Santa Catalina Day 4

Published: May 17th 2011
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Up early with the birds. As always. Someone told us about a bakery down the road, that's attached to the library, that is amazing so we are heading there to find some treats for in between our dives today. We gave away the rest of our PB yesterday thinking we wouldn't need it today, oh well, & it's impossible to find PB out here supposedly.

The bakery is owned by a Spanish woman who, like most Spanish women, chatted away to us while we were checking out her baked goods. I love how chatty the Spanish are. We bought a couple slices of Tortilla Espanola & a loaf of baguette & headed back to our hostel. We made some egg sandwiches on baguette for breakfast & switched rooms before heading out to the dive shop. We'll be back in room #2, where we spent the night our first night here, still with twin beds. 😊

Off to dive again. This time we have a full boat of people. Of course it rained last night & is mostly clear again this morning. The ocean is quite a bit more choppy today so it could be interesting for the dives. On the boat ride we met Salomon, a Colombian who was raised mostly in Miami but has been living in Panama City for years, & we talked about where to go in the city & diving & such.

Dive 1: Wahoo Rock, Buffet (basically the other direction around the rock than we went yesterday). The visibility is a little worse today. The water is choppier & the wind is a little blowier. So, I'm blaming that on our ability to keep track of our Dive Master, Luis. Since we had immediately bonded with Salomon & he was probably the most experienced diver, besides us, we became prompt dive buddies underwater. Plus he had a camera so we were pointing out everything we found to him so he could snap a photo. We lost the entire group of divers at one point when we were checking out an octopus. But we headed toward their general direction & caught up with them. The dive was good. We saw the usual Sharks & Octopus & lots & lots of schools of fish. Awesome!

We took our first surface Interval at a beautiful little tiny beach on one of the many little islands
Can you find the frogfish?Can you find the frogfish?Can you find the frogfish?

Look closely, there are actually two of them.
out here. White sand, crystal blue water, hot sun. Heaven! We saw stingrays jumping in the distance, like they were dolphins, they just kept jumping. We spent a bunch of time talking with Salomon about what to see in Colombia. Then back on the boat. I don't know how it's possible but I feel like I got a little sunburn today. You'd think after all these months it wouldn't be possible but wow, the sun can be sooooo serious business & hot.

Dive 2: Saw several stingrays (Devil Rays we were told) jumping from boat, right next to us, it was so cool! On this dive we once again lost the entire group while playing with another Octopus. This guy was hiding behind a rock but when Geoff would stick his head behind the rock the Octopus would come over the top of the rock to look at him. Then when Geoff would move up, the Octopus would move back behind the rock. They did this probably 4 times. It was so incredible! He was playing peek-a-boo with Geoff! Super cool. But we stopped for quite some time & looked up & they were all long gone. So Salomon,

Can you find him?
this Asian dude, & us finished the rest of the dive ourselves. We looked for them, didn't find them & since Salomon has a computer we just followed the dive plan & kept on with it. It was kind of liberating & a little scary all at the same time. The current was pretty strong so we were being carried along, kind of sure we were going in the right direction but not 100% sure of it. Although I doubt they wouldn't spend time looking for 4 divers, right? When we surfaced, the boat was (of course) there waiting for us & the rest of the group surfaced about 50 yards away from us. We did a pretty good job! Well really, we just went with the current & kept the reef on our left side, which was pretty much the dive plan. 😊

Back to Isla Coiba for our second surface interval. We checked out the dock with Salo, looked for Tito (no luck there, darnit) & ate some lunch. MMMM tortilla espanola. So good! Then back on the boat & out to sea.

Dive 3: Luis gave me his extra dive computer since we keep losing him, I think he figured we'd for sure lose him again..... (he was right). It helps so much to have a good dive plan & good captains who know where the current will take us so they can look out for us. Both times we came up just a couple minutes before the rest of the group & almost in the exact same spot. That shows how the visibility really isn't so great. This dive we lost half the group while checking something out. But we somehow ended up with a couple of the other divers. Talking underwater is so fun, like charades. We just made a plan to stick together with them & keep going. It all worked out. We saw a bunch of Eels. There are so many varieties in the Pacific. There was a huge Moray that had what looked like a leapord print on the back half of his body. It was so different than anything I've ever seen. Usually they're just green. The absolute best part of our dive was at the end when we had finished our safety stop & we had all just decided to ascend to the surface. I have a routine
A frogfish swimming.A frogfish swimming.A frogfish swimming.

He swam around for quite some time looking for a new hiding place.
at this point. I always do a 360 degree turn to make sure I'm not going to run into anything (like the boat or another person) on my way up. Just another safety step that makes me feel safer. But this time I had only turned about 180 degrees & right there in front of me, swimming right toward me, was a Giant Manta Ray!!!! He was literally within 10 feet of me, pumping his huge wings straight toward me! I just screamed & froze. What could I do (honestly, my first thought was Steve Irwin, terrible right?)!! Thankfully, it had better skills underwater than me. It saw me or heard me scream...& did a quick 180 degree turn & flew off. The guy had a wingspan of at least 8-10 feet & when I first saw him all I saw was the center of his body which looked like it was for sure bigger than me, not even including his wings. It was, by far, one of the most awesomely scary & exciting moments for me diving!!!! When we surfaced, the guys on the boat said they had just seen it & it had turned right toward us to
Spotted boxfish.Spotted boxfish.Spotted boxfish.

An amazing fish, too bad he's purple & gold.
get away from the boat. The poor guy was running from the boat & almost ran into us! He was huge!!! We all came out of the water hooting & hollering. My heart was pumping. It was sooooo crazy!!! Our last dive in the Pacific, our last dive in Coiba...thank you Mr. Giant Manta Ray!

On that high note we headed back in to Santa Catalina. The boat broke down for a bit on the way back. Only the 2nd time this has happened to us in 70 dives so really the stats aren't that bad. Plus, I just fell asleep in the sun on the front of the boat until they fixed it.

Back in S.C. we showered & headed to the bar for some food! Nachos please! We had dinner & a couple beers with Salomon. We bought the dive guys a round of beers & then they bought us a round. We were like, stop it! That's not how it's supposed to work! It was an early night. We were beat. 8 dives in 3 days. It really wears me out. But I love it! So we headed back to our room (& twin beds 😉 & packed up for morning & off to sleep. Dreaming about Giant Manta Rays.....

Additional photos below
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It's true!It's true!
It's true!

Everywhere we've been the locals remind us not to stand under the coconut trees.
Our little friend.Our little friend.
Our little friend.

He wasn't more than an inch long. Here he's sitting on teh stair outside our room.

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