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

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