Saturday, October 15, 2011

Diving Turks & Caicos

Diving in Turks & Caicos was fabulous! I just got back from a week there on the Turks & Caicos Aggressor. Turks & Caicos lays at the far southern end of the Bahamas chain, just before you get to HispaƱola, where the Dominican Republic is located. The islands are pinnacles rising up from great depths, so all the dives are wall dives. I love diving on walls because it's nearly impossible to get lost, although I did manage to do that, too.

Diving a live aboard at Turks & Caicos is great because we got away from the inhabited islands, and even visited a sand bar that only exists at low tide. I saw lots of sharks and rays, including a huge Southern ray that was about 5 1/2 feet across. I played with a 2'-long baby nurse shark, and swam with sea turtles. The boat always moored above a coral garden, which made for great fun at the end of the dives. I'd poke around under the boat until I used up all my air, and observed many eels, filter feeders, lobsters, and other small creatures including Flamingo Tongues. These last things are small spotted animals that fasten themselves to th coral, looking like oddly shaped colored shellfish.

I even made friends with a grouper, my favorite fish. Groupers are territorial, and will hang out in the same area. Our diver master took us to see Bob, who was quite friendly and let me scratch his chin. Another posed while I fiddled with the flash strobe to get his picture. I was having difficulties with the flash, and he just sat there calmly while I tried and tried again to get a decent photo. Other exciting moments included swimming with five reef sharks, and launching myself out over an underwater precipice that dropped 100's of feet. I'm pretty sure I saw at least one shark on every dive.

Things I learned:

  • Sponges are great to take pictures of because they don't move.
  • Lobsters are way huger in marine preserves than they are in the supermarket. They flaunt their untouchable deliciousness.
  • Lionfish are an invasive species that is decent as cerviche.
  • Pretty much any dive is a good dive!

I made my 100th dive on this trip, and was properly hazed :) I finally feel like a "real" diver now, especially since my dive buddy and I did all our own navigation. We only got lost once. It was a very grey overcast day. We were coming back from the wall and could hear the boat but didn't see it. We ended up swimming quite far past the boat toward shore, so we surfaced for a "spy hop" and realized we had probably swum practically under the boat. As far as getting lost goes that is quite mild, it's not like the "dingy of shame" had to come pick us up.  All told, I spent over 18 hours under water on that trip. I really enjoyed it and want to come back some day.

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