Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Palau Day 12, 13 and the trip home

Friday, December 3rd, was our last day of diving in Palau. We did two dives and a snorkel. Our first dive was at Blue Holes. This was a good dive, but it would have been even better if the sun had been out. It is a great dive for doing silhouette shots of divers and the sun's rays coming through the holes (on a sunny day).

Our second and final dive was at German Channel. We dropped in right on top of the pink anemone and then headed for the cleaning station. We did not see any mantas this time but we ended up seeing about 15 gray reef sharks and many large schools of fish and probably the biggest school of jacks we had seen yet that went from the sandy bottom clear up to the surface.

Our final time in the water was our snorkel at Jellyfish Lake (there is no diving allowed here). It was pretty amazing to swim with millions of jellyfish. They are so delicate. I was trying to move them out of the way as I swam so as not to hurt any of them. Nature is truly amazing.

Saturday, December 4th, was our last day in Palau. We got up early and “cleaned house” and did laundry and got most of our packing done. Then we went over to the Palau Royal Resort to have a “real breakfast” (most mornings we lived on Apple Jacks cereal). The Palau Royal Resort is located adjacent to Neco Marine so we walked down the street a ways and had breakfast in their restaurant. This is a very nice resort that was just celebrating its 5th anniversary. As we were having our breakfast it started to rain (not unexpected for the tropics). Unfortunately, it continued to rain and we had to run all the way back to our room in the rain. Needless to say, we were pretty well soaked by the time we got back.

After changing out of our wet clothes we headed down to the Neco dive shop. Shallum happened to be there so he gave us a ride to the Etpison Museum. We were fortunate enough to have a guided tour of the main and basement levels of the museum. It is quite an impressive collection of artifacts and history of Palau. We also got to meet Elvis the cockatoo (one of Mandy's hand-raised birds who lives at the museum). Elvis really liked Eric and rode on his shoulder on our tour throughout the museum.

We then went up to the second floor of the museum to check out the gift shop where they have a full-size hand-carved traditional Palauan canoe (very impressive). Mandy also has the skeleton of a baby whale that washed up on Neco Island hanging from the ceiling in this level of the museum—it's hard to imagine this was just a baby—it's huge.

After getting some video of Elvis we headed back to our room to get some lunch and finish up our packing. Our transportation was to pick us up at 10 p.m. to take us to the airport for our 1 a.m. Sunday morning flight.

At 10 p.m. our ride came to pick us up. We had all of our luggage ready to go. All we needed to do was take it downstairs and load it in the bus. The tile stairs leading down from our room were very slippery and unfortunately Eric slipped and fell down about four or five stairs (on his backside) before coming to a stop. Needless to say this caused a significant bruise in his sacral area—the largest he has ever had. Unfortunately, this also meant he had to sit on it for the 20+ hour journey home.

Our journey home began as a flight from Palau to Yap, where half the plane had to get off with their luggage (we ended up being the lucky half) and wait in a small room. Eric and I needed to use the restroom here and were totally repulsed by the brown water, both in the toilet and coming from the tap. Rest assured we are now sure we don't want to make a return trip to Yap any time soon.

The next leg of our journey was from Yap to Gaum. When we got to Guam we had to all get off the plane and go through immigration and security—again, and then reboard our plane—again.

The next leg of our journey was an 8-hour flight from Guam to Honolulu, Hawaii. Once we got to Honolulu everyone had to get off the plane and claim their checked luggage and go through customs and security—again, so that we could reboard our plane and take our same seats. As if this was not enough, we had to get them to retag our bags as they had originally tagged them to be put on another flight to Phoenix from Honolulu on US Airways—big hassle. We suspected they had overbooked the flight from Honolulu to Houston and they tried to get us to take a US Airways flight from Honolulu to Phoenix instead of the flight we were originally booked on which was from Honolulu to Houston and then Houston to Phoenix. They claimed it would get us into Phoenix two hours earlier, but it also meant we would have to sit in the un-airconditioned airport in Honolulu for six hours for that flight. We told them no.

So after we reboarded our flight in Honolulu it was another 8-hour flight to Houston. After a relatively short layover in Houston (which gave us time to grab some breakfast) we boarded our final 2-hour 43-minute flight to Phoenix—home at last. Believe it or not our luggage actually made it too—amazing.

This was some journey home. When we left Palau it was night time. When we got to Guam the sun was just coming up. When we reached Honolulu the sun was just going down and when we reached Houston the sun was just coming up again. What a trip!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Palau Day 11 - Thursday, December 2, 2010

Yet another great day of diving. We did three dives today. The first dive was at the wreck of the Iro Maru. The visibility was really bad but it was interesting to dive a true wreck. We did get to see a large school of mackerel. Eric and I have both come to the conclusion that we would not want to spend an entire vacation diving nothing but wrecks though.

The second dive was at Siaes Tunnel. On this dive you drop down the side of a wall and then enter the large tunnel opening and swim through to the other side. The visibility was actually pretty good on this dive.

After our second dive we went ashore on Ulong Island (the site of Survivor Palau) and had lunch. After lunch we wandered down the beach and in the rocks found a couple sea snakes and got some pictures.

Our third dive was at Ulong channel. This was our fourth dive at Ulong Channel but probably the best dive there so far. We got some pretty good shark footage/pictures and saw a bunch of turtles, two lobsters, and tons of nesting triggerfish which were becoming very aggressive protecting their eggs.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Palau Day 10 - Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Today was another three dives. Our first dive was at Ngerechong outer. When we got in the current was really ripping. We saw the usual stuff. There is a giant sea fan coral there. There was some serious current there so there was not really much time to linger and look at stuff.

Our second dive was at Ngerechong inner, which is the inside of the reef. The current was not as strong here so he were able to take our time and look at stuff a little more. We saw all kinds of neat stuff. We saw razor fish, two cuttlefish, a turtle, pipefish, a crocodile fish, a couple leaf scorpionfish, and of course tons of other fish.

Our third dive was at Chandelier cave. Some in our group had never dove the cave, so we broke up into two groups. One group went in and dove the caves and our group spent the whole dive in the shallow water in front of the cave opening looking for Mandarin fish and crabeye gobies. We spent over an hour filming and photographing both and poking around in the reef looking for interesting stuff. A great way to end the day.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Palau Day 9 - Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Today we went out diving with Mandy in search of the wreck of the Japanese Zero. We managed to find a boat captain that knew where the wreck was located. He had just been out to it within the last year, so we had him show us where it was located. Eric and I went down looking for the plane with Fabio, one of the instructors with Neco. Unfortunately, there was an extremely strong current and the visibility was horrible. We spent all of our time just trying to swim against the strong current and never could locate the plane.

Needless to say, by the time we surfaced and the boat picked us up we were exhausted. We definitely burned a few calories on that dive. After that we went and had lunch on Lee Marvin beach, which was the location for the 1968 film Hell in the Pacific staring Lee Marvin. We walked around on the beach and took a few pictures. It was very pretty.

After lunch we got back on the boat and headed to a salt water lake in the rock islands to do some snorkeling. We saw a baby cuttlefish and two or three little pipefish, but nothing really spectacular.

We then got back on the boat and headed to a spot called the Sand Pit to dive. Again, the visibility was really bad and we ended up not seeing anything. According to Mandy, she often finds many kinds of rays there as it is a nice sandy “bowl,” which is the perfect environment for them. Unfortunately, it just was not a good day for diving the east side.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Palau Day 8 - Monday, November 29, 2010

Today we were supposed to go out diving with Mandy but when we woke up it was pouring down rain and had been pouring most of the night too. So we ended up going out again with our dive group. We did three dives again—Ulong Channel, Sandy Paradise, and Siaes Corner.

Ulong Channel was nice again. There was not a huge amount of current, but just enough to push us along gently. It is a nice dive with lots of stuff to see, like the giant clam and the world's largest formation of lettuce leaf coral. We also saw a flat worm swimming. There were also a lot of trigger fish around.

The second dive was at Sandy Paradise or Coral Paradise—whatever the dive master decides to call it. We saw a giant school of bigeyes, a banded coral shrimp cleaning an eel, and a trigger fish trying to guard its nest.

On the third dive at Siaes Corner we saw a school of barracuda, an eel, and the usual tons of other fish and white tip and gray reef sharks. We are still waiting for the sharks to come in closer, though, for Eric to get a really good shark photo.

Tomorrow we are going to try going out diving with Mandy again. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and be nice and sunny.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Palau Day 7 - Sunday, November 28, 2010

I am beginning to sound like a broken record here. We had yet another great day of diving. We did three dives again today. First we did Virgin Blue Hole which is a hole that you drop down into and then swim out through a tunnel to the wall. This was great for silhouette shots.

The second dive was Blue Corner. This was kind of unplanned but because of the current and the lack of boats at that site our dive master decided it would be a good opportunity. There were not a lot of sharks (or at least as many as we had hoped for) and the current was not super strong, but this gave us an opportunity to kind of explore the entire Blue Corner area.

For our third dive we did New Drop Off. The current was going pretty good here and we saw a few sharks and the usual schools of tons of fish. It is just amazing the numbers of fish here. It is so unlike the Caribbean.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Palau Day 6 - Saturday, November 27, 2010

What can I say. Today was another amazing day of diving. We did three dives again today. First we did German Channel again. We saw an amazing all pink anemone. Then we saw a feather-tail ray. We did not think we were going to see any Mantas as there did not seem to be much activity. However, as we were swimming along we saw a very large grouper sitting on the sand at about 100 feet. We decided to go down and investigate. Shortly thereafter we saw a giant manta ray swimming towards us right behind the grouper. It was an amazing experience. It was just the five of us at about 100 feet in relatively clear water and the manta swam right towards us and glided gracefully over the top of us.

Our second dive was at Turtle Wall. We did see a turtle and it was a nice dive but we did not see anything truly out of the ordinary. There were still lots of fish, though, and I did get some footage of a giant puffer fish being cleaned.

On the boat ride over to our third dive site today, Blue Corner, we saw a pod of dolphins and our boat driver Ray took us right up to them. The current was going pretty good here again today and we cruised along the wall and then sat at the edge for a while waiting for the sharks to come in closer. A few sharks came a little closer today, but still not close enough to suit us. After we left the edge of the wall we saw a baby spotted eagle ray and a large school of barracuda. We ended up going from the outgoing side to the incoming side of Blue Corner in one dive, which is pretty amazing.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Palau Day 5 - Friday, November 26, 2010

Today we only did two dives. We only had six people on the boat, so it was a nice small group. We dove Ulong Channel and Coral Paradise again. We had told our dive master that we wanted to do Coral Paradise again when it was sunny since the first time we dove there it was cloudy and rainy. We started out our day today again with heavy rains and dark clouds. We did our first dive at Ulong channel and then did our 1 hour 20 minute surface interval and waited to see what the weather was going to do next. It was partly sunny so we decided to go ahead and dive at Coral Paradise. Part way through the dive the sun decided to come out and by the time we were done diving it was gorgeous at the surface to.

Both dives were really nice. There was not much current on the first dive, which was actually quite nice. We drifted Ulong Channel and were able to enjoy all sorts of fish and critters and were able to see the world's largest formation of lettuce leaf coral. It was unbelievable and of course filled with fish. Coral Paradise was nice again as well. Lots and lots of fish, a school of barracudas and indescribable amounts of coral.

When we surfaced from our dive at Coral Paradise the weather had cleared nicely and we started our journey back. The water color there was just amazing. As we were headed back Eric went up to the bow of the boat to take some video footage and as we were going along we spotted and eagle ray in the water in front of the boat, so our boat captain turned the boat around and we followed the eagle ray for quite a while and Eric got some cool footage.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Palau Day 4 - Thursday, November 25, 2010

We did three dives again today. We actually got an early start and headed out to German Channel to see if we could hit the tide right in order to see the mantas. Our dive master gave it a 10% chance, but we hit pay dirt and saw at least four or five mantas. The current was really ripping there, though. When I got in the water I was swimming as hard as I could and I was not going anywhere, but I finally made it down to the bottom. It was well worth the swim against the strong current.

Our second dive was at New Drop Off. There was also a pretty good current here and we saw lots of sharks and tons of fish. It is like swimming in an aquarium. We ended that dive by swimming out into open water to where there just happened to be a large school of barracuda.

Our last dive was at the famous Blue Corner. Again, there was a ripping current here also. At New Drop Off and at Blue Corner we used our reef hooks to hook ourselves into the reef and then you float above the wall like a balloon while watching the sharks and fish swim all around you. It is unbelievable how strong the current is there. It is so strong you can barely stay in one place if you swim as hard as you can. Because of the strong current there, though, there are millions of fish of all different types, sharks, schools of barracuda, schools of jacks, schools of just about everything you could imagine. It is just amazing.

Eric got some really good photos today. Unfortunately, we did not realize until we got back to our room today that all the video I shot today was somewhat zoomed in—which basically causes it to have a blurry halo around the entire shot. In other words, all of my amazing video today was pretty much trash. This is the first trip with this new housing for my camera and it requires about five different steps to get everything ready and white balance it before I can begin shooting footage. Unfortunately, I forgot to unzoom after I had white balanced. So I guess I probably won't do that again (hopefully). Luckily we have quite a few days left of diving, so I am hopeful I will get some more good manta and shark video.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Palau Day 3 - Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Today the weather was much nicer. We had a heavy rain at about 8 a.m., just before we left for the day and then the rest of the day was perfect weather. We did three dives again and all three were awesome. We saw turtles galore today. Our dive master said that is the most turtles he has ever seen in one day. Every dive site we went to we saw at least two turtles. Again, I got some really good footage of all different kinds of fish and of course the turtles. The coral here is just amazing. The colors are unbelievable.

Tomorrow we are heading out a little earlier than normal to try and catch the current/tide at the right time at German channel to try and see the mantas feeding. The moon/tide/current all have to be right to catch them in action. So hopefully we will get lucky.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Palau Day 2 - Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Today we did three dives. The first dive was at the Tunnel. The second one was at an unmarked dive site discovered by Mandy that one of our dive masters claimed has the nicest coral within about a 2-hour radius of Palau and he was right. The coral there was amazing. The colors of the soft and hard corals here are unbelievable. There are many more fish here than what we are used to seeing in the Caribbean and sharks everywhere you look.

Our third dive today was at Ulong Channel near Ulong Island (where Survivor Palau was filmed). The current has to be going just right to dive this site and it happened to be working in our favor today. The visibility was absolutely amazing. You could sit on the side of the boat and look over and see all the way to the bottom. We saw many sharks on this dive and I got some good video of one that swam right in front of me. They are so graceful—it is amazing.

The weather here has been kind of strange (supposedly because of the full moon). It is off and on rainy and then sunny. Today we had rain much of the day while we were out on the boat, but it does not really matter when you are already wet. It actually felt nice, though, to get into the water to get warmed up. Dive-wise it was an amazing first day.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Palau Day 1 - Monday, November 22, 2010

Today was our first full day in Palau. We arrived late Sunday night after our approximately 20 hour trip to get here. We decided not to dive today in an attempt to recovery from our long trek to get here. However, Mandy invited us to go out snorkeling with her this afternoon and of course we jumped at the chance to get in the water. It was truly amazing. We saw at least eight big manta rays and three or four gray reef sharks and more fish that we have probably seen in all of the caribbean. It was wonderful way to spend the afternoon.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Project Aware Clean Up Lake Pleasant

Today Sheila and I joined N Depth Scuba to help out with Project Aware's International Clean Up Day out at Lake Pleasant. It is really quite amazing the amount of garbage that people just throw in the water. It doesn't matter whether it's in a lake or the ocean, trash is hazardous to aquatic life and just plain disgusting. Sheila worked on the shore and picked up everything from beer cans to an abandoned ez-up. After doing a couple of checkout dives with some Open Water students, I picked up trash underwater with a couple of other divers. In about 15 minutes we had a bag full of trash. We picked up everything from beer cans, shoes, waist bands from underwear, and even a dive mask minus the glass. Here is a link to some photos that Sheila took at the lake:

Project Aware Photos


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Belize August 2010

Even though we had no connection to the internet, I said I was going to type up a blog post every day anyway so that when we got back to civilization we could post them. Did that happen? No. Fortunately, once we got on the boat the daily schedule was pretty much the same every day, just a different location and a different menu. So I will try my best to summarize our week aboard the Sun Dancer II in Belize.

We started our journey on Saturday, August 14, 2010. My dad picked us up at 5 a.m. And we were off to the airport. When we checked in for our flight the computer offered us an upgrade to first class, so we figured what the heck. For the first time in our married lives, we flew all the way to our destination first class. What a difference from coach. They actually served us a full breakfast—WOW! We flew from Phoenix to Houston and then Houston to Belize. Our flights were pretty uneventful and we arrived in Belize with all of our baggage.

Once we arrived in Belize we were met at the airport by a member of the crew and transferred by bus to the dock where the rest of the crew and guests were waiting for us to arrive. Our flight arrived a little later than expected and we were the final passengers to board the boat. After we were shown to our room, everyone met in the salon for a quick briefing of the rest of the day's events. After a muster drill on the sundeck, the boat left port and headed for our first destination (about five hours away).

We headed back to our room to try and get some of our stuff unpacked and organized for the week ahead and get our dive gear set up on the dive deck. One nice thing with this boat is once you get your gear set up on your tank, that is the last time you have to touch it until the week is over. After every dive your original tank is refilled by the crew.

After we got somewhat settled in, we were off to enjoy the first of a week's worth of fine four-course dinners. Since there were only 20 passengers and eight crew members on this 138 foot boat it was very easy to get to know some of the other guests. Many chose to sit at a different table every time so they could get to know some of the others. We met and got to know many wonderful people during our week aboard the boat. After dinner, we were pretty much all off to bed so we could get up bright and early the next day to start diving.

Like I said above, the schedule for every day was pretty much the same:

7 a.m. Breakfast
8 a.m. First dive
Fresh-baked snack
10:30 a.m. Second dive
Noon – Buffet Lunch
1:30 p.m. Third dive
Afternoon snack
4:00 p.m. Fourth dive
6:00 p.m. Four-course Dinner
7:15 p.m. Night dive

Needless to say, this schedule left little time for anything else other than eating, diving, and sleeping. By the end of the day we were pretty much ready to go to bed so we could get up the next day and do it all over again. The food was excellent. It is a good thing we were doing at least four dives a day to burn off all those calories. Pretty much every day we did four dives. On the second day we did four dives plus the night dive. Unfortunately, I ended up getting sick on Tuesday night with some sort of GI virus. Needless to say, I spent all day Wednesday in bed without food, just trying to stay hydrated. Wednesday was also the day that we went to the famous Blue Hole. So I did not get to see it, much less dive it. Eric decided to skip the Blue Hole dive since many people said there was really nothing to see, just straight algae-covered walls down to about 130-140 feet where there were some giant stalactites. The main reason people dive it is just to say they have done it.

After everyone surfaced safely from the Blue Hole dive, the boat headed to Half Moon Cay so that everyone could go ashore during their surface interval and visit the Booby sanctuary. Again, I was in bed, but Eric decided to skip this also since it was very hot and steamy on the island and I guess he just was not in the mood to look at boobies.

Friday the schedule only included two dives, the first of which was at 6 a.m. After the second dive the boat started up and we headed back to the dock at Belize City. For an extra charge you could book land excursions around Belize City on Friday and/or Saturday. They had excursions to the Zoo, the Mayan ruins, and cave tubing. Eric and I decided to just stay on the boat and get a head start on our packing and relax a bit. Friday night was a BBQ buffet on the boat with ribs, BBQ chicken/beef, corn on the cob, etc., and the captain gave his video/photo presentation. It was a good time to socialize with everyone before leaving early the next morning.

Saturday everyone had to have their bags in the hallway by 7:30 a.m. and everyone had to be off the boat by 8 a.m. (no matter what time of the day your flight was). Unfortunately, our flight was not until 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon. However, they have a deal with the Radisson hotel across the street that Sun Dancer II guests can use the lobby and bar/restaurant and pool until it is time for them to head to the airport. So we hung around the hotel until 1:00 p.m. when the bus picked us up and transported us to the airport. Luckily we were not the only couple on that flight, so we had other people to socialize with during our wait. We especially enjoying talking with Mike and Marsha.

Our flight left Belize a bit early and our trip home was smooth sailing. We arrived home safely and our luggage made it in one piece too. We very much enjoyed our trip and would highly recommend this boat and crew to anyone who has never experienced a live-aboard before. For further information you can check out their website at: http://www.dancerfleet.com/belize-home.shtml

As far as sea life was concerned, our first dive of the trip we saw a caribbean reef shark. As a matter of fact, it swam right up to Eric, checked him out, and then swam off. That ended up being the only shark we saw for the whole trip. We also saw one spotted eagle ray, a couple turtles, a seahorse, a couple eels, sting rays, a couple of remoras looking for a home, hermit crabs, lobsters, an octopus on our night dive, several larger jellyfish, garden eels, jaw fish (some with eggs in their mouth) and lots and lots of your typical caribbean fish species like angel fish, trigger fish, chub, horse-eye jacks, barracuda, etc., etc.

Some of our photos from the trip can be seen in our Photo Gallery.

Now we are back home and counting down the days to our next trip...Palau.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The long awaited Grand Cayman video from our trip in May has now been released. We think it turned out well, but keep in mind this was my first time using this video camera. You will probably notice that toward the end the video gets much better. Hopefully the next video will be even better now that I have had some practice using the camera. A big thank you to Eric for all his hard work in editing it down from approximately 8 hours to about 8 minutes. I hope you all enjoy watching it.

Click here to view video

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Grand Cayman Pictures

May 20, 2010

I finally got caught up on everything and posted some of the photos from our trip to Grand Cayman. You can view the photos here. Next I will be working on all the video footage that Sheila took.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Grand Cayman Day 8

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Well, today was our final full day in Grand Cayman and we had an awesome day of diving with Adam and Brooke, our friends that we met at Ocean Frontiers. Adam and Brooke met us at Turtle Nest Inn at 9:30 a.m. and we all headed to Sunset House for our first dive.

For our first dive we headed out to the mermaid and then to the shipwreck. Thanks to Brooke we were able to get some really good photos of the two of us with the mermaid. As we started our dive we spotted a very colorful flounder and then later in the dive we saw a lion fish. We did run into our friendly gray angelfish again, but other than that it was just a very nice dive. After our dive the four of us had lunch at the bar at Sunset House and made plans for our next dive.

For our next dive we decided to head down to Turtle Reef. This is one of our favorite dive sites on Grand Cayman. We all geared up and headed out to the right on the wall. This is a very pretty mini-wall dive with lots of colorful corals and sponges and lots of interesting fish. We saw an eel, a Scorpionfish, a Spotted Drum, Queen Angelfish, Gray Angelfish, French Angelfish, Trunkfish, Pufferfish, Barracuda, plus too many other fish to name. The visibility was very good on this dive and it turned out to be a very nice last dive for us.

After our dive we joined Adam and Brooke at the bar and had a drink and a snack and some good conversation. We are very glad we met them and hopefully they will keep in touch. Unfortunately, we had to leave our table in the shade by the water to head back to the Inn to get our laundry done and all our gear repacked for the trip home tomorrow. All good things must come to an end, but now we can look forward to our next vacation to Belize in a couple months.

Keep checking the website in the next several weeks as we will be working on posting some of the 1000+ photos and video we have taken while here.

Grand Cayman Day 7

Friday, May 7, 2010

Again, we started our day by getting up at 6:20 a.m. and getting our stuff ready to head to Ocean Frontiers for our final two-tank morning boat dive. When we arrived and checked in at the desk we were told there were only six divers on our boat, which was a very nice surprise. Normally there are about 12 divers per boat, which is okay, but six makes it a lot nicer.

Our first dive was at a dive site called Three Sisters. Again, this was our deep dive. We went to about 110 feet. There was a very strong current at this dive site that made it very challenging for all of us to get back to the boat, but we all made it back safely, just a little tired.

The next dive site we headed to was called Grouper Grotto. This was our shallow dive. We did several swim-throughs here and saw a bunch of Tarpon but nothing else out of the ordinary. I did manage to get some good video of a lot of fish swimming around on the top of the reef. The current was much milder here, which made it much easier getting back on the boat.

This was our final dive with Ocean Frontiers. We would definitely highly recommend them to anyone looking to dive on Grand Cayman and will definitely use them the next time we come back to Grand Cayman.

We then came back to the Inn and had some lunch and headed down to Sunset House to do another dive. Right after we got into the water we came across a very friendly turtle who let us get some really good video and photos. We then headed out to the mermaid and the ship wreck and then headed back toward shore. When we got most of the way back in we came across a very friendly Gray Angelfish. Eric was trying to take its picture and it was practically swarming him. According to some people we talked to,Cathy Church (well-known photographer with a shop at Sunset House) used to feed the fish, so a lot of them are very friendly and used to photographers.

After this dive we decided to come back to the Inn and get cleaned up and go out for a nice dinner since we had been well under budget for food this past week. We went and had dinner at Casanova's. We highly recommend it. It is not cheap, but the food is out of this world. Plus we had left-overs, so we have dinner for another night. It also has very nice ambiance. We dined on the patio right at the water's edge with the breeze blowing in off the water as the sun set into the ocean. What more could you ask for.

We met a very nice couple that was on most of our dives at Ocean Frontiers, Adam and Brooke, who were also very much into underwater photography. We made plans to meet them tomorrow morning at 9:30 a.m. to do some shore diving. We are thinking we will probably return to Sunset House as the subjects (fish) there are very amenable to having their picture taken.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Grand Cayman Day 6

Thursday, May 6, 2010

We had another good day of diving. Again, we got up around 6:20 a.m. and had our breakfast and packed up our gear to head down to Ocean Frontiers for a two-tank morning dive. We got there a little early and checked in and then headed down to the boat. We departed about 8:30 a.m. and headed southwest for about 20 minutes to the first dive site. As is usual, the first dive was our deep dive, so we dove to about 100 feet. Eric and I decided to stick with the group on this dive. No large pelagic sitings on this dive, just the usual marine life. However, the crew did spot a Lion fish, which they captured and brought on board the boat.

We all got back on the boat and headed to the next dive site not too much further back east called Tarpon Terrace. Eric and I decided to go off on our own on this dive so we could take pictures and video at our leisure. I got some really good video of a midnight parrot fish, a gray angelfish, a French angelfish, and several lobsters. The crew also captured three more Lion fish on this dive. Lion fish are very pretty to look at, but they are a nonnative species that are moving into this area and if left unchecked will kill off many native species of fish. The Lion fish is equipped with poisonous spines that run down its back and unfortunately it has no predators to keep it under control. It is very unfortunate, but when the crew sees one they catch it and bring it on board to dispose of it.

We then all climbed back on the boat and headed back to Ocean Frontiers. When we started our day we heard a rumor that we had made it onto the night dive trip, so when we got back to Ocean Frontiers we checked at the desk to see if the rumor was true. We were amazed to find out that we had made it onto the night dive for tonight, which kind of surprised us because we were number three and four on the waiting list.

We returned for out night dive about 6 p.m. and headed out about 6:30 p.m. We went back to Sunset Reef, which is where they do all the night dives as it is a nice shallow dive with lots to see. We decided to go off on our own on this dive too. We saw several lobsters (one of them gigantic), an eel, a couple tiny squid, a sting ray, some banded shrimp, and a giant parrot fish After we climbed back on the boat we toweled off and enjoyed some hot chocolate and homemade blueberry muffins before returning to the dock.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Grand Cayman Day 5

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

We got up about 6:20 a.m. and had our breakfast and headed down to the east end to Ocean Frontiers for our three-tank safari trip. We boarded the boat and headed out about 8:30 a.m. We traveled for about an hour to reach our first dive site called Babylon. Our first dive was to about 100 feet. We did not see anything remarkable critter wise, but there were some very beautiful coral formations on the wall.

We all climbed back onto the boat for the trip to the second dive site, Sting Ray City. The water here was only about 12 feet deep. Everyone basically formed a giant circle around the dive master who had the bucket of squid. The dive master then made his way around to each person and fed the sting rays right in front of and around them so they could pet the sting rays and get pictures, etc. The feeding frenzy went on for about 40 minutes and then we all got back on the boat. I got lots of video of the sting rays and the other fish who were trying to collect some scraps. At one point I thought Eric had come over and touched me on the shoulder. I turned slowly to see what he wanted and was staring into a large red eye of a very large fish who was hiding behind my head. We sat there looking at each other for a few minutes. Most of the time we were down this large fish hung right around me. Eric said for a good portion of the time he was parked right underneath my butt.

After the Sting Ray City dive we headed toward land and had a very good lunch at Kaibo. After lunch we all climbed back aboard the boat and headed out for another hour plus trip to our final dive site, Snapper Hole. Eric and I decided to do our own thing on this dive so we could take our time taking pictures and video. We saw more fish and anywhere we have been before. I got lots of good video of schools and schools of fish. There were fish everywhere. Unfortunately, we did not see any sharks on any of our dives today, but just about the time we were ready to get out of the water on the last dive we saw the biggest turtle we have ever seen. Unfortunately, he/she was too far away to get any good pictures or video.

We then made the trip back to Ocean Frontiers from the third dive site, arriving about 4:30 p.m. It was a very full day, but a very enjoyable day of diving.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Grand Cayman Day 4

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Today was a wonderful day. Eric was feeling much better today. We slept in a little and then got up and had breakfast and decided what we wanted to do today. We eventually decided we would try diving at Sunset House. We had never dove there before, so we thought we would give it a try. Our first dive was fabulous. We had the best dive of the trip so far. We headed straight out and found the wreck that lies in about 65 feet of water. The visibility was fantastic and we saw three turtles, a couple barracudas, a sting ray, and we came across a large grouper at a cleaning station being cleaned. I got lots of good video footage and Eric got some really good photos also.

After our first dive we decided to have lunch at Sunset House. The food was very good and fairly reasonably priced (for Grand Cayman standards). After our lunch we checked out the dessert menu and decided we would do a second dive and then come back for dessert.

We headed back out on our second dive and decided we were going to try to find the mermaid statue that was placed in front of Sunset House in about 60 feet of water. Unfortunately, we never did find her. However, in the process of looking for her, we both heard a strange noise in the water that we could not quite pinpoint. About that time we both looked over to find the Atlantis submarine passing us on our left-hand side. We turned and gave those inside a wave and then went on about our dive. The visibility was not quite as good on this dive and we really did not come across anything too interesting, but it was still a good dive.

After our second dive we headed back to the bar to have our dessert. We ordered a decadent slice of chocolate cake and some chocolate ice cream. Hey, we are on vacation so we are allowed to splurge!!! Boy was it good.

After our dessert we packed up all our gear and headed back to the Inn. We stopped in to change out the batteries in Eric's camera and check out the video and photos we had captured earlier in the day. Then we packed up the gear again and headed down to the east end for our night dive we had scheduled with Ocean Frontiers. We got there at about 6:15 and boarded the boat. About 6:30 or so we headed out to the dive site at Sunset Reef. The dive site was only about 25 feet at the deepest but had lots of coral heads with tons of anemones. We had a really nice dive. We saw several lobsters, a slipper lobster, a couple of eels, a small ray, and some brittle stars. I think this was our best night dive ever.

After we got back on the boat the crew had hot chocolate and homemade blueberry muffins waiting for us. We enjoyed the dive so much I think we are going to see if we can schedule another night dive for Thursday night as Ocean Frontiers only offers night dives on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Tomorrow we head back to the east end to do a three tank safari with Ocean Frontiers which also makes a stop at Sting Ray City. So that should be fun.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Grand Cayman Day 3

Monday, May 3, 2010

We woke up around 6:30 a.m. to have breakfast and get our gear all packed up to head down to the east end of the island for our two-tank boat dive with Ocean Frontiers. This was our first boat dive on Grand Cayman. All our other dives have always been shore dives. We were really looking forward to diving on the east end of the island as it does not get a lot of divers and its reefs are touted to be close to pristine.

We boarded the spacious dive boat a little after 8 a.m. and headed out for our first dive. The first dive spot was just a short trip out through the channel and over the barrier reef to the open water. Eric and I decided to stick with the group for this dive. Our guide took us through many swim-throughs and we were lucky enough to spot a Caribbean reef shark at the end of our dive. I actually managed to get some video of the Caribbean reef shark before it swam off. We climbed back aboard the boat and headed about 20 minutes down the coast to reach our second dive spot.

When we reached our second dive spot we again decided to stick with the group instead of going off on our own. Our guide again took us through a bunch of swim-throughs, arches, and tunnels. Unfortunately, we did not see any sharks on this dive, but I did manage to get some good video of an angel fish and a school of blue tang. We then climbed back on the boat to head back to the dock. Unfortunately, Eric got sick after his second dive and ended up feeding the fish a couple of times.

When we got back to the dock we loaded all our gear in the car and headed back to the Inn. Since Eric had a headache and was still feeling nauseous, we ended up going back to our room and laying down and napping most of the afternoon. By about 9 p.m. or so he was starting to feel a little better. Hopefully he will be feeling much better tomorrow.

Grand Cayman Day 1 and 2

Saturday, May 1, 2010

We got up about 3:45 a.m. To get ready to head to the airport for our 7:10 flight. My dad was nice enough to get up at 4:30 in the morning to take us to the airport. After we checked in for our flight, we managed to make it through security without much trouble. However, they did pull Eric and his bag to the side and open it up and swab it for explosives. After we made it through security, we grabbed some breakfast and waited for our flight to leave Phoenix for Dallas Fort Worth. When we got to Dallas we had to get off the plane and take the train all the way around the airport to get to a different terminal to make our connecting flight. As soon as we got to the gate, we got right on as they were already boarding.

We made it to Miami without incident and had about a two hour layover there before our flight to Grand Cayman. We walked around the terminal to see what there was to eat, as the Miami Airport has a very limited choice of places to eat. We finally settled on a slice of pizza and pasta. It definitely was not gourmet by any means, but you will eat just about anything when you are hungry.

We made it onto our flight from Miami to Grand Cayman, which is only a little over an hour long. I ended up sleeping most of the flight. I think Eric managed to catch some Zzzz's also. We landed in Grand Cayman and zipped through Customs and Immigration and luckily both of our bags made it safely too. They seem to be much quicker at getting people through Immigration in Grand Cayman than in Bonaire that is for sure.

We then headed out the front of the airport with all of our bags and proceeded across the street to pick up our rental car. They are also much quicker about getting you in your car and on your way in Grand Cayman. We loaded all our bags into our Dihatsu “microcar” and headed for Turtle Nest Inn in Bodden Town. Once we made it to the Inn, we unloaded all of our luggage and headed to the grocery store to get some bottled water and breakfast foods as the grocery stores are all closed here on Sundays. We got our groceries and head back to the Inn and crashed for the night. What a long day!!!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Needless to say, we slept in. We eventually crawled out of bed and Eric started getting our stuff ready for the first dive of the day while I fixed us an omelet for breakfast. We have a very nice apartment here at the Inn. We have a full kitchen with stove/oven and a full size refrigerator. The room is actually very spacious and has one bedroom and a bath. We actually have an excellent ocean view also.

After getting everything rounded up and loaded into the car we headed down the road and stopped first at Sunset House. We checked out the entry and decided to go on down the road to some place we had already dove before. So we drove on down the road to Eden Rock. We rented our tanks and jumped in with all our camera equipment and headed out. Eric had a new fish-eye lens that he was trying on his camera and I had an entirely new setup with an HD video camera. This was kind of a test run for both of us getting used to our new equipment.

We finished our dive there and headed over to Paradise Restaurant for lunch. Eric had a huge chicken sandwich and I had a chicken quesadilla. We actually managed to keep the bill to around $30 (which is surprising because the last time we ate there our bill was usually around $50 each time). Eating in Cayman is not cheap!!!

After we finished lunch we headed down the road to Turtle Reef, which is another place we had dove before. We rented our tanks there and jumped in. The water was a bit choppy today as it was very windy, but we really did not have any issues. I managed to get some really good video of a stingray and Eric got a few good pictures of some stuff also. We did not really see anything amazing or out of the ordinary, but got some good practice working with our new equipment.

Tomorrow we are heading out on a two-tank morning boat dive with Ocean Frontiers to an area we have never dove before, so it should be interesting.