Santa Catalina Day 2

Published: May 16th 2011
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Wahoo RockWahoo RockWahoo Rock

The sight for today's first dive.
This morning we made egg sandwiches for breakfast. I'm becoming accustomed to American cheese, which I normally really dislike, but when that is all you have to choose from you can't be too picky. We also made some hard boiled eggs to take with us & a bunch of random snacks, like PB & banana sandwiches, chips & cookies, to tide us over during the day between dives.

It is clear blue skies this morning. Yippee! After getting our dive gear at the shop we headed out to the boat on the beach. The boats were all kind of stuck in this little lagoon that is easier to access during high tide when the waterway is full, it's now low tide & not quite so easy. But exciting! We got on the boat & headed out to the ocean where the waves were pretty big. Our captain did a very nice job getting us out to sea without getting wet. It was impressive. Like reverse surfing. The boat ride took about an hour to our first dive site & the ride was gorgeous. The coastline is pristine, uninhabited green jungle with little islands dotting the landscape all along it. So beautiful.

Our first dive site was off the islands around a big rock that jutted out of the water. Pacific diving is always more technical & challenging because of the currents & the poor visibility. Ohhhh & the water is super cold here. Wow. They supplied us with long wetsuits, booties & I could have used a hood & gloves (which the DM had). Cold. But, with the currents you definitely work a little harder so it helps to keep you warm. Those thermoclines are just nuts though. You can see the water changing shape when you are about to cross a thermocline & then pow, the cold hits you. The water feels like it's been sitting on ice & being poured directly into the spot you are in. It's the craziest thing.

As we were going down the anchor line the water was green & cloudy on top but cleared up a bit on the bottom. There was a pretty strong current & if we had let go of the line we definitely would have had to work against it a little to stay in place. I was afraid it was going to be really super strong
Our room on Isla Coiba.Our room on Isla Coiba.Our room on Isla Coiba.

There were 5 twin beds to choose from. It was tough to decide wehre to sleep.
current, from stories I had heard, but it really is just more work kicking & keeping track of your DM. Today was nice because it was only us, the London girl & our DM Julie. We dove the site called Buffet. Fish buffet? We saw our first Cortez Angelfish. Very cool. We also saw our first school of Barracudas, there were about 50. They weren't as scary as I thought they'd be. We also saw our first Bulls Eye Electric Sting Ray. His back looked like it had a bullseye painted on it. At the end of the dive we were hovering over a large rock mound when suddenly we were absolutely surrounded by White Tipped Reef Sharks. There were probably 12-15 of them & they swam around us in circles. A couple of times they swam so close I could probably have reached out & touched them. However, there was no way I would even stick my arms out towards them. What if they decided today was the day to sample divers? It was really incredible though to look them in the eye & watch them gracefully swim right by.

We did our first surface interval on the boat & while we were sitting there the Smithsonian research boat pulled up next to us & wanted to show our DM, & us, pictures of the Whale Sharks they've been tracking. It was super interesting to see where the Sharks are traveling & what routes they take. Sometimes they swim in big circles that cover hundred of miles but somehow manage to end up right where they left off to get back on track to wherever they were originally heading. It was really cool to see. Plus, the scientist had some videos he'd taken of a few of the Whale Sharks so that was the best. Since we weren't able to see them in real life, it was nice to see them on a video at least.

Second dive: El Faro (Lighthouse). We saw a Seahorse!!! Yippeee!! They are the cutest little guys underwater for sure. He was probably 3 inches tall & so perfect. We saw another larger school of barracuda swim right overhead, hundreds. I got to see an Octopus flash 5 different colors & then stuff himself into a little hole in the rock wall. I am in love with the Octopus in the Pacific. Absolutely Smitten!

Our surface interval at this point was on Isla Coiba. We got off the boat & brought all our bags with us. We're staying in one of their "cabanas" which is actually a remodeled room that used to be a prison camp up until 2004. It was kinda funny because our room had 5 twin beds & on the headboard each bed had a number, like 351647. Probably the original prison beds? Hopefully the mattresses are new.... they were comfy so I imagine they were, or at leat that's what I told myself. We can't escape the twin beds it seems. But the rooms are pretty decent. We have a bathroom & we can walk about 10 paces to be standing on the beach. Not bad. After some lunch we headed back out for our last dive.

Dive 3: Don Juan: Now I understand more about the current. It is a lot more work than merely kicking ocassionally & being in complete control of where you want to go. With the currents here, you don't always decide where you go, the current takes you where it wants to. My least favorite part of drift dives is when you have to work against the current. I honestly feel like a fish trying to swim upstream. It's a lot of work. My legs are already tired & we've only done 2 dives! It's also a tiny bit creepy to let the current move you. You go & go & go. Sometimes really fast, it feels like diving in fastforward. I can't keep up with what I'm passing by. But, the fish are so big in the Pacific that it's ok if you are moving, they come by you. The best part of this dive was when the sky suddenly darkened above us & we looked up to see at least 1000 Jacks swimming overhead & then turn & head straight through us. It felt like we disappeared in their school. Amazing!!

After this dive they took us back to Isla Coiba & dropped us off. They'll pick us up tomorrow morning for more diving. We headed out for a swim & promptly saw a Spotted Eagle Ray just off shore. Nice! We walked out onto the only dock to check out what we could see. It was like snorkeling from the land. We saw a huge school
Spotted Eagle RaySpotted Eagle RaySpotted Eagle Ray

Just swimming off the end of the dock.
of Surgeonfish & puffers & another Eagle Ray. Excellent. Maybe we should save some money on diving & just sit on the dock for the next couple of days... We then showered all the salt water off of us, which we've decided the Pacific Ocean is extra salty, because it is super itchy after it dries on our skin. Then we walked up to the kitchen to make some food. We're having a pasta feast. Mac & Cheese & pasta with red sauce. Woohoo! But, it was delicious because we were starving after all our hard work. We're using the kitchen that the Park Rangers use. There are about 10 guys who live out here for 2 weeks at a time. The chef was in the process of cooking their dinner but he was kind enough to share his kitchen with us & I chatted him up of course. After dinner, which was only around 6pm, we felt like we were ready for bed. Exhausted.

The buildings here are all set in a tiny cleared valley surrounded by a ton of jungle. It reminded us of scenes from "Lost." We're on our own little island with a handful of buildings that all look the same & are set up in a kind of square.....Other than the Rangers we didn't see anyone else staying on the island. We heard some people arrive after we went to bed, but during the evening we felt like the island was all ours. Pretty awesome.

We retired to our room & our seperate beds & were promptly introduced to the wrath of the chitres aka sand flies aka noseeums. Mostly I like to call them Little Bastards. They were ridiculous. We were being bit about every 15 seconds. Not even bug spray deterred them. Little Bastards! So, I took a pre-emptive benadryl & hid under my sheet until I fell asleep. Before I slept however, we spent some quality time listening to the creatures outside. They were even louder than the bugs in Drake. There was this one bug who literally sounded like a sprinkler starting up. Like one of those circular sprinklers you put in the middle of the yard. It was hysterical. There was another bug that started out with this high pitched squek that kept getting louder & louder & louder until it was blaring. Then it would stop for a second & start over again. Thankfully, the bugs outside were cracking us up even though the bugs inside were driving us nuts. Welcome to the jungle!


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