Turks & Caicos Aggressor II
9 - 16 July 2016
Water Temp: 83 - 84 ° F
Visibility: 80 – 100 feet
Sandy & Wayne, John & David, Rich & Andy, Kyra & Irene, Daryl & Shari, Jack & Bruce, Mary Ann, Diane & Susan and Erika & Mark
Captain – AMANDA
2nd Captain - CHRISTY
Engineer – ROB
Chef – AILSA
Video Pro – TROY
Sunday: Eel Garden & The Dome – Northwest Point
Monday: Amphitheatre – Northwest Point & Boat Cove – West Caicos
Tuesday: Spanish Anchor – West Caicos & G-Spot – French Cay
Wednesday: Rock N Roll – French Cay & Gullies – West Caicos
Thursday: Elephant Ear Canyon & Magic Mushroom – West Caicos
Friday: Stairway – Northwest Point
Saturday afternoon came around again and our new guests boarded at Turtle Cove Marina and immediately started to get to know each other. As the tide was against us, as soon as our last guests boarded, we threw loose our mooring lines and headed out toward Northwest Point, where we moored up at Eel Garden in preparation for our first dive on Sunday morning.
After the back deck briefing, we jumped into the water and started our diving adventure in Turks & Caicos. Eel Garden demonstrated the reason for its name with garden eels living in the sand. Along the same lines, under coral heads, chunky spotted moray eels posed for photographs, unperturbed by the divers. Among the homes of the garden eels the tiniest headshield slugs hurried along. In the nooks and crannies along the wall, arrow blennies eyed the small reef fish that serve as their food. Under barrel sponges, the long white antennae of the banded coral shrimp alerted the divers of their presence.
For the afternoon and night dive, we moved to The Dome. We saw our resident green turtle, identifiable from the tag that attached to his front fin. Caribbean reef sharks cruised along the edge of the wall and a large nurse shark glided under the boat. The gorgonians on the wall provided homes to neck and decorator crabs. At the wall a tiny juvenile trunkfish caused quite a stir, as did a juvenile burfish on the night dive. A tiny yellow peanut shaped fish, at this stage, with huge eyes. Along the top of the reef channel clinging crabs came out to feed, including one that clung to the underside of the structure of the Dome. At the top a large measled cowries showed apart of its brilliantly shiny shell by having only part of its mantle extended. Just beyond the Dome a turtle hung out, unusually choosing the night to feed on a nearby sponge.
For the following morning we enjoyed the beautiful wall of Amphitheatre and were happy to see yellow-headed jawfish with eggs. The wall is covered with encrusting sponges and wire coral and their associated shrimp, which run up and down the corals, at times disappearing behind the coral due to there tiny size. An octopus made itself visible, but did not leave its crevice, watching as divers approached. A short while after the divers swam through the amphitheatre, their presence became obvious from the bubbles that work their way up the little cracks and holes in the reef; a screen of champagne like bubbles.
The following morning was spent at Spanish Anchor. The anchor itself was in full glory, covered in encrusting sponges and all manner of colours when lit. In a fire coral, a neck crab, of the decorator family, had covered itself in red algae and sat immune to the effects of the nematocysts, whilst down the wall a much larger specimen had chosen the same colour scheme, whilst attached to a sea rod – not particularly well disguised. On one of the wire corals, not only did we see a wire coral shrimp but also in the same spot a juvenile slender filefish picked minute morsels from the coral. As we ascended to the hangbar for our safety stop and looked back down at the reef, it teemed with life. Creole wrasse flowed over the wall, whilst yellow tailed snapper schooled along the edge and blue runners darted through the other fish.
At lunchtime we moved to French Cay, as we had a break in the winds that we have been experiencing. G-Spot was the location for our afternoon’s diving. As we jumped in two Caribbean reef sharks cruising around under the boat immediately met us. At the wall we saw two spotted eagle rays just in the distance, but seen by most of the group. Many of the gorgonians provided shelter to neck crabs, disguised in many different guises – hydroids and algae. The night dive brought out our three amigos. Three nurse sharks of varying sizes bombarded across the reef; whilst higher in the water column the reef sharks sought their evening meal.
Those nurse sharks were out and about the following morning, having followed us from our previous dive site to Rock N Roll. The smallest of the three was sleeping under a coral head, whilst the larger looked as though he were still in search of food. Lobsters peered out from coral heads all over the reef. A small spotted moray peeked out from a hole. A small hawksbill turtle swam through the group, not stopping, but slowly enough for everyone to enjoy her presence. As divers came up from the dive a single Caribbean reef shark swam below.
It was a move to West Caicos and Gullies for the afternoon. There were two reef sharks cruising around as usual, along with a permit. A number of neck crabs enjoyed the protection of the gorgonians, disguised by their fronds and also using them as an anchor by which they can feed on the passing critters. In an encrusting sponge a gawdy clown crab sat barely visible despite its vibrant colours. A porcupine fish sucked hermit crabs off of gorgonians and as it approached cleaning stations, opportunistic shark nose gobies would leap on and clean quickly before the porcupine fish moved away. The night dive showed up the neck crabs, which were actively catching any bloodworms that were attracted to these critters by our lights. A variety of sea cucumbers, including furry and tiger’s tail, moved slowly around the reef. The gorgonians also housed a number of white speckled nudibranchs. At the base of a coral head we found a green moray that was out to start with, but then snuck back and just peeked out, not obvious to everyone.
Still at West Caicos on Thursday morning, we dived at Elephant Ear Canyon. The rock reef by the bow has many nooks and crannies, filled with a variety of anemones. These anemones were filled with squat anemone shrimps; banded coral crabs as well as Pederson, spotted and sun anemone shrimp. Southern stingrays glide across the sand pausing to pull a garden eel from its home, followed by a couple of bar jacks hoping for a serendipitous snack. Also in the sand the tiny critters such as the flapping dingbats and headshield slugs tested everyone’s eyes.
Magic Mushroom was the choice of dive site for the afternoon. A good deal of time was spent at the wall near the “laughing sponge”, where a small nurse shark took a particular interest in the guests. Particularly interested in the cameras, she would attach herself to them and be easily lifted. She swam all around all the guests and crew for at least 25 minutes, being particularly fond of guest Rich. At lobster tower there was an enormous Caribbean spiny lobster in the crack in which they usually frequent. A peacock flounder intrigued the guests by changing colours as it moved across the reef and sand. During the night dive, enormous clinging crabs came out of their daytime holes and found something to feed upon. An octopus, shy at first, came out and delighted all with the change in colours and textures as it moved across the reef.
After the night dive we moved to Northwest Point, in preparation for the earlier start on Friday morning. A great site to end the charter with spiny lobsters parading across the reef, juvenile barracuda hovering up by the mooring line and a couple of reef sharks cruising along the edge of the wall. We encountered a little bit of everything to end a great week of diving.
Next week we have Family week onboard the Turks & Caicos Aggressor II, so check in to see how we fared and what adventures we had.