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Me diving

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lac Bay, Taylor Made, Bari Reef (Bonaire Day 4)

Tuesday morning we dove the east side with Benji. We drove over to the north side of Lac Bay. Much of the drive was over a dirt road. We passed a lagoon (or lake?) with some flamingos in it. The entry was easy but over coral rubble of course. But no slippery ledge. There was a fairly long surface swim. In hindsight, conditions were "rough" for Bonaire (though I didn't notice it until our next surface swim, which was calmer by comparison). Benji told us that we would swim out to the dropoff and then follow it south. Then on the way in, we'd swim back the whole way underwater. On the way in, we'd pass over a sand "bowl" that could have very bad viz but potentially a lot of tarpon. Then we'd swim up a channel that could have significant current (that we'd be swimming against). Benji told a story about having to pull and glide up the channel. He also asked if we each had a bag. Man, the briefing alone was enough to make one not want to dive :)

Anyhoo, on the swim out, it seemed like there wasn't much outbound current, a good sign. We eventually got to the drop off (after seeing a couple of eagle rays below us on the way out) and we were off. The dive was basically a 50' dive, but we occasionally went deeper to look at something specific. We saw a lot of eagle rays, at least a dozen I'd guess. We also saw 4 turtles, two of whom we found resting on the reef. And a couple of green morays and some big barracuda. Those were the highlights. On the way back in, when we hit the sand bowl, the viz was mucky near the bottom, but there was a distinct line where the water got blue, 5 feet or so off the bottom. Benji signaled to go up to 20 feet and travel there, in the clear water. The sand below was completely featureless, making it hard to tell if you were swimming in a circle :) Eventually I noticed a tarpon or two off to my left, and when I turned to point it out, I slowly saw 5 or 6 appear on my right. I eventually realized they were everywhere, appearing from out of the muck. It was eerie and really cool. We eventually made our way to the channel where there was no current. There were, however, tons of big anemones. It was insane. Some spots were totally carpeted, unlike anything we'd seen on the west side. We continued in and surfaced a few feet from the exit.

After driving back, we asked Benji for a suggestion for a dive site for the afternoon. The day before, I had been talking about the crinoids at the anchors, and Benji was telling us about some tiny shrimp on the crinoids, with a black body and white tail. Apparently this species has only been found in Bonaire and Curacao so far. So Benji suggested a site with a resident crinoid, called Taylor Made. It is just north of the oil terminal, and doesn't appear on the maps with the usual dive sites (and not marked by a stone). But Benji gave us a detailed description of where it is. Getting there involved taking a sketchy dirt road around Bopec and then a short drive on a crushed coral path. The entry sucked. I think we should have spent more time looking for the best entry point. Instead we just headed in, and I went down on my knees in about a foot and a half of water. Rather than stand up, I had Rob just push me to deeper water :)

This site has reef almost right up to the entry. So we dropped pretty quickly and headed down the slope. I wasn't really looking for the crinoid, but I was ran right into it at 60 feet. Benji had said that if you head straight down the slope, that's where he would be. I immediatelly noticed the tips of the crinoid moving one by one and I realized a shrimp was hopping along it from tip to tip! After looking more, I found a couple more shrimp. It was too bad Rob was shooting wide angle. But as promised by Benji, the wite has some impressively big hard coral formations. I think that the site is best appreciated by looking up the slope at the big corals looking down at you, with surface ripples behind them. There was a significant current at the site. At some spots on the reef there was more or less protection. We were kicking fairly hard the whole time, and in places I really had to kick at full power to get around a corner, etc. But then there were spots where it felt like no current at all, because the reef jutted out in just the right way to provide protection. Eventually I cam to a spot where I realized after kicking hard for about a minute, I hadn't gone anywhere. I started to kick even harder and moved a bit, when I noticed Rob holding onto a dead coral stump, to maintain his position. At that point, I decided this was ridiculous and called turn. This was 47 minutes into the dive. It took 10 minutes to drift back to the exit point :)

We played around in the shallows (above the dropoff) where there was little current for another 10 or so minutes before I called the dive. There were a lot of lettuce slugs there, and fishies right up to the shore. Rob got out while I waited for an escort. He came back in and said he thought it would be better for him to take my rig out. Mmmkay. So I took off my rig and gave it to him, and walked out (after Rob warned me I'd have to walk out alone :P).

I was relieved when we made it back to the paved road without getting stuck in any mud holes. Since our dive was unexpectedly short, we had a bunch of gas left, so we decided to do a dusk dive out back. While we were gearing up, we ran into some divers getting out of the water who had found a seahorse. We got directions for how to find it, and headed over to it. We found it pretty quickly and played with it a bit. Rob was shooting wide, so no pics. Then we headed to the dropoff. Right at the top, I swam right over a big octopus. I showed it to Rob, and he got some pics. By now, it was pretty dark. We headed down the slope and to the right. We saw several open basket stars, and Rob took some pics. We turned the dive and headed up the slope, where we found a tarpon frenzy. Actually there was first a frenzy of little fish, which the tarpon then went after. There were at least 10 tarpon going crazy in our lights, feeding on the little fish. It was cool, but slightly scary -- I got bumped a couple of times. After Rob got some action shots, my light died. I put Rob's light on my hand, and tethered to him, lit the scene for a few more pics, then we headed in.

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