I hear many dive tourists complain on a regular base about dead reefs, no fish action and being short-changed on their dives. Let this-the account of my customary early morning dive-offer hope that there are still real dives with lots of action.
Biking through a brilliant golden sunrise, I arrive at one of my favorite dive sites, glad not to have the usual 5-6 foot breakers. I gear up with fins and mask and head for the drop-off five minutes out.
Swimming through a spectacular coral canyon, a 10-15 lb Nassau grouper hovers nearby while further down a school of jacks fly by. As I reach the second drop-off at about 150 ft a silvery Barracuda flashes curiously toward me before veering off into the deep blue below.
Having avoided the venomous spines of a parade of lionfish at the mouth of a cavern, I’m greeted by the cool stare of a big mutton snapper in one cavern and the industriousness of several big female king crabs climbing to the ceiling in another cavern. In the dark recesses of the same cavern I see a big claw sticking out of a crevasse, which must be part of a huge male crab.
After covering a stretch of white sand, I come to my turnaround point at 230 ft. There a huge congregation of flamboyant lionfish hover over a big coral head. From there, I cruise up the wall, where two moray eels pose cheek to cheek from a small hole, honeymooners most likely, with a 15-20 lb reef snapper stealing a look nearby. Past the site where a whole bundle of Salva Vida bottles rests, I change course to visit Rojen Wreck. Though last dive I bumped into a big octopus hiding in the recesses of the old sating vessel which lies on her side, this dive my chance meeting is with an old friend, a 70 lb Cubera snapper with three remoras hitching a ride and with another big Nassau grouper peeking out from under the bow.
A school of blue tony feeds on coral and algae; a Spanish mackerel emerges and then disappears around elkhorn coral. A school of 40-50 big Bermuda chubs, black margales, or sweetlips as the locals call them, hang with me at a buoy. Another old buddy, a 7ft green Moray, pumps his teeth-studded mouth in his narrow cave, with walls and ceiling crawling with small spotted rock lobsters and crabs.
A filefish displays his unique shape and color. A stingray in the sand keeps his eyes on me as I venture towards him, having marveled at the sponges and coral nearby. A Jack swims with him as he finally darts into the blue recess. On my way back up through the Eel Gardens, which weave in the gentle current, a big hermit crab with huge claws powers his way up the sleep slope. I pick him up, intrigued by the many feelers and legs constantly moving. He keeps me company as I finish my last decompression stop. I deposit him in a hole with another moray, which the green eel doesn’t seem to mind.
A baby Barracuda comes out of nowhere in the gentle surf of the shallows at the end of my dive, reminding me that there are no bad dives, only better dives.