Lovo Feast - Taveuni, Fiji

People often ask me where my favorite dive spot is. It is very difficult to answer that question because each location offers something different or unique. So I cannot honestly say I have a single favorite dive spot but I can say I have a single favorite dive resort and that is Paradise Resort on the Garden Island of Taveuni, Fiji. Owned by Allan and Terri Gortan it is an absolute delight for those of us who are travellers and seek the adventure of remote locations. This is our story of the Lovo Feast at Paradise Resort. While each village and resort has a lovo Feast what made this such a memorable experience, for Mary and me, was the personal attention and openness of the the staff at Paradise. Such joy is rarely found but is in abundance at Paradise Resort.

Cleaning Station

The cleaning station is where fish go to get parasites picked off their body by juvenile fish, small wrasses, gobies or shrimp.  You may see a fish with its head up, fins out and mouth open, this is one typical position to signify that it is ready to be cleaned.  Many times you will see a moray eel or a large grouper sitting motionless, with its mouth open, while a shrimp or cleaner fish cleans the inside of its mouth.  A gentle shake of the grouper or eels head signifies to the cleaner that the cleaning is done and they both part ways, each having gained from the bargain.  One got a free bath and the other a free meal.

Christmas Reef Wreath - Merry Christmas!

Littering the ocean floor around the island of Statia in the Caribbean are numerous anchors some of them dating back hundreds of years.  Many were caught on coral and had to be cut away so the ship could sail.  Some were cut away to free the ship from approaching storms or enemy ships.  Over time these anchors have become encrusted with generations of coral and sponge.

Leaf Scorpionfish

On the Fijian island of Viti Levu we stayed at a remote resort called Wananavu which means wonderful in Fijian. This scorpionfish was perched on a coral head at a dive site called Vatu Express in the Bligh Waters. Yes it is named after the famous Captain Bligh of Mutiny on the Bounty fame. It is a beautiful dive site with clear water, lots of hard and soft coral and an abundance of fish life.

The scorpionfish is an ambush predator that will normally rest on the bottom until prey comes within range. They have the ability to change color for better camouflage. This fish is of the yellow variation but can also be white, pink, tan, brown and black with mottling. While the scorpionfish looks docile it does have venomous fin spines with poison embedded on both sides of their spines.

Cuttlefish at Lionfish Rock

The first and last giant stride you make, off the Palau Aggressor, is at the first dive site called Lionfish Rock.  All other dives are conveniently made from a skiff that is lowered into the water with you in it.

If you were to ask me what irritates me most about diving, I would say it is the obligatory T.A.D.  TAD is an acronym I made up for "Throw Away Dive".  Each dive shop has you do a TAD to check you out and usually it is a monumental waste of underwater experience.  So most TAD's really are throw away dives, but, not on the Aggressor.  This first dive was one of our favorite and the reason was the Cuttlefish at Lionfish Rock.

Dark Descent

One of the great things about scuba diving is that you get to meet interesting people from all over the world.  On a dive, at Ulong Channel in Palau, I looked over my shoulder and saw Gabriel Ganme descending into the cavern.  Taking a quick shot, without flash, I didn't think anything more about it until I reviewed it later.  Notwithstanding the fact that the fins merge with the coral and reduce the balance of the composition I really like this silhouette because it adds a  perspective of ominous surrealism to the underwater scene.

Gabriel Ganme is an instructor in Sao Paulo, Brazil at the Diving College.  Mary and I dove with Gabriel's group in both Palau and Yap.

Eel Wars at Watamula

At a dive site called Watamula, in Curacao, Mary had spotted a free swimming spotted moray eel so I moved in to take a photograph.  I was framing a shot for one eel when suddenly another one popped up from the sand, giving me a unique photograph of two spotted moray eels in one shot. Immediately upon taking the photo, one eel attacked the other eel. A fierce battle ensued, resulting in an lightening attack that displayed the strength and agility of these magnificient creatures.  One of the eels came out of the coral at lightening speed headed directly toward me and a part of my anatomy that shall remain nameless.  I put my camera down to block him, from the aforementioned nameless private parts, as he rushed past me and circled back to engage in another heated exchange, that I was just able to catch on video.  It all happened so fast that I really was lucky to get any of it.  Of course, Mary was laughing at me the whole time!

Black Brotula - A Lucky Find

At a dive site in Curacao, called Jeremy, I was struggling with focusing my camera on a juvenile trunkfish, the size of a green pea, when Mary banged her tank and gave me the come here sign. She was pointing excitedly toward an opening between two coral mounds. You almost had to stand on your head to see into it and at first I could see nothing. Mary shined her light into the tunnel and we waited. Suddenly a small creature, no bigger than 1-1 ½ inches, darted across the light beam. Its locomotion was ribbon like with a blunt head and tapered torso surrounded by continuous dorsal and anal fins ending in a pointed tail.

Humphead Wrasse

Diving Palau aboard the Aggressor Liveaboard, Mary and I came across this Humphead Wrasse, also called a Maori or Napoleon Wrasse. They are one of the largest fish and can live up to 30 years. They are friendly and not afraid to approach divers. Threatened by overfishing they are knocked out with cyanide gas and served live in some Asian countries. Going for over $100USD per kilogram it may not be long before there are no more Humphead Wrasse.

The Humphead Wrasse can grow to over 7.5ft (229 cm). You can get an idea of how big this one is in relation to the diver. It is huge...the fish not the diver!

Man House - Hidden Art of Yap

The island of Yap is located in Micronesia, between Palau and Guam.  Mary and I had travelled to Yap to see manta rays after a week of diving Palau.  On a surface interval Gordon, our divemaster, took us to see a Man House.

Each village has a man house, sort of a community dwelling like a city hall, where official business of the village is conducted.

On our visit Gordon relayed a story that the night before the elders of the village had held a council, at the man house, to discuss the the fate of two teenage boys.  They had apparently damaged someones property and it was up to the elders to determine how the boys would be punished.

Curacao Underwater - A Photographic Selection

Mary and I just returned from Curacao where we stayed at the Kura Hulanda Lodge on the West End and dove with Ocean Encounters West.  To view a selection of photographs of Curacao Underwater please click on the link below.

Photographs of Curacao Underwater

Sergeant Major Egg Feeding Frenzy

Sergeant Majors are damselfish, feisty little fish, with five distinct vertical black stripes from which they derive their name. They lay their eggs in round patches on hard structures and the male generally guards them like a pit bull.

We found this purple nest of eggs on a dive in Curacao called "Airplane". Someone had the brilliant idea to sink a Fokker Fairchild 27 airplane onto an otherwise healthy reef not realizing that in a few years time it would become a junk pile of aluminum and wire. What we found interesting was that surrounding the "junk pile" were a myriad of sergeant major nests where high drama in real life was taking place.

This nest was being guarded by two sergeant majors, male and female, but they were quickly overwhelmed by the ferocity of the feeding frenzy. Yellowhead wrasse, bluehead wrasse, parrotfish, other damselfish and even a graysby join in the feeding. The poor sergeant major loses his eggs in a matter of seconds.

First Lionfish Sighting On West Side of Curacao

Watamula is the northern most, and most pristine, dive site in Curacao. At the mooring you can see the white-caps from the windward point to the north and the rock cliffs to the east. Upon descent you see a sandy bit of bottom with robust giant soft coral surrounded by an expanse of hard coral not yet damaged by human encroachment.

Hovering near a giant soft coral, Toni McNally, our dive master with Ocean Encounters West, got my attention and clasped her hands with interlocking fingers and then excitedly pointed at the base of a soft coral. Not recognizing the sign I swam over to look and found a juvenile lionfish.

Toni later told us that this was the first sighting of a lionfish on the west side of Curacao. So I had, in another Forrest Gump moment, taken the first photograph of the first lionfish sighting on the west side on Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 11:00a.m. If I had known the significance I definitely would have composed a better photograph, but, I was really focused on finding a seahorse we had seen on a previous dive, and didn’t give the shot due consideration.

While excited at the find we are also concerned with the damage the introduction of an alien species may cause to the local reef system. In a previous posting, Lionfish – Alien Invasion, we discussed that the lionfish is a prolific breeder with a less than discriminating appetite. With no known predators its presence, unfortunately, may create unintended consequences to the health of the reefs.

Tale of Encrusting Sponge Scary Face

Of the island of Bonaire is a dive site called Witches Hut home to the diver eating Encrusting Sponge Scary Face.....

...and the monsterous Witches Hand.

Many divers have decended into the depths at Witches Hut only to be dragged down by the Witches Hand and eatin by the evil Encrusting Sponge Scary Face. It is said that on Halloween night you can see all the divers rise up from the deep to reclaim their lost certification cards....

Have a Great Halloween!

A Great Day to Dive!

One of our favorite islands is Utila, off the coast of Honduras, where we always stay at Laguna Beach Resort. Utila is known for great diving, and if you are lucky, whale sharks. Wagner, our boat captain, has a true gift for finding whale sharks.

On this special day we were doing our surface interval in the channel when Wagner spied a flock of birds circling and swooping down to the water in the distance. It was whale sharks feeding. As the whale shark comes up from the depth, with its big mouth open, schools of baitfish try to escape and boil up to the surface. The birds swoop in to feed.

Wagner said he would put us right on top of the whale shark, all we had to do was wait until he said jump.

With mask, snorkel and fins we jumped on the given signal and swam down with a lung full of air. In the abyss I could see something huge coming straight toward us but I was too mesmerized to move. My lungs were beginning to burn for fresh air but there was no way I was going to miss this experience. Suddenly the huge fish was upon us with its mouth open wide enough to swallow us whole. I looked over at Mary and her eyes were wide with excitement. I just knew it was going to hit me but it made a graceful turn. As it glided by it looked at me with an inquiring eye and the gentle giant’s dorsal and tail fin narrowly missed me.

Shark Bites: by the Numbers

400 million
How long sharks have existed on planet Earth.
20-100 million
The number of sharks killed by humans each year.
The number of humans killed by sharks each year.
How many teeth a shark may use over its lifetime. Sharks never run out of teeth; when one is lost, another spins up front from the rows of backup teeth.
How many months a great white shark can go without feeding.
Speed, in MPH, of the shortfin mako. Making it the world's fastest shark.
Length, in feet, that the worlds largest shark, (actually a fish), the whale shark, can grow to. Don't worry, it eats plankton!
Blood money paid for shark fins per kilogram- this is what ignorant people pay so they can eat soup!

source: National Geographic News

Donor's Choose Challenge! We Still Need Your Donation!

Wow, with the help of Kevin and Dr. M at Deep Sea News and Lauren, an environmental educator for a park in NYC , our challenge was met and as a result Memories has made a matching contribution of $50. That brings Memories contribution for the Ocean Bloggers Oceans in the Classrom Initiative to $175! Read below the projects our donations will help to fund.    

Nemo in the Classroom" or "Invertebrates in my Tank"
"I am the teacher for the districts 5th Grade Gifted and Talented students. Our district pulls out these students for 2 days a week to come to our campus for enriched classes of differentiated instruction. We try to have students use knowledge and make connections between subjects and create projects of high quality.

Breaking Science News
"My project will expose students to current events in Science through Weekly Reader's "Current Science" magazine. Most of my students are from impoverished backgrounds and have received few chances of being exposed to current events. Most of the households do not receive newspapers.

Experience Sea Floor Spreading
"Have you ever wondered what happens at our last frontier in the depths of the ocean on the sea floor?
My 6th grade science class lives in a high poverty area that is located far from any sea or ocean. Many students have never had the experience of seeing the ocean. Most students coming into 6th grade have little knowledge of the sea floor or what occurs there.

Remember there are still unfunded projects needing donations and you help by making a donation at DonorsChoose.org.

Be sure and visit Deep Sea News to read: We Did It! But We Can Do So Much More!

Save the Oceans!: One Kid at a Time and YOU can help!

Every so often an opportunity presents itself to allow us to pass on to future generations the wonders of our most precious resource, the living seas.  Memories is proud to be teaming with other Ocean Bloggers to promote Ocean Literacy through an "Oceans in the Classroom Initiative".  This worthy initiative allows individual K-12 teachers to bring ocean literacy to the classroom through educational projects designed to teach about coral reefs, marine life and science of the sea.

As you know the oceans are being strained from a myriad of environmental impacts.  The survival of healthy oceans depends on future generations understanding, respecting and enjoying the oceans of the world.  Your financial assistance can help in a large way toward ocean literacy.

Please take a look at the Ocean Bloggers Oceans in the Classroom Initiative and help us bring ocean literacy to the classroom.  The wonderful teachers developing these projects are resourceful and creative so any donation is appreciated.  A donation of $10 helps to reach many students and of course the more we donate the more students we reach.

Memories wants to thank Deep-Sea News, The Right Blue, and all the other ocean and nature bloggers  for allowing us the opportunity to participate as a sponsor in such a worthy cause.

Please visit the DonorsChoose.org site and donate today!

Lionfish - Alien Invasion

Beauty and timidity belie the lionfish’s true demeanor; that of an efficient predator. Docile during the day, the lionfish is a very effective hunter at night. It uses its fanned-out pectoral fins, like fingers, to trap small prey  which it stuns with its venomous dorsal spines before swallowing them whole.

Welcome to Jellyfish Lake - Palau

You hike up this steep trail, holding on to roots, to get to the Jellyfish Lake. As you descend the trail you see a dock not unlike others you might see around a lake. There is some apprehension about being the first person to enter the water, but my excitement cannot wait, so I quickly don my mask and snorkel to ease into the lake.

Jellyfish Lake is a salt water lake located in the Rock Islands of the Pacific island of Palau. It was morning, the sun was low, and as I swam through the lake I didn't see any jellyfish. Just as I entered the area of the lake with the greatest sunlight there they were, millions of them, glowing and moving through the water with a throbbing rhythm.

These jellyfish have been isolated in this salt water lake for millions of years and, as a result, have evolved very small stinging cells so you can snorkel with them without risk of being stung.

The dock at Jellyfish Lake

The unassuming Jellyfish Lake


Have you ever had a Forrest Gump moment? When you just happen to be present at an historic moment but did not know it.

On the morning of March 18, 2003, Mary and I were sitting on the steps of the Sydney Opera House when we saw people running around the building.

Right over our heads two guys had climbed the building and painted “NO WAR” in big red letters on the roof. Needless to say it was quite a big deal and not a little embarrassing to the local police who were suppose to be on extra alert for terrorists.

These two guys climbed the building carrying paint buckets and brushes up to the building’s highest sail and nobody notices until it is over. This was our Forrest Gump moment.

Unbeknownst to us it was also the eve of the Iraq war and this was the initial protest.

The next day we waited at our hotel to take a van to the Sydney Airport. The driver was noticeable nervous but we have no clue why. So we all blissfully pile into the van when he says we need to leave early. He tries to enter the main highway only to be blocked by police barricades and hundreds of protesters. I ask the driver what is going on and he says “guess you haven’t heard mate but your Bush declared war today.”

He took another turn and more police on horseback blocking our route. He backed up, turned around and took another street, still more protesters and police. After over two hours of stop and go traffic on side streets we finally get to the airport. Only problem is we have missed our flight time by an hour.

We go to the Qantas ticket counter to see if we can get on another flight and the guy says “no worries, you didn’t miss your flight because the plane hasn’t arrived from Cairns yet.” Seems there was a baggage strike and our flight was delayed. We spent three more hours in the Sydney Airport before the plane finally arrived.

Building crew power washing the NO WAR off the Sail

Flamingo Tongue

Grand Turk dive sites are filled with gorgonians and sea fans that are home to, and food for, the colorful snail called a Flamingo Tongue. Extended over its shell is a skin, called a mantle, that is not only colorful but also acts as its gills. The Flamingo Tongue holds onto the gorgonian with a short leathery pad or foot and drags itself slowly to feed on the polyps that make up the gorgonian. Their scientific name is Gastropoda (stomach foot) Prosobranchia (forward gill).

Dominica - Diving the Nature Island of the Caribbean

We arrived in Dominica on Saturday afternoon after a spending a night in San Juan Puerto Rico. In San Juan we stayed at the Hampton Inn and ate dinner at a really nice Puerto Rican restaurant next door called the Metropol. The food is traditional and reasonable priced. I ordered garlic pork with tamale, black beans and rice, Mary got the sampler plate. The food is very good, just make sure you have enough Rolaids you will need them.

Lambert and Martin from Ken's Hinterland Tours met us at the airport in Marigot Dominica. While Mary and I were traveling alone, another group of divers from Arizona was arriving at the same time, We all were driven in a tour bus by Lambert to Roseau. The drive to Roseau takes about one and a half hours across the Island on a very narrow winding road. The scenery and topography is fascinating. You pass small desolate villages with houses made of cement blocks and tin roofs. See Beautiful Atlantic Ocean vistas with warm inviting beaches and rolling thunderous waves. Cross over fast moving rivers of crystal clear water cascading over huge boulders. View banana plantations on rolling hills with blue plastic bags tied around the fruit. Pass through National Reserves with unspoiled beauty, cascading waterfalls and every shade of green you can imagine. See Street hawkers, at intersections, in rags selling grapefruit and oranges. Avoid cows and goats grazing on the side of the road. Exotic flowers you toil over back home grow wild on the side of the road in addition to orange, lime, avocado and palm trees.
Marigot Street crafts
The kids were very interested in watching the craftsman work.

Sea Squirts

Believe it or not this is an animal. It is called a green tube tunicate or a sea squirt. It has no head but does have a nervous, digestive, reproductive and circulatory system. It feeds on plankton through openings called siphons. The incurrent siphon takes in water, passes it over tiny gills, and then it is discharged through the excurrent siphon.

Tunicates get their name from the cellulose material covering its body called a tunic. These critters usually attach themselves to rocks and extend out to feed. They look like a green plastic tube but if you disturb them they will rapidly close their siphon.

Although tunicates are quite common, the green tube tunicate is rarely found because most divers do not even recognize them. Mary found this one on a dive in Utila.

Toutou, Snakes and Get Off My Reef!

As we swam over the coral mounds onto a sandy bottom, Toutou took off after something. Mary and I stopped to admire a nudibranch on one of the many coral fingers that gave this dive its name “Coral Gardens.” Toutou was definitely chasing something and motioned us over for a closer look. He had captured a banded sea snake.

The banded sea snake is extremely poisonous but its mouth is generally not big enough to bite you except for between the fingers. Banded sea snake venom is neurotoxic and it only takes about 1.5 milligrams to be fatal. These snakes produce 10-15 milligrams of venom making them 10 times more lethal than a rattlesnake or black mamba.

Another interesting fact about the banded sea snake is that it lives in the water but breathes air. Because its left lung runs almost the entire length of their body it only has to come up for air every 8 hours or so.

Toutou is from the Village of Vuna on the island of Taveuni in Fiji and we were diving Vuna Reef that belongs to his tribe. As a member of the tribe he is responsible for protecting the tribal rights to the water. One day we came up from a dive at Vuna Reef and there was a cruise ship anchored in the tribal waters. They had sent out a small boat with divers on it. Toutou asked to be let off on the boat to speak with them. Later I asked Toutou what he said. He said he told them that these waters belong to the Chief of Vuna Village. That it was a great insult to be on these waters without first asking permission from the Chief and that they must purchase Kava to present to the Chief to ask for permission. A very polite way of saying "get off my reef!"

Bet You Can't Guess? Name this Beach

The results of the "Name this beach" challenge are in

43% of the folks taking the survey said Bondi Beach. 5% said Seven Mile Beach. 52% said Ulong Beach and 0% said Wakiki Beach.

And the answer is Ulong Beach in Palau. If you saw Survivor Palau this is the beach that the Ulong Tribe inhabited for the 2005 episode.

Of course this beach was famous way before the reality show Survivor. It is know for its amazing sandy white beach, beautiful tropical flowers and turquoise waters. Oh, and RATS, big ones, that the locals call coconut squirrels. Used as a surface interval for scuba divers and a rest stop for sailboats for years it was one of Palau's best kept secrets. Many of Mary's favorite dive sites are near this island and this is one of her favorite beaches.

For those folks that selected Bondi beach it is the famous beach near Sydney Australia. Seven Mile beach is a sandy white beach on island of Grand Cayman in the Caribbean and Waikiki beach is of course on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.

Taveuni Elementary School

We were walking with the groundskeeper of Paradise Resort when he mentioned that his daughter went to the school we passed and invited us to visit the school. The children had won a soccer game and were celebrating the victory with a lunch prepared by their parents. In the photographs you can see the smoke from the cooking fire next to the building. Notice the children lined up with plates in their hands.

Children are precious to the Fijian people and if you cannot have a child a family member may offer to have a child for you and release that child to you as your own. This was the story of the groundskeeper who was unable with his wife to have a child so his brother and sister-in-law offered to have a child for them.

To view photographs of the school children go our gallery at Taveuni Elementary School.

The Chiton Lady's World is Flat

I remember reading a book by Thomas Friedman called “The World is Flat”. The premise of this book is that the world is getting smaller and more globalized through technology. There is a question he asked in the book that I had not given thought to until I came up from a dive one day in Bonaire.

Mary and I were staying at the Divi Resort and decided to do an afternoon shore dive. After the dive Mary went back to the room and I stayed under the pier to look for blennies and gobies. As I was coming up from the dive next to the rocky shore I startled a woman prying something from the rocks. She had a baggie in one hand and a knife in the other so I asked her what she was doing. She showed me the bag filled with some kind of fish meat and said she was getting chitons to eat. She was in a raggedy t-shirt and worn out shorts, no shoes and here she was prying these chitons off rocks to make soup for her supper. I spoke with her a while, stowed my gear and went back to the room.

I was in the room completing my dive log when I heard a voice outside the sliding glass door facing the ocean. I opened the door and there was the “chiton lady” standing on a rock looking out over the ocean, knife and baggie in one hand and cell phone to her ear, having a lively conversation.

Looking at the lady standing there I thought of Mr. Friedman’s question. “When did you first realize the world was flat?” For me it was the “chiton lady”.

When Mary and I first started traveling you were hard pressed to even find a telephone but now cell phones are ubiquitous; even chiton ladies have them. Once upon a time beach side hotels were surrounded by palm trees and mangroves and the only “hot spot” was the local bar not some Wi Fi java joint. But things change.

Leave a comment and let us know when you first realize that the world was flat.

Bull Sharks of Bat Island

Jutting abruptly from the sea is a spit of volcanic rock next to Bat Island also called Islas Murcielagos, or the Islands of the Bat. This is to be our dive site, this rock, surrounded by surge and current and aptly named "Big Scare". This same surge and current attracts large schools of snapper, wahoo, pompano, horse-eyed jacks and eagle rays. And, bull sharks!

Our dive master was Diego. We had met Diego the year before in a chance encounter at the Greater International Airport of Utila, Honduras (a lean-to next to a crushed shell airstrip and a large bra hanging from the ceiling). We were there to dive and Diego was there to get advanced instructor training. Diego is from Costa Rica and we struck up a conversation, exchanged addresses and went our separate ways.

The following year Mary and I walk into the dive shop at Ocotal Resort in Costa Rica and who do we meet but Diego. Call it fate or circumstance but this is how we came to dive Bat Island in search of bull sharks.

As we descended into the dive the surge became worse. The schools of fish undulated and I found myself getting seasick. The visibility was very poor only about 15 feet. Mary is following Diego and I am looking into the abyss for sharks when I see something that looks like a submarine coming straight toward me. It is a bull shark and begins to circle me. Soon others arrive, all between 8 – 15 feet long, and begin circling as I try to take pictures in the murky water. As the circle becomes tighter I notice that when my back is to the bull sharks they advance toward me but when I turn toward them they glide away.

I had gotten separated from Mary and Diego and as I began to ascend in search of their bubbles the bull sharks kept circling. Finally I saw bubbles and swam over to them. They too were enjoying the bull sharks but soon the sharks lost interest in us and disappeared into the abyss.

Leave us your comment and let us know what your most memorable shark moment was?

Sistine Chapel of Saba

Nestled on a volcanic peak of a tiny Dutch island called Saba, pronounced "Say-bay", is the Sacred Heart Church. Located in the village of The Bottom, this church has a magnificent mural around the alter painted by Heleen Comet. It took over 2 years to complete the mural and what makes it unique is that Heleen incorporated local plants and architecture but also used faces of local children for the faces of the cherubs. As you look at the lovely and timeless faces you cannot help but wonder what became of the lives of these children as they grew up.

The Rapture of the Deep

Many divers, especially baby boomers, dream of being able to give up their job and go live on some exotic island teaching SCUBA. Michael Zensley's lively tale, of seven years wondering the globe as a SCUBA instructor, is a must read for folks with that dream. The book is written like a blog post and is filled with humor, history, and personal stories that the author says "you probably shouldn't know". The underwater adventure and entertaining characters make you want to continue reading. Mary and I have visited and dived many of the places described in the book so we could relate to the experiences and anecdotes. For those that are non-divers the colorful stories, of kava ceremonies in Fiji to chicken wars in St. Lucia, descriptions of diving and island life will be truly entertaining to you.

Southern Stingray Feeding

In our post Southern Stingray Evil Monster of the Sea we wrote about the southern stingray. This video of a feeding stingray displays his grace and beauty and there is a guest appearance from Mary.

Attack of the Barracuda

Barracudas have lightening fast speed with dagger like teeth that will slice their prey in half. They are very curious and will closely approach you and sometimes even follow you around. That can be a little un-nerving but I have never known one to attack a diver, yet.

While diving next to Diamond Rock in Saba I noticed a barracuda coming toward me at very fast speed. I turned back to the wall but looked back over my shoulder and he was still approaching so I threw up my camera to get a picture but he closed the distance so fast he literally filled my lens.

On one trip to Cozumel all of the dive masters we knew were missing. I asked why and was told that they were all in the hospital because they had eaten barracuda and got ciguatera poisoning. I did not really know what that was at the time but later learned that the barracuda, being an apex predator, can accumulate the ciguatera toxin from eating herbivorous fish that also have accumulated toxins from eating seasonal algae. Cooking does not kill the toxin so that sounds a little too much like Russian roulette for me so I stay away from eating barracuda.

While diving in Utila we noticed a barracuda attack a bar jack and slice him in half. We didn't get the attack on camera but did capture the aftermath. At the very start of the video you can see the back half of the bar jack falling as a school of black durgons move in to feast until a yellow fin grouper decided he wanted the prize all to himself. Notice how the yellow fin grouper keeps a watchful eye on me as he guards his meal.

Mystical Hidden Garden of Utila

Tucked away on Utila is a mystical garden of hidden secrets made of glass, shell, stone and ceramic. A wonderland for adults, and children, of eccentric yet creative art. Colorful and decorative cottages for rent surround the artistic enclave. Truly a unique oasis in a tropical paradise.
Click on the link to view photographs of the Mystical Hidden Garden of Jade Seahorse.

Sharks of Vertigo Wall - Freakin Awesome Dude!

We had been diving for almost two weeks straight, first Palau and then Yap, with a group from Brazil. We were pretty much exhausted as we finished our morning dive on our next to last day in Yap. We were diving with Yap Divers and having great success finding Mantas. But our ever energetic Brazilian friends talked us into doing the afternoon shark dive, with a little nudging from our local Dive Master Gordon. To be polite we agreed to go with them on the dive, not really expecting much after all we had done shark dives many times before.

We had no clue what a wonderful dive this would be. Most of the diving in Yap is done in the Miil Channel, to see Mantas, but this dive is outside of the channel on a reef that drops off to 300 feet to the bottom. Gordon put me right on the edge of the reef within a few feet of the bait ball and then the excitement began. A ball of swarming fish soon appeared and the circling gray and back tip sharks advanced and lined up in some mysterious communal order. I was in the middle of the action, literally knocking sharks off with my camera. Upon reaching the surface I remember saying to Gordon, "freakin awesome dude", and Gordon smiled at me with his betel nut red stained teeth and said "I was worried you were too close".

Southern Stingray- Evil Monsters of the Sea?

Ever since Steve Erwin's death in 2006 stingrays have received bad press as evil monsters of the sea. In 2008 a woman died from a collision when she was struck by a ray that jumped out of the water in a freak accident in the Florida Keys. She was sitting in the front seat of a boat going 25 mph when a 75-pound spotted eagle ray leapt from the water and hit her in the face and she died from blunt trauma to the head caused by the collision with the eagle ray. So I can see why it may be difficult for some people to not be frightened of stingrays. But like most creatures they are doing what stingrays do and are both graceful and harmless.

The Caribbean Southern Stingray can grow quite large, over five feet, including body and whip-like tail that has one or two venomous spines on it. You will usually see them scurrying around the sand looking for crustaceans to eat or buried in the sand with only their eyes exposed. You can closely approach a stingray and they are generally unconcerned. I have had them rake my legs with their spines and while it is a little unsettling I never felt concerned.

The stingray is a wonder to watch as it glides through the water like a kite in the wind and then suddenly plunges into the sand to eat. An opportunistic Bar Jack is usually shadowing the ray to pick up a free meal as the ray digs in the sand.

Our Most Memorable Experience with Flying Gurnards

Our most memorable experience with flying gurnards was in Dominica. We were staying at Castle Comfort and had a wonderful dinner of calalloo soup, made from the dasheen leaf that looks like an elephant ear, with glazed lamb chops, blackeye peas, eggplant and spinach casserole all served up special by Ms. Roselyn our cook. After dinner we suited up to do a night dive and made a giant stride off of the pier. The night was alive with octopus, lesser electric rays, and balloonfish. As we headed out to the sandy flats we were sweeping the turtle grass with our lights and suddenly we were surrounded by hundreds of flying gurnards.

The gurnards acted as though they were in a trance. We glided right over them and it was eerie like a horror movie. These things are ugly in the day time but at night they are frightening. They looked like porcupinefish with wings and as far as our lights would reach we saw nothing but flying gurnards.

Unfortunately we did not have our camera to record the event that night but later at St. Kitts, while diving off the Caribbean Explorer II, we were able to get pictures and video of a flying gurnard. All photographs and videos on this site were taken by Mary or me including those from my YouTube site.

Dominica Social Centre

Dominica is a fascinating island with narrow winding roads, small desolate villages with houses made of cement blocks and tin roofs. Fast moving rivers of crystal clear water cascade over huge boulders through banana plantations on rolling hills with blue plastic bags tied around the fruit. The National Reserves are unspoiled beauty with waterfalls and every shade of green you can imagine. In the towns street hawkers in rags sell grapefruit and oranges. Cows and goats graze along the side of the road and flowers you may toil over back home grow wild on the side of the road along with orange, lime avocado and palm trees. But the greatest treasure of Dominica is it's people.

Mary and I brought toys and supplies for the children of The Social Centre and a lovely lady, Mrs. Dorothy Henderson, arranged to pick us up and bring us to the Centre. We spent a wonderful afternoon meeting Mrs. White, the Director, and her staff. The children were all dressed in green, the national color, and they were an absolute delight to meet.

On our last night on the island Mrs White and Mrs. Henderson took us to hear a local band play. We had a barbeque dinner with lively dancing afterward. I must say that these ladies could really dance!