Down Draft at Villa Blanca Wall

Villa Blanca Wall is a sloping wall just offshore Cozumel with a ripping current. Before Hurricane Wilma, in 2005, it was peppered with huge sponges and gorgonians. Wilma pretty much wiped these out and covered everything with white sand. This is still a great dive and the changes to the reef don’t seem to have reduced the number of fish and critters, quite the opposite, for some reason there seem to be more.

Mary and I have been diving Cozumel for years and have both fond and frightful memories of Villa Blanca Wall. My most memorable dive there was with a young dive guide that, for some idiotic reason, decided to go against the current. Mind you Cozumel diving is pretty much all drift diving and to go against any strong current, much less one at Villa Blanca Wall, is insane.

Bluespotted Cornetfish

Ascending to the top of the reef, at Alice in Wonderland, Curacao,  I noticed out of the corner of my mask blue spots.  Staying perfectly still were two bluespotted cornetfish just to my left.  I had heard about the bluespotted cornetfish schooling but had never seen more than one at a time so I approached them very slowly expecting them to bolt at any second.  To my amazement they both stayed long enough for me to get some video and a couple of shots.

What really strikes you about the bluespotted cornetfish is how oddly shaped they are.  With a long thin body, bright blue spots and blue stripes and a very long tail that looks like the business end of a foil they definitely are odd-shaped swimmers of the sea.

Star Puffer

Rounding a coral mound on a dive site called Golden Crown in Viti Levu Fiji we spotted a large fish just sitting on the bottom.  We approached it very slowly and got real close but it lay perfectly still, not moving anything not even its eyes.  I was thinking it must be dead or hurt but as I moved closer I noticed the eyes swivel slowly as it followed Mary's movement.  I could not identify the fish so took a series of shots and forgot about the encounter until we got home. 

We discovered later that it was a Star Puffer and it likes to rest on the bottom all day and eat at night.

Waitatavi Bay, Fiji - Surface Interval at the End of the World

Across the Somosomo Straits from Taveuni is the remote beach of FijiFiji at Waitatavi Bay on the island of Vanua Levu. If you dive the famous and spectacular Rainbow Reef you will most likely make a surface interval at this remote paradise. A crescent shaped white sand beach surrounded by palm trees, you could not imagine a more beautiful place to off gas after diving Purple Wall or The Zoo.

Close your eyes and you hear the gentle whisper of waves on the soft sand, the far away melody of tropical birds and gentle rustle of palm fronds. Open your eyes and the sparkling clear water reveals the shallow pristine coral that jumps out at you in a rainbow of colors like jewels under glass. Look over the Straits back toward Taveuni and you see the beautiful mountains of the Garden Island with fluffy cotton white clouds adorning the peaks. Wade in the warm water and clouds of brave little bream dance around you gently pecking at your legs. Take a walk on the sandy white beach and you feel like you have truly arrived at the end of the world.

Now That's Amore! - Octopus Style

Debris of shells and coral at the opening of an old tank was our first clue that an octopus lair was inside.  No telling how many divers had finned right over the tank without spotting the octopus.  Talk about hiding in plain site, she could not have chosen a busier place to set up her nursery, right next to the pier steps where dozens of divers entered and existed each day.  Yet none of the other divers mentioned having seen her and we kept her secret to ourselves.  On each shore dive we would stop to say hello on our way out and upon our return we would peek in to say goodbye.  Of course the octopus could have cared less but it was a fun ritual anyway.

Gibbs Cay with Tim Dunn

Tim had the throttle of the Carolina Skiff wide open as we skipped over the surf weaving in and out of clear turquoise water. As we rounded the south end of the island and hit the eastern trade winds the ride became rougher and we were showered with sea spray. Turning north Tim throttled back and we saw our destination, the uninhabited island of Gibbs Cay.

At the southern most tip of the Bahamas and north of Hispaniola lies the Turks and Caicos Islands. We had spent a week diving with Oasis Divers on Grand Turk and Tim Dunn was our divemaster for most of that week. Tim’s family has been on the island for over 300 years and at one time owned Salt Cay’s Harriott Salt Company that provided about half the salt used in North America. Tim’s family still owns the great white stone house called the “White House” on Salt Cay and Mary and I were thrilled to be given a personal tour of the great house by Tim, but that is a story for another time.