As an avid saltwater aquarist, I spent countless hours snorkeling the saltwater coasts of South Florida and the Bahamas as a boy, and immensely enjoyed studying the behaviors and personalities of the many inhabitants. There was no place that brought me greater inner peace than the quiet but lively seascapes rocking to the rhythms of the waves and currents. Oh, the stories I could tell... octopus eggs, sharks, eels, tiny lobsters...
Gray Angel Mates
I learned to scuba dive at 14, even though I continued to prefer snorkeling. However, the deeper reefs of the Caribbean were/are still spectacular - and sometimes call like the Sirens to me - and there is no way to experience them without carrying "one's breath upon his/her back". (Or hold one's breath for a very long time, like this Hawksbill sea turtle grazing on the reef.)
Several years ago, my brother, Jay, invited me to join him for an excursion on a "live-aboard" dive boat in Belize. It was an amazing trip, so when he asked again for an April 2016 trip, I jumped at the chance. And the diving was no less thrilling and the reefs there (to my amazement) appeared every bit as healthy and full of life... the corals, sponges, fish - from tiny jewels to huge denizens - and myriad other creatures doing all the things I'd watched them do in my youth.
While figuring out how to convey the feeling of floating amidst the other-worldly reef habitats sixty feet below the sea's surface leaves me stumped, I did capture a variety of "snapshots" that offer a salty taste of my experience. Here's a sampling for your delight.
To see the flourishing staghorn coral... ahhh... like it used to be in Florida.
Faces of Tarpon. Like passing submarines, these sleek "pelagics" cruised by, ignoring me.
Painted Tunicates. Tiny delicate animals hidden amidst the corals.
Black Durgon. A triggerfish all gussied up with eye shadow, rouge, and a fishnet bodystocking!
Six Gun Cannon. (At least I call them cannon sponges.) And black coral, on a deep wall.
Me... oh, I mean Moray. Hmmm... maybe I'm too close.
That's me. The bifocal mask is new - wow, what a difference for operating a camera!
Invasive Lionfish. There seemed fewer than 3 years ago. The groupers and morays are learning how to eat them without getting stung.
Black Grouper. This big dude could eat a lot of lionfish.
Gorgonian Polyps. Each tiny "anemone" is a single animal living cooperatively in a beautifully sculpted condo.
Black Coral. These are the creatures from which the jewelry is crafted. Fine craftsmen they are as well.
Queen Angelfish. Holding very still - not for me, but - for the small Spanish hogfish (near her chin) that was cleaning her.
Deep Dive. Dropping into Blue Hole.
Tube Worm Bouquet
Loggerhead Elder. And his remora pal.
Jacks in Art School. Or maybe an artsy school of jacks... and a few chubs.
Reef Shark. Carrying a radio tag on her dorsal fin.
Sea Fan Study
Hope you enjoyed the dive.
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