Turks & Caicos Aggressor II
14 – 21 May 2016
Water Temp: 81° – 82 ° F
Visibility: 50 – 140+ Ft
Paul & April, Tim, Marty, Greg, Fred, Steve & Scott, Roy, Ruth & Kevin, Umeed, Allyson, Kate & Al
Captain – AMANDA
Engineer – ROB
Chef – AILSA
Video Pro – MATT
Instructor – TROY
Instructor - GRANT
Sunday – The Dome & Amphitheatre – Northwest Point
Monday – Eel Garden – Northwest Point & Boat Cove – West Caicos
Tuesday – Spanish Anchor & Magic Mushroom – West Caicos
Wednesday – Elephant Ear Canyon & Gullies, West Caicos
Thursday – Stingray Deep & Rock Garden, West Caicos, Stairway & The Dome, NWPT
Friday – Pinnacles, Grace Bay
Another week is upon us and the crew is almost as excited as the guests as they board on Saturday afternoon and settle in for the evening, in preparation for our morning departure.
On Sunday morning, our first site for the week was The Dome, a shallow sandy bottom upon which the feature of the site is situated. The subject of a 1980’s French TV show, called Pago Pago, the Dome is an ideal home for schoolmaster grunt and yellow tail snapper. Trumpetfish use the frame to camouflage themselves, as they blend in to the colours of the encrusting sponges, whilst secretary and spiny head blennies use the vacated homes of feather dusters to occupy. Along the wall the chimney provides a great vertical swim through opportunity, emerging out at the top at 65 feet.
For the afternoon we moved across to Amphitheatre; a beautiful wall with vivid encrusting sponges, varieties of black & wire coral and their associated dwellers – neck crabs and shrimp. In the sand, yellow-headed jawfish cautiously peeked out of their holes and we were delighted to discover two males that were carrying eggs in their mouths. One male would hover above his hole with the eggs in his mouth, then disappear back in, emerge with a mouthful of sand, which he spat out and then return with the children. He was doing some serious housework!
The night dive brought out all manner of crabs, including huge channel and, the smaller, hairy clinging crabs. Lobsters patrolled the reef and nudibranchs and other critters were revealed in the black light of fluorescence.
Remaining at Northwest Point for the beginning of Monday we dived at another favourite of the crew – Eel Garden. The garden eels, after which the site is named, were in full force as were the Creole wrasse that surged over the edge of the reef. Our condylactus anemone was out in all its glory, being one of the most photographed anemones in the islands.
The afternoon took us to Boat Cove in West Caicos, following our lunchtime crossing. Sully, our resident, and now very pregnant reef shark cruised close by, as did a hawksbill turtle. At the edge of the wall a juvenile spotted drum darted back and forth completely comfortable in the presence of divers and trailing its beautiful extended dorsal fin, that it will eventually grow into – we enjoy seeing that process take place as this fish tends to remain in one spot, or at least close by. The night dive brought out an amazing octopus encounter. This cephalopod, rather than being disturbed by our presence, seemed more curious. It would spend time feeding, then stop and reach out a tentacle to explore the video camera and at one point we though that it may do the same with on of our guests’ masks.
The Anchor was the choice site for the following morning, where this time we saw two spotted drums in one coral head. One a larger juvenile was more confident and remained out more, whilst an older but not completely adult drum remained further inside the reef. Every now again they would both present themselves for photographs. A scorpionfish on the edge of the wall caused great excitement as it sat there. I always feel that they think we cannot see them such is their camouflage – either that or they just don’t care whether that we can!
Over to Magic Mushroom for the latter part of the day – Lobster tower was not brimming but comfortable this week, and the lobsters did not appear to be climbing over themselves. There were more jawfish, but none this time with eggs. It seems that we have a great deal of immature jawfish this season and as a result not as many with eggs as we expect to see – that being said it promises for a good year for jawfish later in the year. The night dive revealed crabs and lobsters, and sharks cruising around in the edge of the light – their eyes glowing green in the beam of our flashlights.
Elephant Ear Canyon, the Captain’s favourite dive site, was our next site. The sane under the boat was crawling with headshield slugs and the strangely but accurately descriptively named flapping dingbats. To most these critters looked like just black specks on the sand, but with a careful eye or the aid of a magnifying glass, they became clear. Literally thousands of garden eels inhabit this site, bobbing up and down out of their holes, whilst razor fish do not require the luxury of a hole, darting headfirst into the sand. Stingrays, ever hopeful of a garden eel snack, glided across the sand at times pausing and repeatedly covering a spot in case they missed an opportunity. In the coral heads, in the shallower part of the dive, Pederson, spotted and squat anemone shrimp abound, in a variety of different types of anemone. One of the highlights, however, was the male pipefish that was carrying eggs, just hanging out, and moving from one blade of grass to the next and purposefully turning away from anyone trying to photograph him.
Gullies brought out Sully again, much to our delight and also a single spadefish cruising up in the water column. On the bottom, schools of goatfish sought out morsels of food and were accompanied by the occasional yellow tail snapper, opportunistically feeding. The swim-through is covered with encrusting sponges with black coral suspended from the sides. Nassau and tiger groupers were found in their favourite cleaning stations being preened by the shark nose gobies. During the night dive a reef octopus allowed us to observe it feeding, changing colours with every movement. On a gorgonian plume a tiny longhorn nudibranch wended its way, night being the only time that we see these popular critters.
A change to our regular dive sites, as we were unable to make it out to French Cay, due to the weather. So Stingray Deep was a new site for us, and spectacular for an early morning dive. As the name suggests it is deeper than most of our sites and as a result we did just one dive, and we encountered southern stingrays. The site has finger ridges of coral that disappear out over the wall and into the abyss.
For our second dive of the morning another new site: Rock Garden. Again aptly named, as there are plenty of isolated coral heads forming what can only be described as a rock garden. Sully made an appearance and it seemed that the stingrays followed us down from our previous site. Lobsters paraded up and down the reef. It gave us great visibility, a great site and a magical rock garden.
Back to Northwest Point and Stairway, this time, along the reef of Providenciales’ west coast. Here we were very excited to see two very large green morays co-existing in the same coral head and perfectly comfortable posing for us. This site is always good for Caribbean spiny lobsters and they march across the reef as if they own the place – oh that’s right; they do! Very large specimens of these spiny creatures tromp over everything in sight, coral head, sponge or sand. At the mooring, large numbers of immature barracuda hover at all angles to each other waiting for something edible to pass by, whilst others took a moment to sweep into a cleaning station.
At the request of the guests we moved back to The Dome for the night dive, as it was a morning dive earlier in the week. It did not disappoint with many little critters, including nudibranchs and crabs on the structure and surrounding reef, whilst the bigger creatures were found along the edge of the wall.
Our final site of the week was round in Grace Bay – Pinnacles. This is one of the few sites that we regularly find fingerprint cyphoma amongst the flamingo tongues. They live exclusively on slit pore sea rods, whilst their closely related cousins will devour anything. Also on this site we located a number of triangular cyphoma, a much smaller cousin of the same family. The wall is richly covered with sea plumes and rods down to the sand at 100 feet from where it continues to descend very slowly out to the edge some 250 feet away. In this are large individual coral heads litter the shallower edge covered in sponges, gorgonians and black coral. It proved to be a very relaxing last dive site with spectacular visibility to end a great dive charter.
Back to the dock, civilization and reality but with fond memories of new friends found and a delightful array of critters and fish to talk about and compare and may be see again on a return trip.