Friday, May 27, 2016

Fantastic Snorkel on Southhampton Reef at Conception Island

Beautiful tiger grouper, about three feet long

Deep, but look at that visibility!

The lack of wind that require us to motorsail from Georgetown out to Conception Island had a couple of benefits to offset our not being able to outright sail. First, it allowed us a great view of about a half dozen whales just resting on the surface of the slick-still water. Then, at Conception, it provided an opportunity to snorkel Southhampton Reef. This reef extends north for miles from the northwest corner of the island. It’s easily accessible, but often too rough to snorkel from a dinghy when a breeze over the long fetch from the east piles breakers upon the reef. Since we’ll go to just about any length for a good reef, out we went in the dinghy, heading north about a mile. First observation: it’s deep here. Though the reef crest is relatively shallow, it drops off precipitously, leveling off on a sandy plain probably 100 feet or so deep. Where we put in was 30-40 feet deep, though it shallowed as we swam south. Huge coral formations, loads of fish, and some of the cockiest (and largest) lobsters we’ve come across, marching right across the reef in broad daylight. Conception Island being a park and therefore a no-take zone, the critters show no fear in flaunting their forbidden tastiness right in front of you. A few highlights? Excellent visibility. Elkhorn corals with bases the size of tree trunks and enormous spreading arms. A half dozen tiger groupers, a new-to-us species at the time. Watching one of the lobsters leap from a ledge and float down to a sand flat amongst the corals. My camera’s battery died almost an hour into the snorkel (why, oh why, hadn’t I charged it!), so I missed many, many shots, but here are some that I got.
Face-off with a cocky spiny lobster
Lovely huge elkhorn corals abounded on the reef

I would love to walk a maze like this

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Attack of the Remora

We’ve seen lots of remoras and shark suckers, those fish that attach themselves to sharks and other large fish, hanging around and feeding off the remnants of their hosts meals. We’ve often had them adopt Mr Mac as an interim host when we’re anchored. But during a snorkel in the Exumas, we encountered the most persistent little SOB we’ve ever seen. We were doing a drift snorkel south of Lee Stocking Island, merrily floating along, admiring the sea life. Remora comes close by – good photo op! Then he’s coming right at me. Not the shark-sucking apparatus on top of its head – it wouldn’t hurt me, but it’s not something I wanted stuck to a bare leg or arm. I waved it away. It went after Chris. He waved it away. It came back at me, etc. etc. That thing just wouldn’t leave us alone. Now, normally I have no problem with inquisitive critters, but this one just freaked me out because my mask was leaking and my snorkel not acting right. Every time I raised my head to adjust the mask/snorkel, by the time I looked back, the remora was nearly on me. One of the most annoying nature encounters we’ve had.

Remora coming at me with no shame for being a pest
Chris' turn to fend it off