Grand Cayman Island: Turtle Encounters

When it came to turtle encounters for this trip, I did not have much luck at the beginning of the week. Thankfully that changed on Thursday. I was at a site named Little Tunnels, which is north of Seven Mile Beach, where I enjoyed a close encounter with a small Hawksbill Turtle.

For our first dive on Friday, July 19th we went to a site named Big Tunnels, which is at the northwest “corner” of the island. I encountered the largest Hawksbill Turtle that I ended up seeing during the week. The other people in the group had just gone into the Big Tunnel (I had chosen to swim above the tunnel and meet them at the exit), when this turtle swam by. I was the only one to see it!

After joining the rest of the group near the exit to the tunnel, we encountered a Hawskbills Turtle that was feeding at the exit of the tunnel where it had opened up to be more of a canyon than tunnel.

For our second dive on Friday we went to a dive site named Aquarium off of Seven Mile Beach. I encountered a small Hawskbill Turtle swimming along a coral ridge. It kind of looks like it had some shell damage near its rear.

My closest turtle encounter happened on Saturday, July 20th, which was my last morning of diving. We were at a dive site named Caribbean Club when a Hawksbill turtle swam right towards me, checked me out and swam on.

I was very happy to finish the trip with a close encounter like this and to be able to capture it on video.

Grand Cayman Island: Silversides and Tarpon at Devil’s Grotto

It turned out that mid-July is a special time in Grand Cayman because schools of Silversides inhabited the grotto’s (tunnels and caves under the reef) at the dive site named Devil’s Grotto near shore in George Town on the west end of the island. I have always enjoyed seeing schools (otherwise known a s bait balls) in the Florida Keys, so I expected this would a be quite an experience.

The first trip we made to Devil’s Grotto was mid-week on Wednesday, July 17th. At that time there was an impressive sized school of Silversides in the grotto system. As a results there were some nice sized Tarpon swimming around and inside the grotto system. I was able to have some close encounters with a few.

On Thursday, July 18th we went to the same area. As I swam through the grottos, the schools of Silversides seemed a lot smaller. However, I did have some great Tarpon encounters. One of my favorites was at the end of the video below where I swam up out of the grotto through an opening in the ceiling and came right up under a nice sized tarpon.

Later on I was swimming above the grotto system while the others in the group went through. This time I was able to see a school of Silversides from above and also watch a beautiful school of Blue Tang swim by.

I went again on Saturday, July 20th, which was my last day in the water for the trip. By that time I did not see any Silversides as I swam through the grotto system. I’m not sure if they all were eaten, swam away or some of both.

Grand Cayman Island: Stingray City

My goal for 2019 was to go to a diving destination I had not been to before. After some careful research I decided to go to Grand Cayman Island. I was looking for a place with a top notch dive operation and dive guides. After looking at a dozen or so options I decided on Sunset House and Sunset Divers in George Town.

Sunset Divers turned out to be everything I had hoped for this trip. Top notch customer service, safety procedures, dive briefings and dive guides!

One of the most popular attractions for divers in Grand Cayman Island is Stingray City.

I learned a lot during the dive briefing. The females are the large brown ones. The males is the smaller ray that has more of a blueish tint to it. It also has claspers under its tail.

Our dive guide was able to find and bring back two females and a male to bring back to our group. I was amazed how we were able to feed them squid out of our hands and how they liked us rubbing their snouts a bit.

Some people don’t like the fact that local dive shops offer tours to Stingray City because they don’t like the concept that people feed, touch and interact with wild stingrays. I think it shows how smart stingrays really are! I loved the experience and would enjoy going back!

Lobster at Fort Stark in New Castle, NH

For the September 8th  Atlantic Aquasport shore dive we ended up at Fort Stark in New Castle, New Hampshire.

We saw several American Lobster during the dive. One of them even tried to grab my camera with its claw.

We swam east into the Piscataqua River to get a little distance from the shore and depth and then turned south. The bottom was thick with hooked week, sea lettuce and green hair weed, giving the Lobsters lots of places to hide.

Lobster in Sea Lettuce at Fort Stark

Lobster 2 at Fort Stark

Towards the end of the dive I came upon an interesting scene. A Lobster was doing something with a crab or crab shell (I did not see any claws so it could have been just a shell) that was tucked up under a clump of seaweed.

The University of Maine Website tells us, “Lobsters like to eat crabs, clams, mussels, starfish, smaller fish, and sometimes even other lobsters.” So the the crab could have been killed by the lobster. If so, that must have been quite a battle.  Perhaps the lobster had eaten some of the crab and was hiding the rest for a later meal.

Resources

Sea Raven and Flounder at Nubble Light

I finally got back into diving in New England after more years than I care to admit. Back in 2015 I got a new Waterproof W4 5mm Wetsuit but never got to use it in the ocean, until now. I must say, it’s the best wetsuit that I have ever owned. It’s easy to put on and take off plus it’s actually comfortable to walk around in. So far, the combination of dive skin and 5mm wetsuit has kept me warm enough.

I have been attending the Saturday Morning Shore Dives at Atlantic Aquasport in Rye, NH. As they often do, we went up to Nubble Lighthouse on Cape Neddick in York, Maine.

On the August 25th dive I crossed the channel with my dive buddy and went north along the island at around 20 feet deep. Several of us Aquasport divers were lucky enough to see a beautiful Sea Raven. As the Maine Guides Online website says, “Sea ravens may vary in color from blood red to reddish purple to yellow brown.” This one was a beautiful shade of yellow and a pleasure to watch!

One of the more common fish to see while shore diving in New England is the Cunner. The Maine Guides Online website tells us, “their usual size is between 6 and 10 inches in length and less than 3 pounds weight.” I got the camera out for the one below since it was one of the larger Cunner I had seen so far and it came in pretty close.

On the September 1st shore dive I did the same dive plan of crossing the channel and swimming along the west side of the island about 2o feet down. I saw lots of Cunner and a few lobster in the way out. On the way back to the shore I spotted a small Winter Flounder (pronounced Flounda in Maine) near the turn point to cross the channel. The Maine Guide Online site says, “Their color, which varies with the substrate they occupy, can range from reddish brown to olive green to almost black.” It also tells us, “Their eyes are located on their right side, thus making them a right sided flounder.”

I hope to go back for at least one more dive during the 2018 northern New England wetsuit season.

Sea Turtle encounter on Molasses Reef

I had a difficult time getting good video footage of sea turtles during the July 2018 trip until my last day of diving on Saturday, July 14th. We were on Molasses Reef towards the end of the afternoon dive when we watched a small sea turtle swim to the surface for a breath. I knew enough to be patient, let the turtle get some air and come back down to the bottom before getting some video footage.

Have no doubt, turtles are one of my favorite wildlife encounters! This poor turtle also looks like it has some damage on the back of its shell. I suppose it could have got hit by a boat or attacked by something. 😦

Resources

Lobed Star Coral at Horseshoe Reef

On July 11th, 2018 I was on a dive to Horseshoe Reef, which is up the coast from Key Largo. We got to see some interesting sea life plus some examples of healthier coral than other places in the marine sanctuary. During the dive it occurred to me that I should slow down a bit and get some video footage of the Lobed Star Coral I was swimming by.

 

One thing to notice is how lots of other species of coral, algae, tunicate, sponges and fish make their home on the coral mound. The Bi-colored Damselfish got a little angry with me when I crossed into its territory. It attacked my camera until I had moved on past. 🙂 Learn more about Lobed Star Coral by visiting the links below.

Resources

NOAA Fisheries Lobed Star Coral

Reefguide.org Lobed Star Coral