Last updated: January 5, 1998
From the surface the ocean looks so uniform, so ordinary, so uneventful. But as soon as you go down a few feet into the water, a whole new world begins. Plants that look like animals, animals that look like plants. Incredible colors. Incredible shapes.
Some of the dive sites that I've visited since starting scuba diving in June of 1992:
A few dive snippets:
May 1995: Shark encounter with UNEXSO in Freeport, Grand Bahama. Fantastic experience. There were about eight of us on this dive, We sat alongside an old underwater recompression chamber in about 40 feet of water. A shark feeder dressed in a stainless steel chainmail suit got into the water after we were all settled. He had a plastic tube filled with dead mackerel that the sharks can apparently smell for quite a distance. The sharks were not the least bit interested in us, they just wanted the dead fish which the feeder passed out sparingly. There were at least twenty reef sharks, ranging from 5 to 7 feet in length. They were often within arms reach of us, but nobody was silly enough to risk trying to pet them. Fantastic.
This shark picture is a frame of HI-8 video from my dive at Shark Junction:
November 1995: A dive trip to the Turks and Caicos. Magnificent. I stayed at the Turquoise Reef hotel and went diving with Dive Provo. The Dive Provo operation was excellent. (Dive Provo is somehow related to the UNEXSO operation in Freeport.) The best sites I visited were around West Caicos and French Key. Grace Bay was nice, but not as good as the other sites. Visibility averaged around 60 to 80 feet. Nice, but nowhere near the excellent Cozumel visibility.
The islands are not very crowded and you can easily have an entire beach to yourself if you want, or you can go to the more populated areas near the resorts.
On three occasions, we encountered 7 to 8 foot reef sharks in open water. One one dive, the shark was very curious and approached within 30 feet of us, carefully eyeing us. He swam directly toward the two of us, then turned away, then turned back toward us again and got closer and closer, and closer. Even after being at Shark Junction in the Bahamas, this was an eerie experience. In most cases the sharks just go on about their business and seem to be totally disinterested in divers. This shark was different, it was very curious and looked us over very carefully. Exciting... to say the least.
On another dive, we found 5 large Eagle Rays huddled together in a shallow canyon at about 90 feet. When we got within 15 feet of them, they split up and three of them flew around us on one side while the other two flew up over the top of the wall on the other side of us. They were about 5 to 6 feet wing tip-to-wing tip. Beautiful. So graceful. Everything that lives underwater seems to have such graceful movement, so fluid. People look so awkward underwater, it's obvious that we are not meant to be there.
February 1996: Another trip to beautiful Cozumel. For a change I stayed at the Fiesta Americana and went diving with Dive house. (In past trips, I have stayed at Plaza Las Glorias and dived with Aqua Safari.) The Fiesta Americana is about 7 km south of town, right at Chankunaab. The hotel was nice, but the highway runs right through the property, between the hotel and the beach-side swimming pool. How absurd. The highway has become very busy because several new luxury hotels are being built further south on the island. Sitting at the beach had all the charm of sitting alongside a freeway in the center of Los Angeles. Unless you are deaf and blind, do not even think about staying at Fiesta Americana.
The Dive House caters to charter groups and really does not seem to care about individual divers. The Dive House guides seemed to be in a hurry to get everyone in and out of the water so they could go back home. The boats were a bit large, with about 16 divers. Too many for me. The Dive House guides seldom pointed out any marine life and seemed rather disinterested in the divers too. I don't think I would deliberately go back to Fiesta Americana or the Dive House. I wish I had stayed with Aqua Safari... they are much, much better.
Some storms in the Caribbean lowered visibility to 80 to 100 feet and caused some strange currents, but the diving was still a lot of fun.
Wonderful February weather. Temp in the mid 80's. Went over to the mainland and down to Xcaret which has some small Mayan ruins, a museum and an underground river. They are making it into a theme park, but with a very sound ecological theme. Nice place. Cold beer and good food. What more can you ask? If you get there really early, you can sign up to swim with the dolphins... but I didn't. The picture at the right is the festival of the dead that is held every year.
The picture at the left shows a truckload of construction workers headed south on Cozumel to build the huge new resorts. How many people can you get in a truck???