Turks & Caicos Aggressor II
15 – 22 April 2017
Air temperature: 70° - 80° F
Water temperature: 77° F
Visibility: 50 – 80 feet
Thermal recommendation: 3mm or 5mm full wetsuit
Captain: AMANDA SMITH
2nd Captain: CHRISTY WEAVER
Engineer: ROB SMITH
Video Pro: CONOR FERRIN
Chef: CHRISTY BROWN
Tom & Keri, Sherry, Julie, Richard & Kim, Steve & Steve, Michelle, Ruth, Josefina & Paul, Dexter, Glen Keith & Steve affectionately known as the five stooges, and several Listerine bottles.
Sunday – Eel Garden & The Dome - NWPT
Monday – The Anchor & Brandywine – West Caicos
Tuesday – Driveway & Boat Cove – West Caicos
Wednesday – Elephant Ear Canyon & Magic Mushroom – West Caicos
Thursday – Gullies – West Caicos & Stairway - NWPT
Friday – Amphitheatre - NWPT
We headed out as soon as all our guests arrived on Saturday, eager to miss the building seas that were forecast to pound the north shore of Providenciales. We caught a bit of the swell but were safely moored at Northwest Point before the big rollers came in. After a great supper from Chef Christy we got our heads down for a good night’s sleep in preparation for our week of diving.
Our first site of the week was Eel Garden and for engineer, Rob and Captain Amanda, this was their first week of diving since the whale charters and both were very excited to be back home. Looking out for our regular critters, Rob was happy to see the most photographed anemone in TCI still in situ at The Crack, also accessible from Eel Garden. It was a whole little eco system this week, being home to Pedersen cleaner shrimp, yellow line arrow crabs and a nimble spray crab. To the south, Amanda found some neck crabs hanging out in the sea plumes and our resident, and well proportioned (on the plump side) spotted moray in its usual hole. Clearly it had been feeding well!
For the afternoon we moved to The Dome and enjoyed great visibility around this iconic dive site for the islands. In particular, Conor found a juvenile Queen angel and we shall look forward to watching this one grow as they tend to stay in a limited area before growing up and moving on. Sergeant Majors kept close into the structure, protecting eggs from would be predators. The schoolmasters and grunts used the inside as protection from prey and we were pleased to see that the reef ladders used to grow new coral were still in position and bursting with new coral life. The Turks & Caicos Reef Fund has set up these ladders to promote new coral growth.
Monday took us over to West Caicos and The Anchor, a three hundred year old anchor believed to be of Spanish origin, caught in a gulley like swim through. Most saw the anchor, although it is well disguised with a good deal of sponge and coral growth over it. A scorpionfish was one of the highlights of this dive as well as the usual critters, including butterflyfish of numerous kinds and angelfish. Here, we were delighted to see a juvenile spotted drum busily swimming around whilst really going nowhere. Stingrays searched the sandy areas for something to feast upon and our resident Caribbean reef shark cruised the edge of the wall.
Moving north, we moved up to Brandywine and the home of the great wandering condylactus anemone. True to form it had moved from its last sighting, but was still close by in all its blue ambient light colour, turning shocking hot pink when exposed to artificial light. In the sandy patches between the coral heads we saw yellow-headed jawfish. Keen to see a male with eggs, we were to be thwarted until much later in the week, but not completely disappointed. We returned to The Anchor for the night dive. Night dives this week were not particularly well supported, but that did not prevent the few who went from having a great time. With different types of lobster and some enormous channel clinging crabs, everyone involved was satisfied. The black light showed up all manor of unusual and mostly unseen critters, but it did provide an opportunity to see a snake eel as it glowed in the sand.
Driveway was our next site, more yellow-headed jawfish – no eggs! A peacock flounder created delight as it moved from sand and a very white colouring to the reef where it lived up to its peacock name and showed its blue spots. Caribbean spiny lobster peered out from the edge of the wall as we passed and a single reef shark made several passes along the wall. At the mooring a very large nurse shark slumbered, but by the time the second dive began, she had moved to immediately under the boat, for all to see.
The afternoon and night dive was then at one of our favourite sites – Boat Cove. Our resident broad-banded moray was abroad, but several banded coral shrimp hung out in the immediate vicinity waiting for a bigger critter to clean. Our resident female reef shark circled beneath the boat with an occasional roughback or southern stingray hugging the sand. The night dive saw only black light divers, who got the opportunity to see trapania and longhorn nudibranchs fluoresce. When the shark came back in though, black light went off and white light back on – sharks do not fluoresce!
Captain’s favourite, Elephant Ear Canyon was the site for the following morning. Eager to see flapping dingbats, we were disappointed, but are hopeful for later in the season. Still we enjoyed several types of headshield slugs and in the coral heads in the shallower waters, Pedersen and spotted cleaner shrimp, as well as corkscrew, branching and condylactus anemones, all with their own little cosmos or critters around them and not to forget the coralimorphs – home to some of the smaller sun anemone shrimp. Of course, the stingrays abound here, attracted by the sandy bottom and our regular sharks stopped by to see what we were up to.
At lunchtime we moved to Magic Mushroom – home to Lobster Tower – which was teeming with lobsters, but some did not notice this so much as they were distracted by an enormous claw of a channel clinging crab, almost as long as a human arm. Many photographs were taken. It was here that two of our guests Richard & Kim glimpsed a spotted eagle ray, much to their delight.
Over to Gullies Thursday morning and the regular haunt of Sully, the Caribbean reef shark. She was present as ever with her entourage of followers, mainly smaller males. For the afternoon we headed back to Northwest Point and Stairway, where we enjoyed watching several types of lobsters. A particular high point was to see an octopus that was making easy work of eating a good sized crab. Sadly by the night dive the octopus had retired for the evening, probably with a full stomach.
Amphitheatre was the choice for Friday’s early morning dive, which was well supported. Finally jawfish with eggs were seen and photographed and I would think that a substantial part of some of those dives may have been in one place trying to photograph them. A great site for the end of the week and by 11.30 am we were all packed up and heading back to the marina. We had lunch on the way and then a relaxing afternoon at Turtle Cove Marina before a lively cocktail party in the evening.
A great week of encounters, windy weather aside, with great company, much laughing and dancing. Certainly a memorable and fun trip for the crew and for the guests that joined us with new friendships formed.
Check back to see what next week holds for us; at the very least the wind is forecast to drop away and we are confident that we will finally make it to French Cay for the first time since our whale charters. See you then.