Turks & Caicos Aggressor II
Air temperature: 85° - 90° F
Water temperature: 83° F
Visibility: 80 - 100 feet
Thermal recommendation: 3mm Shorty or full Wetsuit
Captain: Amanda Smith
2nd Captain: Christy Weaver
Engineer: Rob Smith
Chef: Jessica Polk
Instructor: JJ Di Matteo
Instructor: Aaron Brouse
JoAnne & Do, Ellen & Bob, Sandy & Mark, Kathy & Steve, Margaret & David, John & Tania, Jeff, Yousuf & Ashar, Chris & Bob, Randy
Sunday: Eel Garden & Amphitheatre – N W Point
Monday: The Dome & Sharks Hotel – N W Point
Tuesday: Boat Cove & Gullies – West Caicos
Wednesday: Spanish Anchor – West Caicos & G-Spot – French Cay
Thursday: Magic Mushroom, West Caicos, Stairway & Amphitheatre – N W Point
Friday: Pinnacles – Grace Bay
Saturday afternoon was clear and bright and our guests boarded with great excitement, setting up their gear and experiencing their rooms for the first time. Much chat was exchanged as our guests started to get to know each other, some having been on the same charter the last time they were here. Many of our guests are returning and so it was great to see them again as well as meet first timers.
We enjoyed a great meal prepared by Chef Jess and by 9.30pm our last guest had arrived and everyone after chatting some more settled down to a good nights sleep.
At first light on Sunday morning we negotiated the channel and headed off to North West Point of Providenciales. We had calm seas and fair winds and arrived at Eel Garden in good time. Once the briefings had been delivered for the back deck we were off under the water. We have gotten off to a good start with a shark on every dive when we met up with a Caribbean reef shark cruising the wall. Lots of decorator crabs frequented the sea plumes alongside delicate slender filefish, using the gorgonians as camouflage. A large green moray protruded front and back under a coral head, clearly too big for its chosen location. Check out dives completed; now for some fun!
For the afternoon we moved to Amphitheatre and as we were tailing parallel to the wall it gave us the opportunity to view the shallower part of the site as well as the part of the wall after which the site was named. Seven types of black coral can be found in this area with their assorted resident, such as neck crab and tiny shrimp. In the sand the numerous jawfish bobbed up and down, but we were fortunate to find two males holding eggs in their mouths, one of which was very keen to repeatedly aerate them by spitting them out temporarily. A small balloon fish sat on the bottom under a coral head looking as though it has the universe in its eyes with the striking, sparkling colours that they appear. For the night dive we were delighted to spot a golden spotted snake eel right of the bat, followed by a small octopus that was clearly happy to allow us to watch it feed. The end of the dive was special as guest Jeff, spotted and shared two reef squid that started to feed on the critters that were attracted by our light. They seemed happy to hang out near a gorgonian encrusted with fire coral whilst this all went on.
The following morning we decided to stay at Northwest Point and we moved to The Dome to check out what critters were using the structure for protection. In the centre of the dome is a contraption that during the game show pushed pearls into the water column. No more pearls, but instead a spotted moray was using the pipes to lay out its full length. A small flounder brought great delight as it moved across the sand, almost completely invisible except for its movement alerting us to its whereabouts. In the chimney, a vertical swim through at the edge of the wall, we passed golden crinoids as we slowly ascended. Yellow-headed jawfish frequented the sandy chutes between the coral heads, which were home to banded coral shrimp – the cleaners of the bigger fish and eels. A small male Caribbean reef shark buzzed around as if he were trying to prove he is top of the food chain.
We moved a little further north along the west coast of Providenciales for the afternoon and a dive site called Sharks Hotel. The sharks had not checked out yet and we also had the opportunity to see some large Nassau grouper moving from cleaning station to cleaning station. The reef in this area is beautiful and with visibility much improved we were able to enjoy the dramatic effect of the nooks and crannies of this site. The night dive brought out octopus and crab and enormous lobster.
We struck out early on Tuesday morning to spend some time out at West Caicos and so we were underway as the sun peeped over the horizon and we welcomed in a new day. Boat Cove was a delight as usual, especially as we started our dive with a very friendly hawksbill turtle that swam with most of our guests and then disappeared, only to return later at a sponge that particularly interested him and which he started to eat. An encounter with an arrow crab brought about an unexpected surprise. As it was being pointed out a small juvenile trunkfish appeared, a cross between a pea and a dice and a reasonably rare sight for Turks & Caicos.
We moved just a short distance to Gullies for the afternoon and enjoyed the swim through that cuts the reef. We were accompanied by three Caribbean reef sharks at the wall and a school of small barracuda that hovered in ones, twos & threes. In the sand closer to the mooring southern and rough back stingrays glided over the bottom. The night dive was a great black light dive, where the trapania and tiny peacock flounder were revealed by the fluorescent light, and longhorn nudibranchs also became clearly visible from a distance.
We travelled to the south for Spanish Anchor on Wednesday morning, in preparation for our trip down to French Cay. Two great dives at this site to admire the anchor believed to be of Spanish origin as a result of the lack of chain attached to it. More Caribbean reef sharks cruised the walls and barracuda hung motionless. Large lobsters provided subject matter for photographs and video, as did a flounder that moved from sand to reef, changing colour accordingly.
And so we travelled to French Cay for the afternoon and evening dives. G-Spot was our destination and provided us with sharks, barracuda and Cubera snapper. The area still has a huge population of sharp-nosed puffer fish – you may say that it was a population explosion! They tend to hang out in pairs and there are literally 10 – 15 in our line of sight at anyone time; deep and shallow. A nurse shark cruised along the wall with us before scooting in to a recess in the wall just a few feet above a hawksbill turtle that had the same idea. By the time we were returning to the boat, we had seen the turtle and the nurse sharks a couple more times after they had left the wall. A large barracuda led a school of smaller barracuda along the wall, but they were quick to swim away as the larger one stopped and started to turn – it seemed quite content however to come in close to the divers. In and amongst the coral heads banded coral shrimp and arrow crabs perched awaiting a passing morsel of food. As we made our ascent to the yacht, two nurse sharks snoozed at the top of the wall as if resting and preparing themselves for an exciting night dive. That is exactly what they gave us!
Ten nurse sharks followed our intrepid divers around the night dive, accompanied by two reef sharks and our beautiful, enormous cubera snapper. The snapper was far bigger than many of the sharks and even stopped to pose for photographs in between the feeding frenzy. Nurse sharks nuzzled and pushed and nudged and bumped into each other and the divers. Fifty minutes of raw energy to the delight of the onlookers.
For the morning we moved back to West Caicos to check out Lobster Tower – we were not disappointed this morning, the tower was brimming with crustaceans, including an enormous channel clinging crab. Only a few feet away a large porcupine fish hovered above a coral head. A couple of our reef sharks were intent on getting up close and personal and beneath them southern stingrays scooted around. Under the boat a small peacock flounder laid motionless with the exception of its eyes moving as we passed and as we ascended to the safety stop we enjoyed the horse eyed jacks and yellow tailed snapper that tend to hang out under the boat.
We travelled back to the north west point of Providenciales during lunch and the dive site of Stairway, so called because it has steps of star coral in plate formation creating great homes for banded coral shrimp and arrow crabs. Caribbean spiny lobster marched across the reef whilst above them barracuda schooled. At the mooring line we were delighted to discover the perfectly formed holes of the red orange ghost shrimp, but these critters only showed their antennae and did not reveal themselves fully. Of particular delight was the pair of sea goddesses, under a coral head, that writhed over each other. It is at this time of the year that we see these critters, usually in pairs, along the edge of the reef, so we hope to see some more for the short while that they reveal themselves to us. The wall was particularly lovely this afternoon and provided a very relaxed atmosphere for our return to NW Point.
The night dive brought out a plethora of lobsters, including slipper lobster and spotted spiny lobster. A large reef shark moved in and amongst the group of night divers as they navigated the reef. For the black light dive a mantis shrimp appeared in the sand but was not prepared to move from its tiny hole.
We headed to Grace Bay, early on Friday morning and to the dive site of Pinnacles. It was a great dawn dive as we enjoyed the sudden appearance of all the day fish, their nocturnal equivalents already having retired. Despite the darkness at the beginning of the dive, we were delighted to see both a turtle and a reef shark. The second dive did not give us the greatest visibility, but we were looking for, and found, the fingerprint cyphoma, that frequent this site. At the edge of the was a delightful slender filefish posed for photographs for a little while and then moved behind the rod of the gorgonian that it was hanging in, to become almost completely invisible – it certainly kept us on our toes in terms of spotting this favourite of fish. There may have been turtles and sharks around us, but we could not see them, but still a relaxing dive to end the week.
We headed into Turtle Cove Marina, for a relaxing afternoon, some choosing to visit our local galleries to see our local artists and others to kick back, read and chill out. We reflected on the week gone by at the cheese and wine party, the diving, the delightful food that kept us energized by Chef Jess and all the encounters that we had.
Congratulations to our Iron Divers this week, just two – Ellen & Bobby passed the test even with a dawn dive at 6am on Friday. Ellen also reached her 100th dive this week whilst she was with us – Ellen you make a great cake! Also a shout out to our new Nitrox divers Ellen (she was busy this week), Sandy and Yousuf and to Ashar who mastered the art of Fluorescence Diver.
Check back with us next week to see what great encounters we experience. Until then….TTFN!