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!