Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Dolphins of Sataya

Sataya Reef is a long thin crescent, home to a large pod of White Stripe Dolphins. These are bigger than Spinners and smaller than Bottlenose. They hunt in the open ocean in the mornings and evenings, and spend the day resting in the shallow warm water at Sataya. We got ready for snorkeling (scuba diving is not allowed because it disturbs the dolphins), and made our way out in the zodiacs to slowly and calmly intercept them. I slid into the water in front of the pod, and listened to them squeak/whistle as they swam by. A couple of mother/baby pairs peeled off and circled back to take a look at me. When the pod got too far away, we climbed back into the zodiacs and slid back in at another location. One time a little dolphin was eyeing me, and swam by trailing bubbles thinly from his blowhole while whistling at a high frequency.

The dolphins were so cute we could have stayed all day, but we've got a dive schedule to keep up with so after about 45 minutes we got back on the liveaboard and moved to our next dive site. The next site was at the other end of the very long reef from the dolphins' hangout. Fury Shoals features a deep drop-off topped by a huge coral garden. It was very late in the afternoon so various reef fish were starting to school, which fascinates me. Sadly, I never properly re-warmed myself after swimming with the dolphins, so I ended up getting quite cold on this dive.

Back on the boat it was soon time for dinner. Nels sat himself at my table, and I pointedly ignored him for as long as I could. However, he was trying REALLY HARD to be pleasant and engaging, so after a while I sort of started talking to him. And then he started talking about how he got 42 minutes of deco at The Blue Hole in Belize. I'm sure everyone with him loved that. He also told us that he handed divemaster Darwish a pair of $350 sunglasses to hold while he was snorkeling with the dolphins this afternoon. When Nels got back in the zodiac, the glasses were gone. Nels said he wasn't going to tip at the end of the week because Darwish lost his glasses and "karma is a bitch." I refrained from pointing out that perhaps karma has already been satisfied after this morning by his sunglasses being lost at sea. Oh yeah--update on his wife's (yes WIFE, I found out they've been married for five years) dive lessons: she didn't do so well today and wanted to cancel the rest of the course, but she was convinced to try again tomorrow. She's really hung up on the removing/replacing/clearing your mask skill. When she takes her mask off she starts holding her breath even though the regulator is in her mouth. Bryan came up with a good idea, she should just float on the surface with her face in the water and breathe through the regulator until she gets used to the sensations. Then she should sink herself just a few feet and practice breathing.

It always surprises me when people freak about mask removal. It was never a problem with me because I spent about half of every summer underwater in the lake near where I lived as a kid. I didn't have a mask or goggles back then, so having water in my face and eyes is no biggie. When I was getting my Open Water certification, two burly Scottish guys in my group could not deal with the mask skills either. It took them a while to psych themselves up for it, but they eventually got it. The thing that scared me was having to take off my gear underwater, not float away, and put it back on again. I managed it on the first try but wow did being out of the BC with no weight belt on really disorient me. We'll be motoring overnight yet further south to St. John's Reef, where we should see some more sharks, and where there is a large and lovely cavern to swim in to.

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