Turks & Caicos Aggressor II
22 – 29 July 2017
Water temperature: 82 - 83°F
Visibility: 60 – 80 feet
Thermal protection suggestion: 3mm
Leo & Barbara, Louis, Marie & Phil, Sue & Kent, Sabrina & Mark, Jan & Lee, Doug, Karl and Garrett
Captain: AMANDA SMITH
Engineer: ROBERT SMITH
Video Pro: JESSICA POLK
Instructor: CONOR FERRIN
Chef: CHRISTY BROWN
Instructor: DAVID LUXFORD
Sunday: Eel Garden & Amphitheatre, NWPT
Monday: Boat Cove & Brandywine, West Caicos
Tuesday: Elephant Ear Canyon & Spanish Anchor, West Caicos
Wednesday: Rock N Roll & G-Spot, French Cay
Thursday: Gullies, West Caicos & The Dome, NWPT
Friday: Pinnacles, Grace Bay
Saturday afternoon was delightful, as our fourteen guests boarded. Some of our divers were returning Aggressor Addicts and others were here to experience the Liveaboard life for the first time. Everyone was excited. As briefings were delivered and then supper served, new friendships were already forming as the mutual anticipation of the trip began to build.
A quiet night at the dock and then at first light we departed Turtle Cove Marina and motored around to Northwest Point. Eel Garden was our first site of the week; we were excited to see our froggy friends and we were not disappointed. Only the green frogfish appeared to us this week, which is the one that is usually more difficult to see. Perched just below the y-shaped rope sponge it sat in solitary, stoically enduring our attentions. Two octopuses delighted guests, the first tucked away under a coral head and the second out for a little daytime feeding and all this at the first dive site of the week – how were we going to follow that?
Amphitheatre was our destination for our afternoon and night dives. In all the sandy chutes, jawfish lingered above their holes, quite a good ways into the water column, backing into them when approached by our divers. Banded coral shrimp hid around sponges evident, at first, only by their long white antennae. As we were returning to the boat on the first dive at this site a larger than usual shark cruised past us turned and passed us again. Much thicker in the body than a reef shark, it soon became apparent that we had just spotted a bull shark, checking out the vicinity. On the night dive, crustaceans were the feature, with a channel clinging crab that had lost three of its legs, including one of its large from claws. Lobsters abound, including three that marched across the reef.
We moved across to West Caicos as the sun broke over the horizon and for the first dive we were at Boat Cove, the home of our broad-banded moray. Sharks cruised along the edge of the wall and followed our divers as they explored the site. Even as we ascended at the end of the dive, the Caribbean reef sharks joined us circling around the hangbar. Guests continued to hang at the ladders even having taken their fins off to enjoy the show, so close to the surface.
For the afternoon, we motored a short distance to Brandywine. As we descended four cero mackerel approached from the deep blue. The wandering anemone had not moved far and was out in all its glory – blue under ambient light, but hot pink under the beam of our lights and strobes. At the very edge, a Pedersen cleaner shrimp bobbed, advertising cleaning services and waiting for a customer. Guests Kent and Sue sighted a juvenile spotted drum, low under a coral head, and were further surprised by six intermediate Caribbean spiny lobsters crammed into the same coral head.
The night dive proved to be an awesome fluorescence dive with several different types of nudibranch, including white spotted and longhorn. Coral polyps shone greens and yellows, whilst neck crabs appeared red. Tube dwelling anemones provided delightful fluorescent subjects, in the sand along the edge of coral heads.
Tuesday morning saw us move to Elephant’s Ear Canyon and the tiny critters that proliferate. As we dropped in along the wall we enjoyed a condylactus anemone with hot pink spots on the edge of each tentacle. A little further along the wall and a female sail-fin blenny peered out from her hole – not prepared, on this occasion, to display for us. A large Caribbean reef shark was never very far from us and as we headed up onto the sand a good sized southern stingray cruised back and forward. There were a variety of different headshield slugs moving around busily. A small pipe-horse used its prehensile tail to keep it attached to a piece of grass.
When crewmember Conor returned from teaching the Advanced Adventurer Deep dive he found that he had brought back a little critter from the depths. A tiny brown-striped octopus clung to his gear and so a rescue mission ensued. Adding some seawater to a cup it was moved into a temporary home and passed around our guests to watch as it explored its environment. At the beginning of the next dive, Conor returned it to the sand, where he assumed he picked it up and this curious critter sat and looked around and when it realized it had been set next to another tiny octopus, it quickly hid itself in the sand.
After our rescue mission, we moved to the other end of the island, to dive at Spanish Anchor. All enjoyed the swim through that houses the sponge-encrusted anchor, wedged in its northern wall. Under a coral head to the south a good-sized nurse shark slumbered under a coral head and there was hope that she may still be there for the night dive, but she had moved on at that point. There were more crustaceans to see this night and also reef squid.
We made it to French Cay on Wednesday morning – a rarity over the past few weeks. Rock N Roll was our first site of the day and besides the great reef, which alone will keep divers entertained, we also had the fortune to enjoy and number of Caribbean reef sharks that circled the group and a very photogenic hawksbill turtle that was completely at ease with the guests. He spotted himself in the dome of, crewmember, Rob’s camera and got up close and personal to admire himself.
That afternoon we moved the very short distance to G-Spot. A little bit of current made for a longer swim to the dive’s feature but also meant that as the tide was going out the critters were going crazy along the edge of the wall, feasting upon the nutrient rich waters of the Caicos Bank. By the night dive the current had dropped and we were entertained by a myriad of shark. Nurse sharks barged over each other to see if they could find some smaller critters to eat. At the edge of the wall a reef octopus very nearly became one of those morsels, but by staying stock still the nurse sharks did not notice him. At the G-Spot we encountered several large basket stars, moving out into their night positions from where they could feed. As we returned to the boat, accompanied the whole time by at least three nurse sharks of varying sizes, at least four reef sharks, three more nurse sharks and our resident cubera snapper joined us. As we moved to the hangbar, all the groups remaining below us were surrounded by all manner of critters – the reef was alive.
We moved back to West Caicos during the night, in preparation for our morning dive at Gullies. A favourite amongst all the crew we were excited by the prospect of more sharks and we were not disappointed. A small school of Atlantic spadefish cruised by and hung out with us for a short while and a number of spotted morays were seen mostly being cleaned, by shark nosed gobies – it was clearly bath time for the morays!
Off to The Dome at Northwest Point for the afternoon, to swim up the chimney and through the basis for the French reality TV show, Pago Pago. Along the wall the guests spotted a scorpionfish carefully disguised and behaving, as they do, as a piece of reef – only really apparent as the pectoral fins are revealed, to show the delightful striated pinks and purples. The structure of the Dome revealed tiny secretary and spiny head blennies using the vacated calcified wormholes as their homes.
Another night move to Grace Bay this time, to see, we hoped, the fingerprint cyphoma. We found one eventually, but during that journey; we came across a charming green turtle, sat looking around at the bottom of one of the grooves. Around him, two spiny lobsters clambered across the reef, garnering more attention from their movement until our divers eyes registered the immobile turtle. A little further on and an intermediate trunkfish caught our attention, finning delicately, with very small pectoral fins, to move around the reef. Finally as our air was getting low, all slit pore sea rods had been examined we came across one flamingo tongue and one fingerprint cyphoma, just as we made our ascent back to the yacht.
Our return to the marina was a short trip and soon we were moored up at the dock, reflecting on the adventures past and planning our next exploits. Our cheese and wine party brought the trip to an end with a celebration of courses passed and iron diver status achieved. Congratulations to Karl for becoming a diver of enriched air and likewise for Garrett with the added esteem of underwater photography and Advanced Open Water, as well as being our only iron diver of the week.
Check in next week to see what we have in store for our next charter; we’re excited about it!