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Turks & Caicos Aggressor II
Mike; Diane & Mike; Jim & Annette; Russ; Elizabeth, Darren & Liberty; Kathleen & Ron; Valerie & Mike; Andrea & Robert; Anatoly; Jillian & Suzy
Amanda Smith – Captain
Alex Brett - 2nd Captain
Rob Smith – Engineer
Sarah Pearson – Chef
Ellen Myers – Instructor
Our Dive Sites
Sunday – Eel Garden & Amphitheatre - NWPT
Monday – The Dome & Stairway - NWPT
Tuesday – Driveway & Spanish Anchor – West Caicos
Wednesday – Brandywine & Magic Mushroom – West Caicos
Thursday – Gulley & Boat Cove – West Caicos
Friday – Pinnacles – Grace Bay
With the New Year imminent, a very excited group of guests boarded the yacht and immediately we set off to catch the tide and headed toward NWPT of Providenciales. Our briefings delivered and a delightful meal delivered by chef Sarah and we settled down for the evening dreaming of our forthcoming dives.
Sunday morning broke bright and breezy and happily we were well protected by the Island, so enjoyed calm seas. Our first site for the day was Eel Garden and true to its name we were entertained with all manner of eels, including spotted and green morays and, of course, garden eels. Along the wall the gorgonians were laden with decorator crabs and the wire coral provided homes to the like named wire coral shrimp. In the sand a southern stingray glided around.
For the afternoon, we chose to dive at Amphitheatre, enjoying the yellow-headed jawfish, two of which were sporting eggs as they mouth brood. As we descended, we were met by an ascending hawksbill turtle, which circled up and through all the guests allowing plenty of time for photos and videos and the observations of the divers that just wanted to enjoy the view. The night dive was moderately supported but those who enjoyed it saw crustaceans galore in the form of different types of lobster including spotted & Caribbean spiny and red-banded lobsters.
We remained at Northwest Point for New Year’s Eve, the following morning. We moved to The Dome and spent three dives there, enjoying the blennies that cover the framework of the dive site’s feature, the green moray that hangs out under the structure and a turtle that cruised along the edge of the wall.
For the late afternoon and night dives we moved to Stairway, where the lobsters patrolled the reef whilst the reef sharks policed the wall. A large green moray posed for photo and video modeling, in a large enough crevice that we were able to see its entire body. It was here that we enjoyed our first night dive of the evening with large numbers of crustaceans feeding and moving about, whilst the jacks used our flashlights to hunt.
The New Year was seen in by some underwater at the same sight. As the clock chimed in the New Year we indicated the time by flashing the underwater lights at the same time as the fireworks were let loose from a nearby hotel. We were close enough that the divers were able to see the fireworks from underwater and they were still going when they returned to the surface; to be greeted with a glass of champagne.
An early start on Tuesday morning took us to Driveway at West Caicos. A couple of reef sharks kept us entertained and we spotted our first scorpionfish of the week, on a rock near the edge of the wall, beautifully camouflaged. Also, wonderfully concealed, a peacock flounder revealed its spots, only to hide them again when it slid from reef to sand. It was here, again, that we saw a yellow-headed jawfish with eggs and some were able to photograph the act of the eggs being oxygenated.
Our afternoon took us the short distance to Spanish Anchor where all our guests were photographed as they swam past the 300-year-old anchor embedded into the side of a swim through. Watching the whole activity, passively, from a crack in the gulley was an enormous channel clinging crab. The anchor itself was home to fairy basslets, completely unaware of the forces of gravity and happily swimming, what we consider to be, upside down. Another turtle graced us with its presence and an occasional shark checked us out but seemed to stay deep. The night dive brought out a very large slipper lobster that stood head down and tail up, feeding on something on the bottom. Four different spotted morays were out hunting, slithering between coral heads, in search of supper. As we ascended to the hangbar, for our safety stop, two permit dashed past, on the hunt. The blacklight dive revealed orange ball coralimorphs and decorator crabs with the occasional fluorescing long horn nudibranch.
Brandywine was our next destination for the week and we checked out our wandering anemone to find it out in full glory; blue in ambient light and shocking pink when lit. Another green moray delighted our guests as well as a hawksbill turtle. Not one scorpionfish this morning, but two. Everyone was happy to see and photograph the first one; until it moved back close to its buddy and so multiple scorpionfish shots were achieved. As the guests started to ascend to their safety stops, a couple of reef sharks decided to join them, much to everyone’s delight.
Our afternoon took us to Lobster Tower, found at the dive site of Magic Mushroom. A number of Caribbean spiny lobsters were found stuffed into the crack that faces the shallow side of the reef. Yellow-headed jawfish were dotted about, dipping in and out of their holes. A challenge thrown down to guest Valerie – photograph the squat lobsters; and she did! In the coral piles created by the sand tilefish, the very shy, squat lobsters reside. Alongside these skittish critters, squat anemone shrimp hung out along with a bunch of other tiny reef fish all using the protection provided by the tilefish’ home.
Thursday morning took us to one of our favourite dive sites – Gulley. On the first dive as we descended, regular guest Mike, was faced with the choice of swimming south with a turtle or north with the reef shark, and that was before he even got to twenty feet. At the edge of the gulley two tiny arrow blennies eyed up the small reef fish upon which they usually feed. The gorgonian at the edge of the wall provided shelter for neck crabs and hamner’s tritonia and a slender filefish that vanished as quickly as it appeared.
The afternoon was spent the short distance away at Boat Cove. We were delighted to see our resident broad banded moray in its usual spot, peering out from the back of a nook. Our reef sharks cruised across the white sand, above the stingrays that fed upon the garden eels. The night dive brought out numerous large crustaceans, including channel clinging crabs and a variety of lobsters.
After a fabulous Thursday evening meal, in the style of Thanksgiving, we reflected the week gone by with photographs whilst transiting across to Grace Bay for our early morning dive on Friday.
Pinnacles was our choice for the last dive and as it is a shallow dive it turned out to be quite a long one for some. Mike & Diane were delighted to spend some time with an octopus that was out feeding during the early morning. In the shallows, slit pore sea rods, provided homes and food to fingerprint cyphoma, the cousin to the flamingo tongue. A pregnant female reef shark cruised the edge of the reef, at times appearing curious and coming in close to our divers. It proved to be a great end to our New Year’s week of diving.
We were back at Turtle Cove Marina for a restful afternoon for some and some shopping for others. We reunited at the cheese and wine party to celebrate Iron Divers, Milestones, first night dives and birthdays – a shout out to Jillian & Mike, who both celebrated their birthdays on Friday.
Check back with us next week to see how our adventures continue. We are just two weeks away from the beginning of our whale charters and so are constantly on the look out for any passing humpbacks that decide to visit the Caicos Islands and the crew is very excited!