Turks & Caicos Aggressor II
8 - 15 July 2017
Air temperature: 80° - 84° F
Water temperature: 82 - 84° F
Visibility: 50 – 80 feet
Thermal recommendation: 3mm full wetsuit
Captain: AMANDA SMITH
2nd Captain: CHRISTY WEAVER
Engineer: ROB SMITH
Photo Pro: CONOR FERRIN
Chef: CHRISTY BROWN
Rob & Tam, Sally, Jim & Alex, Marc, Greg & Maritza, Mel & Norma, John
Sunday: Boat Cove & Magic Mushroom, West Caicos
Monday: Spanish Anchor, West Caicos & Rock N Roll, French Cay
Tuesday: Half Mile & G-Spot, French Cay
Wednesday: Gullies & Brandywine, West Caicos
Thursday: The Dome & Eel Garden, Northwest Point
Friday: Amphitheatre, Northwest Point
Our guests boarded on Saturday afternoon and we quickly briefed them to enable our departure from Turtle Cove Marina, catching the tide and the evening light. A very pretty motor out through the channel that winds along Grace Bay and out to sea to start our week, unusually, at West Caicos. The weather was looking favorable for an early visit to French Cay and we wanted to make hay….
Whilst we enjoyed calm seas for our initial voyage, Chef Christy treated the guests to a wonderful salmon supper. Our group was all individual bookings and so friendships were forged in the excitement of our coming joint adventure.
Captain Amanda chose Boat Cove for our check out dives and with a balmy water temperature of 83°F and great visibility we enjoyed a brilliant first dive, with Caribbean reef sharks and southern stingrays among the big stuff and neck crabs and arrow blennies. Our resident broad banded moray peeked out from his hole, surrounded by banded coral shrimp, all ready to clean if required.
We enjoyed an afternoon at Magic Mushroom. In Lobster Hotel, not only did we see five Caribbean spiny lobsters stuffed up into the crack, but also a tiny juvenile queen angelfish, brightly coloured and darting around. In the piles of coral rubble that the sand tilefish collect a plethora of little critters abound, including squat anemone shrimp and squat lobster.
A move to Spanish Anchor on Monday saw a bright morning that gave great lighting to the sponge-encrusted anchor. Southern stingrays glided over the sand feeding whilst accompanied by a bar jack hoping for an opportunistic meal. Blue chromis and Creole wrasse swooped over the wall. Our second dive was called a little earlier so that we could make our way out to French Cay.
Rock N Roll was a great afternoon dive with multiple Caribbean reef sharks circling around our guests for most of the dive. A very friendly turtle allowed photographers, videographers and observers alike up close and personal. The night dive was spectacular with our resident nurse sharks, frenzied as they hunted by the light of our torches. A large school of squid was wonderful to see but sadly they were also wonderful for the school of jacks that spotted them and annihilated them, leaving ink all through the water column.
Half Mile brought with it large schools of French and blue striped grunt, hanging out close to the individual coral reefs, closer to the mooring. Along the wall a juvenile spotted drum took protection under a small coral head, but we were a little alarmed that a lionfish was also hanging out close by, eyeing it up. Many of the coral heads sported Caribbean spiny lobster and we were never too far from a reef shark as they cruised by. One large southern stingray got some height from the bottom as it soared over the isolated coral heads, from which a spotted moray came out for a tool around the bottom.
Our afternoon was spent at G-Spot where we again were fortunate enough to enjoy the Caribbean reef sharks. A lizardfish commanded a good deal of attention until the divers realized that there was a hawksbill turtle sitting just a few feet away. Lizardfish forgotten, the divers diverted their attention to the turtle, which proceeded to sit there and be admired. The night dive brought out the same nurse sharks that we experienced the night before all rallying to procure a tasty morsel for supper. Squid large and small were apparent, some hanging close to the gorgonians and the larger hanging out by the sand, avoiding jacks.
We moved back to Gullies for the following morning and although the boat tailed away from the wall, it gave us the opportunity to see parts of the dive site that we do not usually explore. Along the wall we came across our customary reef sharks and a very friendly small hawksbill. In amongst the small reef fish on the wall a number of arrow blennies poised ready to strike, their tails curled in anticipation of a dart forward to find some prey. As we moved back to the mooring line, accompanied by reef sharks, a single flying gurnard was observed patting the sand encouraging small shrimp and the like to reveal themselves. In the sand a small mantis shrimp watched everything around us, forward and backward.
For the afternoon we moved across to Brandywine and spent the afternoon at the site where our wandering anemone lives. This critter looks blue under ambient light and a brilliant pink under the beam of a flashlight. This was the site of the puffer fish. This week we were excited to experience two burrfish who seemed to be attacking each other, with one of them inflating – a rare site, captured on video very nicely. At the night dive we were able to see not only the typical Caribbean spiny lobster but also a large (they are normally small) red-banded lobster. Two of our guests indulged in the blacklight and encountered a plethora of nudibranchs glowing.
The Dome was a great dive, back at Northwest Point. The scene of an early French reality TV show not only gave guest Rob his opportunity to see his first octopus, but for guest Greg to see his first fingerprint cyphoma, both of them excited by the prospect. Within the structure of the Dome, blue striped grunt schooled with schoolmasters and underneath five channel clinging & hairy clinging crabs seeking protection during the day. The Reef Fund coral gardens were in good shape so close to the structure and provided an extra attraction to this unconventional dive site.
For the afternoon we moved to Eel Garden to enjoy our two frogfish. There is always the element of concern that they are no longer there, but our yellow frogfish was again perched in its usual spot between the split purple rope sponge. Both fish were in situ to our great delight and for the two afternoon dives they were both photographed and videoed. Never before have two fish had so much limelight. The night revealed a beautiful slipper lobster with a very intricate pattern at the edge of its carapace and just as we were about to turn around the dive, we spotted a large reef octopus – out and about and feeding. Impervious to our attentions this delightful creature carried on about its feeding ballooning up and changing a variety of colours. On our way back we encountered stingrays and white spotted nudibranchs, which brought about a great end to a great day of diving.
Friday morning took us to Amphitheatre, where we encountered a huge number of yellow-headed jawfish, but none of the males with eggs. The isolated coral heads were home to tiny blennies using holes in the coral or abandoned wormholes to live in. A reef shark cruised along the edge of the wall and a variety of different parrotfish ground of parts of the reef with their prominent front teeth only to use plates in their throats to grind it down further and expel it as sand. Two dives and our diving was at an end, but the charter nit finished as we motored back into Turtle Cove Marina for a relaxing afternoon at the dock. A small amount of shopping took place in Grace Bay as time was passed until we all gathered together for our cheese & wine party.
All had a great week; good company, great encounters and tropical weather. Check back next week to see what new critters and encounters that we can share with you.