Hide & Seek…In the Dark!

As predicted, the pace of life here in Cozumel at the Blue Angel Resort is much less laid back than in Cayman Brac! We’re up before 7 every morning and rush off to breakfast then onto the boat by 8. We do 2 dives before heading back to the hotel around noon and then I’m usually rushing up to the room to warm up and rinse off in the shower before lunch time. We have yet to get onto an afternoon boat trip but have kept busy with shore dives and night dives. In the past 5 days of diving I’ve completed my night diver specialty, navigation specialty, fish ID specialty, and the new shark conservation specialty. In the evenings there’s always a group of us thoroughly enjoying the hotel’s 2-for-1 happy hour before heading into town for dinner. Once again, we’re in bed by 10pm. Its been busy!! While there’s less time for relaxing (and none for blogging!), its a ton of fun to be part of a group trip. Diving, drinking, and eating together for a week straight makes for fast friendships and many fun memories.Its the people I’ve met here that really make the Blue Angel a special place for me.

Waiting for the sun to set so we can go diving…

Tuesday and Thursday we went night diving. Its exactly what it sounds like – we went scuba diving after the sun had set. Scary? A little. Thrilling? Absolutely! Tuesday it was just Warren and I so we went from shore to visit the local fish nursery. The dive right in front of the hotel is chock FULL of baby fish! Its an unbelievably adorable place. We started into the water just as the sun was fading into the horizon, turned on our lights and headed under. Visiting a place you know well at night can be a totally different experience. Different creatures venture out, while others are no where to be seen. Its a little eerie to be out there in the dark. The moon was out so it wasn’t pitch black, but its still unsettling to not know what could be swimming by that you can’t see. I also found that if I spun around a coral head or a creature too much I would get disoriented and lose track of what direction I was going. I’d have to stop, take a few breaths, and wait for the current to push me so I would know where I was in relation to the site. On this dive my training task was to use a compass to relocate our entry point at the end of the dive. I was quite pleased with myself when I found the channel we needed to follow out! We kept that dive short because our trip companions were all waiting on us to go for dinner – it was a 51 minute dive with a maximum of 24ft and an average of 18ft. At that shallow of a depth no decompression time is measured in hours rather than minutes and we’re both good enough on air we could probably have stayed down about 2 hours if we’d wanted to. We saw some porcupine fish, balloon fish, lobster, crabs, a beautiful southern stingray and a few spotted eels. We even saw a chain moray which is extremely rare for this part of the Caribbean! Sadly, there were no octopus sightings on this dive. Octopus are one of my favorite things to see underwater, right up there with sharks even!

Chain Moray Eel – very rare in Cozumel!

Arrow Crab! He’s got bright purple pinchers

On Thursday we signed up for a night dive from the boat and a few others from our Edmonton group joined in. We boarded at 5:30 pm then sat over the dive site to watch the sun set. It was beautiful, and a wonderful way to spend the last minutes of daylight. 3 people on the boat had never done a night dive before, and 1 had never done a night dive from the boat (only from shore, which is less intimidating I think). We all rolled backwards off the boat into the dark waves and started our descent right away. We were on Paradise reef with a maximum depth of 40ft (and an average of 33ft) and it was a long leisurely dive time of an hour and 4 minutes. This dive was EXACTLY what a great night dive should be – TONS of cool creatures and fish, no overcrowding, competent divers, and my light didn’t fail! (though I was carrying 2 back-ups just in case….you’d be surprised how often they do go out mid-dive). In addition to some sleeping parrot fish, crabs, file fish, flamingo tongues, sea cucumbers and stingrays we also got to see a handful of things I’d never seen before – a scorpion fish and 2 sea horses. There were fire worms, a peacock flounder doing his best to remain camouflaged, and 5 octopus! Have I mentioned how much I love octopus?? They’re shimmery and change colors faster than you can even name them, and watching them move still blows my mind, every time.

Fire worm – do NOT touch him, he will HURT you!

flamingo tongues – they’re a type of nudibranch

Yellow Stingray

Sleeping Parrot FIsh – he’s just laying flat on the coral trying to be inconspicuous

my first seahorse sighting! I think ‘elegant’ is a good descriptor for them

i heart octopus!

Mr. “you can’t see me” Peacock Flounder (I love how his eyes move sideways)

a spotted moray eel, looking fierce

Now just in case you’re thinking that night diving sounds like the most fantastic activity ever and you can’t wait to try it…let me tell you about the flatworms. They’re these tiny little awful red worms that come out at night and are attracted to light. They swarm around my light and my head and tried to crawl into my ears. I hate them. So thoroughly creepy. Luckily, they’re harmless – they don’t bite, or sting, or do anything than freak me out. Kari had mentioned last year that some of the coral will eat them (she prefaced this by saying she’s not usually in favor of forcing interaction underwater, or injuring/killing sea life of any kind…but she hates them just as much as the rest of us!) so I spent a good portion of my dive following her around waiting for her to do just that so I could see what kind of coral it was that liked the worms. I was SO THRILLED to finally see it happen and then I set off happily feeding as many worms to as much coral as I could, grinning gleefully as I did. Is this evil of me? You know, I don’t even care if it is.

My last task for the night diver specialty on this dive was to sit on the sand and hold the light against my chest so the light disappeared (we don’t turn them on and off underwater as that is when they are most likely to fail) and just sit there, for 3 minutes, in the darkness. Honestly, this isn’t as bad as it sounds. There was enough light from the moon above and all the other divers with their lights that it didn’t feel too overwhelming. It certainly wasn’t my favorite 3 minutes of the dive, but it wasn’t nightmare inducing either.

2 more great dives into the log book! As of right now I have 63 dives logged (I left Edmonton with 20…), and I’ve gone from 839 minutes (or 14 hours) of bottom time to 3049 (or 50 hours). Yay me! Despite those being impressive numbers to me, I’m more excited about how drastically I’ve seen my skill level grow on this trip. I am not the same diver was. My air consumption, buoyancy, and confidence have all improved significantly. I owe a lot of this to Warren – he’s been an amazingly supportive dive buddy and sets an excellent example to follow underwater.

This afternoon is the highly anticipated Cozumel beach clean-up. A local tour company has volunteer transportation for our crew, and one of the resort owners Eva is bringing along snacks and drinks. I trucked costco-sized boxes of disposable gloves from Edmonton and Kari’s got the garbage bags. We’re set, we’re excited, and we’re only slightly hungover (there may or may not be pictures of a tequila fueled pool party floating around from last night)…so its time to get trashy!

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One Comment on “Hide & Seek…In the Dark!

  1. Pingback: Self-Improvement Week…Scuba Style « Travel. Explore. Dive!

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