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Turks & Caicos Aggressor II Captain’s Log
11 - 18 May 2019
Turks & Caicos Islands
Air temperature: 81° - 86° F
Water temperature: 80° - 81°F
Visibility: 50 - 100 feet
Thermal recommendation: 3mm full wetsuit
Captain: Amanda Smith
2nd Captain: Alex Brett
Engineer: Robert Smith
Chef: Chace Gaudreau
Photo Pro: Sarah Pearson
Instructor: Jamison Lightbourne
Monica & Bill, Jeanine & Peter, Pat & Rex, Yvette, Gayle, Bruce & Michael, Michelle & Chris, Sam & Josh, Leslie & Dale
Our Dive Sites
Sunday: Eel Garden & The Dome - NWPT
Monday: Gulley & Boat Cove – West Caicos
Tuesday: Spanish Anchor – West Caicos & G-Spot – French Cay
Wednesday: Rock N Roll – French Cay, West Sand Spit
Thursday: Magic Mushroom – West Caicos & Amphitheatre - NWPT
Friday: Shark’s Hotel - NWPT
There was great excitement as our guests boarded on Saturday afternoon, eager for the week of diving that we were about to enjoy. The forecast for the week was promising and our guests became acquainted over stories of past trips and experiences. Briefings were delivered and a delightful supper, from Chef Chace, served before guests settled for the evening in preparation for our early departure.
Sunday morning delivered a beautiful sunrise, however we were already underway by the time the sun peeked over the horizon. A gentle crossing took us to Northwest Point of Providenciales where we stopped for the start of our trip.
Our first dive site was Eel Garden, so called for the prominence of garden eels that we encounter here. Swimming over the top of them reminds folks of mowing the lawn as they disappear into their homes. It promised to be another shark filled week as we immediately encountered our pregnant Caribbean reef shark as she cruised the wall. Our neck crabs hung in the gorgonians, beautifully decorated and camouflaged and barely moving until a morsel of food passed. One of the highlights of our dive was the tiny juvenile trunkfish that bobbed around at the edge of the wall. So small that you can barely see its fins, it gave the impression of levitating around the reef rather than swimming.
For the afternoon, we moved to one of our signature dive sites – The Dome. The subject of a 1980s French TV show, we have been left with the underwater structure of one of the challenges. Today it provides home and shelter for grunts and schoolmasters, clinging crabs and a whole host of other fish and critters. The structure is covered in blennies looking as if they could take on the world. The night dive brought out all manner of little critters, including brokeback shrimp that hang out on the gorgonian sea plumes, which also provide cover for tiny squid that camouflage themselves amongst the polyps. Our resident hawksbill turtle was inside the structure and sat and observed our movements for a little while before moving on.
By Monday morning we were over at West Caicos, diving at the Gulley with great expectations for sharing the waters with our friends the Caribbean reef sharks. Immediately under the boat large schools of jacks – bar, horse-eye & blue runners sought protection within our shadow. Amongst them were black durgeon created dark spots within the silver of the jacks, feeding on tiny critters in the water column. Our sharks were slow to start but prevalent for our second dive. In the large gorgonian sea plum on the corner of the gulley, single toothed simnia blended their colour perfectly – being part of the cowrie family they are a little more challenging to find. A highlight for the dive was a juvenile spotted drum dancing around under a coral head.
The afternoon took us a short distance to Boat Cove. Again we delighted in the large number of schooling fish in the water column, joined this time by a school of Atlantic spadefish, which always appear poised and dignified as they allow divers to slowly approach. Large channel clinging crabs and lobsters made their appearance for the night dive along with enormous basket stars that clung to anything along the edge of the reef, vying for the best position to feed.
Tuesday morning we woke to a very calm day. The vessel lollygagged around the mooring and seemed to continuously move. Every time we returned from a dive, the boat was in a different place. Spanish Anchor was the dive site that we started at and as we were tailing toward the island, we were in shallow water and the sun dappled the sand. At the wall two beautiful Atlantic spadefish glided between the coral heads, whilst the reef sharks cruised amongst the guests along the wall. Back under the boat, at the end of the dive, a small turtle was found wedged under a coral head and seemed happy to tolerate our attention as she sat and watched us watching her. After a short time, she emerged from her resting place and swam a short distance to a sponge that clearly had been used as a meal previously all the while accepting of our observation of her. After the dive, just twenty feet from the boat she surfaced for air, before returning back to her mid morning snack.
After our second dive at Spanish Anchor we headed around to French Cay. Conditions were amazing and we were making good time, UNTIL we spotted a large pod of pilot whales. Very unusual to the Turks & Caicos Islands, lunch was brought to a stop as everyone stood on the bow watching as they made their way in the same direction that we were travelling. Very slowly our paths converged until we had these delightful creatures on all sides close to the vessel. We decided that we would try and enter the water to see them a little closer, but their indulgence of us was limited to enjoying their presence from the deck of the vessel and they moved away as we dropped in. We believe that there were at least twenty, probably more, and it was great to see the calves in amongst the adults.
This may have delayed our travel to French Cay, but we still managed to get two afternoon dives and a night dive in. No one was disappointed by the delay and G-Spot, the dive site, for the afternoon delivered a great experience for the guests. Our reef sharks were circling and on the second dive our nurse sharks started to appear, resting, of course, in preparation for their nightly extravaganza. Two separate sightings of juvenile spotted drum excited the group. Tiny black and white striped bodies with the elegant flair of the trailing dorsal fin dancing around the edge of a reef. As they grow larger they will become more shy and less keen to seemingly parade.
Our night dive at G-Spot was spectacular, as it usually is. Nurse sharks bumped each other to get to whatever delightful morsel was hiding in the coral. This frenzied behaviour excited the jacks, which in turn excited the reef sharks and cubera snapper, leaving all the smaller fish in fear and hiding. As if that was not sufficient for an amazing dive, as our guests started to return to the boat a large spotted eagle ray glided up over the wall and over them before disappearing into the dark. It proved to be quite an end to an already sensational dive. As we hung at our safety spot the Caribbean reef sharks decided to join us and three were circling amongst us as we off-gassed.
We moved a small distance the following morning to dive at Rock N Roll. The weather had remained still and calm and the sun gleamed off the surface of the water as it rose. During the first dive the deck crew had spotted a dolphin on the surface, close to where the divers were in the water. We hoped that they saw it and as it turned out only one on our guests saw it as it cruised along the wall. The spotted eagle ray however was seen by many more and enjoyed immensely. A large nurse shark moved through the coral heads whilst in the sand a number of peacock flounders disguised themselves.
The stars aligned today and gave us the perfect conditions to get across to West Sand Spit and we are certainly glad that they did. With a sense of déjà vu we spotted a large animal logging at the surface en route to the sand spit. Confident that it was not the pilot whales we had seen the day before, we slowly approached. It was clearly a whale and the fact that its blow was low to the surface and off to one side suggested that it was a sperm whale. Closer and closer we moved in and we spent at least 10 minutes with the whale on the surface, until it took its last breath, lifted its head and dived, finally bringing its flukes out of the water to descend into the deep. Who said whale season was over! With a sharp eye open for any more encounters we continued our travel to West Sand Spit.
This is the first time that we have dived at West Sand Spit this year. The water was so clear that we could see the anchor placement in the sand hole anchorage. We were greeted in the water by large numbers of Oceanic triggerfish. In the sand southern stingrays and a variety of conch fed, both in a very different manner; the stingray skimming across the surface whilst the conch generating great trails in the sand over what looks like an impossible distance. Around every coral head sea cucumbers slumbered – tigers tail, donkey dung and furry. A couple of Atlantic spadefish swam above us just before we spotted a snoozing nurse shark under a coral head along the wall.
Whilst we were enjoying being under the water our deck crew were enjoying the dolphins that were entertaining them toward the surface; alas they did not visit the divers.
Back to French Cay for the night dive to enjoy G-Spot once again. It was not quite as exhilarating as the night before, but we still had some nurse and reef shark encounters. The fact that the nurse sharks weren’t on the prowl quite so much allowed some of their prey to venture forth. In particular, a reef octopus was out and about feeding as it expanded and contracted, changing colours as it moved across the coral heads.
We headed back to West Caicos after the night dive, in preparation for our morning, however the weather had other ideas and a strong thunderstorm kept us out of the water until a little later than we had planned, but as soon as it had passed we were in and diving at Magic Mushroom.
One of the favourite coral heads we have at Magic Mushroom is Lobster Tower and whilst today it had a moderate occupancy, the more interesting feature was the two small juvenile trunkfish that had taken residency at the top of the structure. Not too far away was a dusky damselfish protecting eggs, who was not particularly enamored by our interest in the trunkfish and gave a few of our divers a gentle nip as a warning. In the shallows guests Jeanine & Peter were delighted to find a rarer banded jawfish – not something we see here often.
During lunchtime we headed back to Northwest Point to dive the Amphitheatre – one half of the dive site provides great yellow headed jawfish opportunities as they seem to congregate here. We were fortunate to find one male that was mouth brooding and content, to a degree, to remain out of his hole. Reef sharks cruised the edge of the wall whilst stingrays vacuumed their way up to the shallows. The night dive revealed more shark activity, including a nurse shark that cruised by below us along the reef. White speckled nudibranchs nested in the gorgonian sea plumes and all manner of large crabs paraded across the reef. Another sighting of a tufted tritoniopsis (same dive site as last week) got the Captain all excited again.
We had just one dive on Friday morning at the dive site Shark’s Hotel. As soon as we descended into the water we encountered the namesakes for the site. Along the wall a slender filefish shared space with a juvenile trunkfish on a sea plume. As we returned to the shelter of the boat our resident Nassau grouper appeared to join the dive, visiting nearly every diver as they arrived at the coral heads where we usually find him. He enjoyed our attentions and we ascended to the vessel leaving him in the care of a well-appointed cleaning station.
Another thunderstorm accompanied us back around to Turtle Cove Marina and as we were arriving at the dock lightning was obviously hitting other parts of the island.
Luncheon was served and everyone relaxed in to their afternoon – the weather had burnt itself out and left us with a quiet heavy afternoon.
We rendezvoused at 5.30pm to reflect on the week past and the amazing encounters that we had enjoyed. We hope that the waters around the Turks & Caicos Islands will continue to surprise and delight us during the next week – check back to find out how.