March 30-April 4th, 2014
WEATHER – Mostly sunny, with some clouds. Easterly winds prevailed leaving surface conditions moderately choppy.
AIR TEMP – Mid to upper 80’s
WATER TEMP – 82 F
Our group this week consisted of two divers whom were spending their last three days diving out of a 10-day stay with us, after one of them had completed both a PADI Open Water Referral, and Advanced Open Water courses. Another two divers joined them making a group of four. One of these divers would complete their PADI Open Water Referral this week. Dive Instructor Anne-Marie acted as both instructor and dive leader for the week, with Divemaster Denroy as Boat Captain.
We started out the first day of diving heading for the west side of Turneffe and chose North Creekozene as our first site, finding 70 feet of water visibility on this sloping coral wall. We spotted Burrfish hiding at the base of a coral head, while a few large Mutton Snapper passed nearby scoping the sand bed. As we swam off the wall, we saw a large Spotted Eagle Ray cruising off the wall accompanied by a big Remora. We chose Amberhead for our second dive site where the visibility was at 60 feet. This dive site offers a collection of particularly well-developed sponges of numerous kinds along a gently sloping wall. Giant Barrels, Yellow Tubes, Elephant Ear, Touch-Me-Not, and a few variations of matting sponges are just a few of the sponges one can find here. A large Barracuda was observed intently following a tight fast-moving silvery school of Mackerel Scad. A pair of Gray Angels picked on sponges, and small Sharpnose Puffer Fish were everywhere hovering and darting in and out of soft coral stands. South Creekozene was our third site for the day, and we also found 60 feet of visibility here. As soon as we descended to the bottom, we found a Pygmy Filefish hiding in the branches of a soft coral and perfectly matched to its colouration. Caribbean Spiny Lobster were seen under quite a few reef heads on the edge of the sand bed, and a large Yellowfin Grouper moved off slowly as divers approached along the wall. Blue Creole Wrasse occupied the water column of the wall, and seemed to be starting their afternoon spawning rituals. As the Creole Wrasse moved along in unison, a small school of blue Bogas darted up behind trying to blend into the school of wrasse. Two Yellowhead Wrasse faced off at each other opening their mouths as if to see who could do it the widest. After putting their open jaws together for a few seconds, one darted of with the other charging behind.
On Monday, our second day of diving, we hit the Terrace on the northwest side as our first dive site and had great visibility of 80 feet. Blue Creole Wrasse rained down on this vertical wall, and a small Hawksbill Turtle took off into the blue, obviously spooked by the divers. A large Green Moray swam through coral heads on the edge of the wall as a Nassau Grouper tailed the eel until they were out of sight. This dramatic wall is live with hard and soft coral growth, and one can find Black Coral branches growing in abundance at a depth of 60 feet along the wall. Molly’s Folly was chosen as the second dive site with equally good visibility. A large Barracuda was swimming lazily across the sand bed as divers descended at the beginning of the dive. A Nassau Grouper tried hiding as it sat motionless nestled in the branches of a soft coral tree. Sergeant Majors darted back and forth over the coral heads at the edge of the sand bed, and two large purple and yellow Spanish Hogfish whirled around between the coral heads with their toothy mouths, looking for small crustaceans to feed on. Three Queen Angels swam tentatively away as if aware of their bright colours, and disappeared in coral holes. Two Black Groupers faced off near the bottom of the sloping wall. They seemed to be doing a slow dance by circling around each other, until one darted at the other and they took off with one in hot pursuit of the other. For our third dive of the day we dropped of the divers at Tunnels and Barrels. This site is always interesting with its many tight swim-throughs, all of them too tight to fit divers through, but offering interesting relief to the edge of the wall. Several large Giant Barrel Sponges can be found here, some of them spanning a 5-foot diameter at the base. If one understands the length of time it takes for these sponges to grow, one realizes that these large individuals are obviously hundreds of years old. Gray Angels hovered around their favourite sponges, and a juvenile Nassau Grouper was found sticking its head out from its hiding place in a Yellow Tube Sponge. A family of Pederson Shrimp huddled around Corkscrew Anemones waved their white antennae in advertisement that their cleaning station was open.
Since we had choppy conditions with 5-foot easterly swells, we decided not to try for the Blue Hole at Lighthouse Reef on Tuesday, our third day of diving for the week. Instead, we headed south through Turneffe to the famous Elbow. We found 70 feet of visibility and a slow southward-moving current on an incoming tide. As soon as we descended, we were immediately accompanied by a large Remora that had a dusky coloured Cobia of equal size shadowing it, and they followed us for the entire dive. A large Hawksbill Turtle was seen swimming slowly across the reef heads as divers swam toward the wall. Three Spotted Eagle Rays swam off the wall with another Remora in tow, and a healthy sized Rainbow Parrot swam by across the edge of the wall. As divers swam over the large reef spurs thick with growth of Deep Water Gorgonian Sea Fans at a depth of 60 feet, a large school of Bar Jack engulfed the divers drawn in by their exhalation bubbles, and then shot off toward the surface. Then divers came across what seemed to be the same large Hawksbill Turtle now pulling at a sponge near the bottom and biting off big chunks. A small group of Gray and French Angels circled around picking off pieces of sponge that came away as the turtle fed. During the divers’ ascent to a safety stop, three large Yellow Jack swam by quickly in mid-water. As divers looked down, they spotted two massive King Fish swimming over a sand bed far below. The swells had increased in size on the surface here, so we chose to head north and dive at sites on the western side of the point. We chose Sayonara as our second dive site, and found reduced visibility of 50 feet here. Divers observed the remains of a small wreck after which the site is named. However, one wouldn’t recognize it as such unless one were told there was a wreck here. A large Permit was seen darting off into the shallows as divers headed north along this wall. Mackerel came by in pairs and singly though out the entire dive, and another even larger Permit was found hiding in one of the holes under a coral head, which it quickly exited and swam to the other side of the reef away from view. A healthy-sized Caribbean Spiny Lobster was found on the sand under a coral head with a Green Moray curled up nearby. On close inspection of a group of Glassy Gobies, an Arrow Blenny was found in their midst given away by the curl at the end of its tail. And, nearby, a dark coloured Sailfin Blenny was spotted popping out of its hole in an old coral head, extending its dorsal fin rhythmically at a rival or possible mate nearby. Permit Run was close by and we decided on this site for dive three where we found the same visibility. A school of Bar Jack swam around the mooring line here, as blue Creole Wrasse were seen picking at minute organisms in the water column off this sloping wall. This site seems to have a particularly large collection of Rope Sponges of varying sizes and colours. School Master and Gray Snapper hung together, along with French Grunts, around the honeycombed coral heads here. A Spotted Drum was seen, as well as a Spotted Moray Eel. This was the last dive with two divers whom had spent 10 days diving with us coming all the way from Paris, France. They decided to spend the rest of their stay at an inland resort in the mountains, which many people whom visit Belize choose to do as well.
On our fourth day of diving, just two divers remained with us for the two morning dives on the west side of the atoll, and for the scheduled night dive later in the day. Pine Ridge was the first site we visited and found 60 feet of visibility. This site starts out in a sand bed, opens out to a sloping coral wall, and then to another sand bed as one moves south. Garden Eels stuck out of their holes like individual stalks of thick seaweed across the sand bed, and a small Southern Stingrays nosed through the sand foraging for food. As divers made their way toward the coral wall, a free swimming Green Moray swam over the coral under the divers for a short distance. Groups of Mahogany Snapper clustered around overhanging coral heads moving away cautiously as divers approached. Blue Creole Wrasse descended through the water column in a stream and swirled over and around coral heads. On the sand bed to the south of the coral wall, a large Southern Stingray was discovered lying on the sand bed with a light dusting of sand covering and concealing it, with its tail as the only dead giveaway. As the three divers approached, it shot up and swam of at great speed obviously spooked by the divers. Not long after, a small Hawksbill Turtle showed up gently swimming past, seeming totally unconcerned with the divers, and only moving its head to take a look at them as it swam by. Lobster Bay was visited for the second dive of the day with only 50 feet of visibility. Large French Angels were seen hovering over a Giant Barrel Sponge cleaning station, while Neon Gobies and a juvenile Spanish Hogfish darted in and out of their gills and over their sides removing minute parasites. Two Spotted Eagle Rays were seen at separate times during the dive, one off the wall, and the other cruising on top of the reef heads. Three healthy-sized Black Grouper hung high in the water column off the wall, and swam off as divers approached. The coral wall opened up to a large sand bed and a school of Permit consisting of several large individuals swam down over the sand bed, and then quickly disappeared into the deep avoiding the divers. Our Night Dive was planned for the evening, and divers took an afternoon break on the caye after returning for lunch. A dive site close to the resort is our chosen night dive site, and consists of patch coral heads on a shallow sand bed at 15 feet. The dive started at twilight, so divers observed lots of daytime reef habitants like Gray Snapper hovering near holes in the coral heads trying to square of a place to hide and sleep. At the same time, other nocturnal reef dwellers like Tiger Tail Sea Cucumbers and various kinds of sea urchins started coming out of their daytime hiding places. A Burrfish was found hovering motionlessly under a soft coral branch. A medium-sized predatory Queen Helmet conch was seen moving slowly across the sand. Upon close inspection of some sea urchins like the Majestic, resident Majestic Sea Urchin Shrimp were found between its spines mimicking its black colouring and the waving movement of its spines. These shrimp are no longer than a quarter inch long and cannot be observed properly without a magnifying glass. Sun Anemones were identified sitting on top of the reef heads, and upon close inspection with the magnifying glass, divers found Sun Anemone Shrimp tucked into the stubby tentacles feeding on small creatures attracted by the dive lights and becoming trapped there. Clouds of transparent larval fish swam at the dive lights attracted to the beams. No night dive would be complete without an Octopus, and divers were not disappointed on this dive. One was spotted spreading out on the sand. At first the Octopus slithered toward a large coral head and seemed to make an attempt to hide, then it started ignoring divers and continued hunting as it enveloped small coral heads with its cloak of tentacles in an attempt to catch small crabs that might be hidden there. Divers watched this activity for some time before having to head back to the boat at the end of the dive.
The easterly wind speeds increased and we decided to head for the northwest of the atoll again to shelter in the leeward side there for diving. Here we found calm conditions with only a slight surface chop and 80 feet of visibility on each dive. A brand new diver whom had completed Discover Scuba Diving confined water skills the afternoon before, joined certified divers with Dive Instructor Anne-Marie on the first dive at Elkin’s Bay. The usual collection of brilliantly coloured fish were seen everywhere, from Spotlight Parrots, to Blue Headed Wrasse, Pork Fish, French, Gray and Queen Angels, as well as pink coloured Squirrelfish. Our new diver starred in awe at the collection and quickly overcame any apprehensions she may have previously had about diving. The certified divers found the swim through on the southern end of the site and went through before all divers headed back to the boat. We moved to Chasbow’s Corner in the same area for our second dive. This wall is almost vertical and has a sharp bend along its face. Deep Water Gorgonian Sea Fans grow in abundance here along the wall. With the aid of a magnifying glass, divers were able to observe ¼-inch long Wire Coral Shrimp almost invisible as they clung to the long stems of Wire Coral growing out from the wall. We shallowed up on top of the wall where several Black Durgeons swam and hovered just over the coral heads. Groups of School Master Snapper hugged close under overhangs as Dog Snapper, and Tiger Groupers swam through the coral crevices. A Green Moray Eel poked out its head from a hole in the reef, and a Lizardfish rested motionlessly on the bottom with a wound that looked as if another predator had tried to make a meal of it. We went back to the Terrace for our third dive and tried desperately to find the resident Seahorse that lives at the base of a Gorgonian Sea Fan at 60 feet on this site. No luck with a Seahorse sighting, but we did find tiny transparent Black Coral Shrimp crawling over the base of the Gorgonian Sea Fan. A healthy sized Tiger Grouper swam further into the coral wall when approached by divers, and a Green Moray swam between coral heads as if accompanying the divers. A large Barracuda hung over Giant Barrel Sponge getting a cleaning from the resident Neon Gobies there as divers prepared to do a safety stop at the end of the dive.
Our remaining two divers chose to do only one dive on their last day of diving, and we headed back to the west side for South Creekozene as the conditions were still too rough for diving on the east side. Choppy, windy conditions gave divers 60 feet of visibility on this rich dive site. The steeply sloping wall here also has a point where Black Grouper like to hover in the current. Three large individuals were spotted there and they moved off as divers drew near. A riot of colourful reef dwellers gave divers a last beautiful view of diving here at the Turneffe Islands Atoll.