AdventureCentral AmericaPanamaScuba

Wednesday, February 18: Coiba and Montusa Island

Eric opted to sleep in this morning rather than going out for the first dive. I think the lack of big fish and the knowledge that our first dives without Kevan’s coordinates would likely mean less than desirable diving. Before I left, though, he reminded me to take his flashlight to help create some light for my photos, since my underwater housing inconveniently covers the flash of my Canon.

Ben on a scouting mission for the next dive site

Breakfast, family-style (and Jono-style)

Andrea, offering me his “survival kit”: a little scuba-tank-shaped flask filled with a strong alcoholic liquid (knowing him, probably tequila)

Here’s the dive summary, in bullet points for berevity:

Dive 1: No name

  • White tip
  • Coral
  • Gorgeous fans
  • I managed to make some use of E’s underwater light as a camera flash but found myself running into coral rather than taking fabulous pictures. And though I gave up on the light I found a new love of fan coral. When I’m a famous photographer, we can call this my “fan coral phase”.

Fan coral

Loads of fan coral

Shovelnose Guitarfish

Yep, more fan coral

Kind of cool use of the light – with a little coral hawkfish

Post-Dive Accident
After every dive Juan Carlos brings us a snack and thermoses of coffee and hot chocolate. Of course I opt for the hot chocolate and sip it while I dry in the sun and enjoy the madness of the dive deck and the assembling/disassembling of gear. After this dive I’d gone up to the upstairs deck to use one of the “wet bathrooms” to use the toilet (no, I don’t pee in my wetsuit). And as I mentioned earlier the Yemaya is newly refinished and still has some small details to be seen to, such as lining the metal stairs with sticky strips so they’re less slippery when wet. But on this day I walked down the stairs to the dive deck and halfway down slipped and fell the rest of the way on my back and my bum. Nothing was seriously hurt besides my pride, but I imagine it looked horrible especially since my hot chocolate had splattered all over the stairs and myself. And since everyone was on the dive deck concerned divers immediately surrounded me. I assured them I was okay – and I was – but I’d have a hell of a bruise on my tush by the end of the day. It was HUGE.

Dive 2 – Uluru Rock:

  • Uluru Rock dive site – so named for Jono as a tribute to his homeland
  • In the madness of the post-fall and set up for the second dive I forgot my camera
  • Dove above everyone- warmer, out of the way of photographers, and used less air
  • After the dive our panga took on extra divers. It’s an ongoing joke that the divers on the green panga can’t seem to stay together so it made perfect sense that they would emerge closer to our blue panga and to climb aboard.

Photo by Eric Cheng

Me, hovering above the reef
Photo by Eric Cheng

Afterward we had a lunch of pasta, tuna, and portabello mushrooms, and then I took a nice nap on the chaise lounge.

Dive 3 – Christmas Tree:
Eric and Jono decided to switch to their macro lenses, which means they would be looking for tiny little reeflife instead of big fish in the blue. I belatedly realized what this meant for me – staying in one place for a loooong time – and I looked around to join the rest of the group, but they were already gone. So I played around the one big rock the entire dive, toying with the surge for fun and even trying my own hand at macro shots. Which aren’t so bad, if I do say so myself:

Pretty white coral (I call it “snowy coral”) with a coral hawkfish

Pretty yellow coral with coral hawkfish

Tufted Tube Blenny (you can see its teeth and a big eye in the middle of the screen). This little guy’s the size of my pinky

Redhead Gobies (they’re about an inch or two long)

Another tufted tube blenny on the lower right shadow. I love the little mohawks on these guys

Here’s what a tufted tube blenny looks like with a *real* macro lens and an acutal flash
Photo by Eric Cheng

Bigeye Trevaly (male and female)

I named this site “Christmas Tree” because of all the white fluffyish white coral.

Sunset trip to the Beach
For the sunset we took the pangas to a nearby island and for pics of the sunset. I walked around the trees to a rocky beach where I sat on a huge boulder and watched the sun go down.

Unloading the panga

Lovely light

Sunset over the beach

For fun on the ride back we had an unofficial Panga Race, though neither panga is equipped to pound through the waves. But for entertainment the green panga buzzed by us with an extra few “moons” from Andrea, Jesus, and Otmar for good measure. I wish I’d had a picture of that!

Family Dinner
Dinner was pork, rice, and beans, with a banana-bread pudding for dessert.

Afterwards we gathered in the lounge where Eric gave a presentation about Sea Shephard, the Steve Irwin, and his experiences in Antarctica. Pretty amazing. No wonder the guy has so much sleep to catch up on. He’s been working like mad.