We headed first to the highlands of Guatemala where we spent a few nights in Antigua before moving on to Lake Atitlán to enjoy the scenery, renew friendships at the Cooperativa Spanish School, and celebrate with our Beca Project students and their families. Then we flew to the island of Roatán, Honduras for beaches, snorkeling, diving, and flyfishing. HAPPY TRAILS!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Sandy Bay Underwater

Since I spent at least 4 hours every day in the water, I decided to devote a post to diving and snorkeling. That way, if you get bored with underwater photos, you can just skip this one. :-)

I dove 3 times with a friendly group of neighboring expats, led by Holly in the dive cap with kitty ears. It was a great group; we dove Keyhole once and Wrasse Hole twice; highlights were huge barrel sponges, tiny shrimp cleaning stations (like line-up car washes for fish), a gigantic green moray eel, a juvenile spotted drum (one of my favorites), scrawled filefish, and lots of parrotfish and angelfish. There are more big fish than on the east end but the reef doesn't look quite as vibrant - it gets more pressure here. The visibility was only 40 or 50 feet here this week which is common during the rainy season due to run off from the mountainous island. That didn't spoil my fun but was a little disappointing - I like my tropical water to look like air. :-)
One of my dive buddies took this photo of me as we descended.
Walking out the long pier put us within swimming reach of the reef. The cool views started under the dock.
a nursery for baby sargeant majors and banded butterflyfish
the resident barracuda
queen conch - eyes peeking out.
some sort of snail?
I love these donkey dung sea cucumbers (that's really the name - you can google it).
Some cool stuff in the turtle grass around the dock; a sea star
an anemone
a jellyfish and an anemone - not sure who picked the fight
old coral with crabs and anemones
Here are close looks at brain coral
and the beautifully patterned snaily things called flamingo tongues.
The fluffy coral is out feeding.
A 2 inch long baby yellow tailed damselfish - as adults they're not as pretty.
a juvenile beaugregory damselfish
a juvenile rock beauty damselfish
Lionfish have toxic spines and are reportedly good eating. They are beautiful but don't belong in the Caribbean. Native to the Pacific, they apparently escaped hurricane-damaged aquaria and are populating the reefs, devouring everything in sight. Their only predators are human, who sometimes take them by the thousands in organized lionfish speerfishing tourneys with prizes and barbecues. Sometimes we'd see dozens on a dive but this is the only one I saw snorkeling.
a trumpetfish
a large school of blue tangs
a black durgon, a type of triggerfish
a schoolmaster hiding in the shadow of colorful coral and sea fans
blue-striped grunt (yes, they actually make a grunting sound)
a nassau grouper
a spotted trunkfish
a sargeant major and a squirrelfish
a large needlefish hiding near the surface
some camouflage experts; a sand diver
and a sub adult parrotfish
A huge (2-3 foot long) porcupine fish, a type of puffer; the photo is grainy because they always hide under ledges (low light). They have enormous eyes and big lips and are covered with small spines that usually lie flat.
queen angels are shy - hard to get a photo from the side
a french angel
always a highlight - a spotted eagle ray
on the edge of the deep
an adult stoplight parrotfish
The most amazing highlight snorkeling (and it happened over and over) was snorkeling with a school of gigantic rainbow parrotfish, some over 4 feet long. In the photo below they're feeding alongside a huge ocean triggerfish.
scales the size of my palm :-)
Bye! Happy trails!

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