dollars and up to 40 hours travelling half way around the world wouldn't you think that both the dive resort and fellow divers would want to tell the truth.  Well maybe not the dive resort!  World Class Diving it is not!

A Sign I Can Appreciate!

Cozumel Marine Turtle Rescue Program

Unlike a chicken egg embryo a turtle embryo attaches itself to the egg shell and breathes directly through the porous shell membrane. That is why one of the most important things to the little critter’s life is sand. What? Yep, you heard that correct, the properties of the sand, that is the color, composition, compaction and size of the sand granule determines how moist the nest will be over time and that controls the temperature, humidity, salinity and gas exchange necessary for the turtle embryo to develop. Another important consideration is the size of the sand granule. Large sand granules allow the embryo to breathe, taking in oxygen and letting out carbon dioxide. Fine white powder sand, like what you find on a tourist beach, does not provide the right properties for the embryo to survive. That is why the beaches on the windward side of Cozumel are perfect for turtle nests and that is why Mary and I are helping to dig up turtle nests on this evening in September.

Juvenile Spotted Eagle Ray

As our dive boat approached the dock, at Blue Angel Resort in Cozumel, we noticed Jeanie Buscher waiting to greet us. Mary and I had just completed our morning dives at Barracuda and San Juan; what an adrenaline rush, wicked fast current and evil down drafts as you literally fly through the water. Jeanie’s husband Mike had been diving with us so we thought she was there to see Mike. Jeanie leaned in as the boat was being tied off and excitedly told us that Victor had seen a juvenile spotted eagle ray on the Blue Angel shore dive. Mary cut her eyes at me; and that usually means we are “going in again”, and so we hurried to the dive shop with our gear in tow for a fresh tank.

Blue Angel's Sergio and Benji

After our second day of diving with Blue Angel Dive Shop, Mary and I went up to the Blue Angel Restaurant for lunch. Sergio and Benji were our servers and they brought out a large towel to our table and began folding it. Once it was folded they each rolled their end toward the middle stopping every so often, between laughs and giggles, to pull it tight. The towel slowly formed into some sort of head dressing not resembling anything I had ever seen before. Sergio and Benji asked me to close my eyes and then placed the head dressing on my head. You should have seen the confused looks on the diners at the other tables. They did not know whether to laugh or run from this nut! It was awesome! And so began the ritual of Sergio and Benji trying to outdo themselves each day with a new and creative costume for me when I came to lunch.

Devils Throat at Punta Sur

Mary swimming out of the tunnel at 130ft on dive site in Cozumel called Devils Throat and Cathedral.

Arenal Volcano Costa Rica

Monkeys Faces of Costa Rica

Thumbs Up for the Blenny.

Toothless and tiny but with oh so much character this little spiny head blenny is so funny to watch.  Always darting in and out to eat a morsel of plankton its antics are almost comical.  If you hang around it will become comfortable with you and stick out of its worm hole.  Being so tiny it needs to be ever so watchful; notice how it rolls those big eyes, in the photo below, to keep tabs on what is going on around it.  Notice something else in the first photo.  The coral looks similar to a human hand and thumb, complete with fingernail, which adds even more character to the photo.  Thumbs up for the blenny!

Belize - Off the Beaten Path With Alia and Brandon

Mary and I had the pleasure to dive with Alia Statham and Brandon Hill on the Sun Dancer II in Belize.  As we boarded the flight home Alia and Brandon were heading off on another adventure in a remote village in southern Belize.  Called a "home stay" you live for a few days with a family, eating their meals, sleeping in their house and learning about each other.

Brandon wrote me an e-mail of their experience that is both funny and informative so I asked Brandon if I could share it on my site.   These are the experiences that separate a traveler from a tourist.  Mary and I are enriched by meeting folks like Alia and Brandon and we hope you enjoy the story of their Belize "home stay" experience.

Color of Emotion

Little is known about the color patterns of the octopus. They will change their color and shape to hide from predators. A close observation tells us that some patterns seem to display emotion as in this photograph. Is it fear, bravado or surrender? Who knows, but we do know that the octopus displays intelligence so perhaps this is their communication to us but we are not intelligent enough to understand it.

Radisson Pier Belize City After Hurricane Richard

Our Sunday afternoon meal was interrupted by the General Manager of the Radisson Hotel in Belize City with an announcement that Tropical Storm Richard had indeed turned in to a Category 1 Hurricane and was headed directly for Belize City.  He expected it to reach the Radisson around 3pm and gave us a briefing on what to expect.

To our surprise the restaurant was full of people as a group heading to Turneffe Island was forced to take refuge in the hotel.  As soon as the General Manager began speaking a buzz of conversation filled the room and folks started heading to the buffet to take food to their room.  You would have thought this was their last meal as the buffet was cleaned out in a matter of minutes and everyone dispersed quickly to their rooms.

Hello Lionfish - Goodbye Reef?

Consider that in 2003 Mary and I stayed a Lighthouse Reef Resort in Belize and did not spot one lionfish in over twenty dives and then in 2005 and again not one lionfish, yet, last week in 3 ½ days of diving aboard the Sun Dancer II we spotted over 50.

Mary and I observed that the lionfish has a tendency to huddle and hunt in groups of three to four. The group will pin their prey with their pectoral fins before swallowing them whole. Recent research by Dr. Mark Hixon and his team from Oregon State University with support from NOAA’s Undersea Research Program (NURP) found that lionfish reduce the net recruitment of coral reef fishes by an estimated 80%. The consequences to the Caribbean eco-system cannot be overemphasized. Dr. Hixon’s team observed one lionfish eating 20 small wrasses during a 30 minute period. Recent studies have disclosed that the small fish that are consumed by the lionfish, (stomach content analysis has documented predation of cleaner fish), if reduced significantly will impact the abundance of reef fish by one-fourth and diversity by one-half.

Happy Halloween!

Sailfin Blenny

The Sailfin Blenny is only about 1-2 inches and very hard to get a photo of because it will dart from it's hole and then dart back. We found this little guy at a dive site called Tormentos in Cozumel. A little patience allowed me to photograph the rarely seen but distinctive sailfin.

Magnificent Feather Duster

Perched on the tip of a giant star coral head this large crown of radioles offset beautifully with blue water background. Although magnificent this is really a worm. The appendages, radioles, act as both its gills and a way to capture plankton, that are then moved to its mouth located in the center of the feathery crown.

Reef Scorpionfish

Nestled in a crevice we found this timid looking reef scorpionfish. You will notice the black spines of a long-spine urchin hanging over the scorpionfish. These long barbed spines are needle-sharp, just the right protection for a skittish little fish that needs to get some rest.

We tried several times to get a better shot but the reef scorpionfish kept moving around and every time my flash went off he moved to a different spot. You can’t see it but the wall was covered with long-spined urchins and every time I moved in closer the spines would rotate and point toward my hands making for a very unpleasant experience on several occasions.

I have rarely seen a reef scorpionfish that was not using a long-spine urchin for protection. I believe this may be a symbiotic relationship called facultative commensalism, which means that the scorpionfish gets a safe place to rest (smart little bugger) but the long-spine sea urchin receives no benefit from the relationship.

I really like the color and texture of this sponge. Notice the reef scorpionfish in the background.

Tipping Point

Perched precariously upon dead coral the barrel sponge (It may be a leathery barrel sponge) has grown so rapidly that it has overgrown its host. Any unprotected surface on a damaged coral head will permit a sponge to colonize it. This is one reason that dive guides ask us to be careful to not touch or hit live coral with our fins.

Overshadowing the coral the barrel sponge prevents light from reaching it and as boring sponges burrow into it from below they will eventually erode and destroy the whole coral head.

Warty Corallimorph

Below me was a large mat of beautiful underwater flowers. I put my hand over the golden wart like tentacles that radiated out from the center and felt the rubbery texture. Puzzled, I could not identify what this critter was. It looked like an anemone but the pattern told me it might be something else. I motioned to Mary and pointed, she gave me this I do not know shrug and placed her hand over the tentacles. I took out my slate and wrote “anemone?” and she shook her head with a look of uncertainty so I took a couple of quick photos to identify it when we got home.

We were diving with Kay Wilson of Indigo Dive St. Vincent at “The Steps”. This dive site is next to the shore of St. Vincent at an ancient (relatively speaking) spot where islanders would come to bath and throw their trash out. You might find a treasure of trash sunk into the sand like old bottles but more than likely, you will find a wealth of critters on this dive.