Back in the Water

by Barb Eller (November 2011)
Click on Barb's thumbnails to see larger images.

We are back in Mahahual after a summer working in Ohio. Woke up this morning to blue skies and a beautiful sunrise over the water with palm trees swaying in the breeze. Sure beats looking at a sunrise over a quarry and I haven't seen many palm trees in Ohio either.

Jorge from Mahahual Dive Center called last night and invited me to go diving with him. It's 8:30 a.m. and I am loading my gear up in the car, then Patrick and I are heading into town. This year we are living south of town at kilometer 10.4; we are staying at some friends' apartment that is located in a gated community there.

We head down the beach road, then take a short side road over to the main road into town. The side road has some potholes so I am swaying back and forth trying to miss them, at least the bigger ones. I see something up ahead in the road then, as I slow down, I see a lot of "somethings" in the road. The rancher/farmer who lives on this road lets his animals out each morning to graze along the road. The car is going very slow and we pass horses, ponies, a cow, big goats, little goats, and even some egrets.

There are kids, young goats, lying in the grass and I almost have to come to a complete stop because there is one curled up in the middle of the road. One of the horses stops eating and looks in the car window as if to say, "Got any carrots?" We finally get past without bumping into anyone and continue into town.

We get to the dive shop and meet Jorge's new instructor Moises, from Spain, who will be helping out until January. Since it will be just the three of us and no customers, I know we will be going to some special sites. We get our cameras ready, pack up the tanks and gear, and then head to the boat. Jorge keeps it tied up at the fishermen's dock at the edge of town.

Boat is loaded, gear is set up, and Patrick waves us off as we head to Punta Tam. The sea is flat and the blue water is sparkling and so clear I easily can see 30 feet down. It only takes us a few minutes to get there. We slip our gear on and sit on the edge of the boat, then on the count of three we all do a back roll into the water. Our dive plan is very simple: drop down to about 85–90 feet and take pictures until our air is down to 500 psi, then head to the surface. We all use our air at about the same rate so we know our dive will last around an hour.

The water is a warm 87 degrees with visibility at more than 75 feet. The coral has lost some of its color because of the very warm summer they had but it is still beautiful. We are at about 85 feet and there are schools of fish in every direction. Looks like the butterflyfish have found something really good to eat; they nibble, swim away, and then come back for more. I heard that during the summer the dive shops got together and sponsored a lionfish hunt, and it must have been successful because I don't see very many lionfish, which is good news.

The squirrelfish don't appear to be afraid of divers at this site; they aren’t heading for the cover of coral as I swim pass them. I am able to get some shots of them in the open. Oops, I must have gotten too close to the coral—a damselfish is trying to chase me away. Ok, ok, I am leaving; don't get so pushy!

Jorge is signaling—he has spotted an eagle ray on the other side of the reef. Darn, I get there too late to see it. We've been down 70 minutes so it's time to do our 3-minute safety stop before getting back on the boat.

Our second dive we are at Faro Viejo and the more I dive this site, the more it becomes one of my favorites. It's a shallow dive, 40 feet, but you swim around very slowly and see so many little things living in the coral.

Look! Right there on that section of orange coral is an arrow crab. As I swim around to different areas I notice a lot of arrow crab; it must be some kind of holiday for them.

As I turn the corner and head back along another coral head, I find a spotted trunkfish. Such a ham—he wants his picture taken.

This place is a photographer's paradise. We have seen cleaner shrimp, arrow crab, flamingo tongue, baby puffers, blennies, and much more. And look what I just spied.

There is a lavender vase sponge and it has two brittle starfish, one inside and one outside. WOW!

There is the signal the dive is over; we have been down more than 90 minutes. We climb back on the boat and head back to the dive shop. Once our gear is rinsed and stored we drive to Fernando's 100% Agave Restaurant for some good food and to share our photos.

Until next time …
Happy Bubbles

Butterfly fish Barb Eller

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