Friday, May 18, 2012

Diving Ambergris Caye

I woke up at dawn this morning to the sound and aroma of Frenchie brewing coffee in the lobby. The sky was light and the birds were singing at 5:30 am when I went for my first mug. I drank a couple more, then dressed the walk down Front street for a breakfast of fry jacks, beans and scrambled eggs from a street vendor. My instructions from Dominic were to arrive at the dive shop at 9 am. Dominic is the son of Frenchie. He runs the office, as his mother once did before she retired. I checked out equipment. I own dive gear, but it is too bulky and heavy to take with me (recall the photo of me trying to get out of the apartment yesterday). So I use theirs. Here is the scene on the dock as we finish our preparations: Frenchies dock in morning There are eight of us divers and two dive masters, both of whom remember me. We head north inside the reef for about half and hour until we are off San Pedro, the town on Ambergris Caye. Three-story hotels line the beach. We pause to get most of our gear on, then cross through a cut in the barrier reef and go outside. To me, the sea is astonishingly calm. We gear up and do our back-rolls into the ocean. I have not dove since December, 2010 and so am rusty. And forgetful. I do my back roll without placing the regulator in my mouth. Oops. I surface, laugh at myself and insert the reg in where it belongs before descending to the bottom. I have no problem equalizing my ears but focus on remembering basic dive skills as I descend. I notice four nurse sharks circling but ignore them. Another diver assumes I did not see them and so points. I signal OK. Well, maybe I ought to spend a little time enjoying the fish. The dive is terrific. The water is warm (82oF/28 oC or so). Healthy corals and fish. We make a triangle shape back to the mooring buoy the boat is tied to. I do not use all my air, and have no problem making a safety stop. Not bad for a year and a half above the sea! We are so close to San Pedro that we go there for the surface interval. Karl ties up the boat to the water taxi dock and we disembark to walk around. I'll share some snapshots on my short time in San Pedro. Boat on dock; Karl stays with it: Water taxi dock San Pedro for surface interval Front street on a rainy day. Notice the pavement! DSCN0078 The Jaguar Temple nightclub and the new town clock tower in the town square: Jaguar nightclub in San Pedro Remember how I am dressed: Erik in wetsuit on Front street San Pedro, smiling That photo was taken by this lady. Coatimundi tied to table in San Pedro She and her son (next to her) were selling wood carvings to tourists. They tried to get me to buy one, but of course I had no money on me, dressed as I was. I said it was back in Caye Caulker. She proposed that I buy an item and take her son to Caye Caulker on the dive boat, and then send him and the money back on the water taxi. I quickly lost what little respect I had remaining for her after seeing her other business venture. she has a coatimundi tied by string to the leg of her table. For US$1, tourists can set it on their shoulders for a photo. Please, do not do this! It only encourages the collection of baby mammals by shooting the mother. We got back on the boat after our safety surface interval: Loading dive boat after surface interval in San Pedro and headed back to the reef, leaving San Pedro and their street vendors behind. Pulling away from San Pedro, Ambergris Caye We used a mooring buoy to tie the boat to. Use of these reduces the need to anchor, which can damage the reef. Mooring to buoy before dive outside reef I think you can tell I was excited to go back under the sea! Erik grinning before second dive I was especially happy not to be snorkelling, as these people were doing in the Hol Chan marine reserve: Snorkelers at Hol Chan I snorkelled back in December, shortly after my back surgery when my surgeon didn't want me diving. Fun, but not anywhere near as cool as diving. On this dive, I paid more attention to marine life. Acropora coral was growing well. Some white- and yellow- band disease but not much. Minimal bleaching. No lionfish, fortunately. Some parrotfish but fewer than I am used to. More algae--not good. Algae smothers the corals, eventually killing them. Fertilized by effluent running off from San Pedro? Lack of sufficient numbers of algae-eating fish? We did see a few other cool fish, like a spotted drum. All in all, a very nice dive. We headed back in through the Hol Chan cut and went south to Caye Caulker, arriving back at the Frenchies dock wet and tired but happy.
From Caye Caulker May 2012
I showered and ate grilled fish for lunch at the Rainbow. Delicious and reasonable. I spent the afternoon walking around and taking photos of island infrastructure. I'll share those in another post. I'll finish this one with a photo of the sunset as seen at the split. Another couple staying here put their camera on a tripod and were using a cable shutter to get long exposure times--when the tour boat run by Ras Creek came by. Oh, well. Photographing sunset at split Tomorrow, another day of diving.

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