Sunday 12 May, Turks & Caicos day 4: Scuba diving at Black Garden and Sand River dive sites, and meet some of the very pleasant expat community.
We are up early as we have to be at the dive center by 8:45am. Slightly sleepy, we do make it on time. All very efficient and by 9:15 we are heading out on the dive boat.
First dive site is called Black Forest. It’s a dive on the drop-off wall which is actually over hanging, so a bit dark (black) yet the coral is like a forest – hence Black Forest dive site. Where the dive boat stops is only about 300m from where Cloudy Bay is anchored, and exactly at the zone where the shallow light blue water instantly turns deep blue seaward of the drop off. The visibility is very good and as we swim over the top of the wall the coral and light are wonderful colours. But down the wall, the light fades as do the colours, and unless you are right up against the wall, there is not much to see. So while the other dives go deeper, we stay closer to the top of the wall, with the colour and life.
30 minutes into the dive I find breathing difficult. My gauge still shows half a tank but each time I breath, it pulls down to zero pressure. Same on my octopus regulator. So using Oana’s octopus to breath, we surface together. Once at the surface the dive master joins us and finds that my tanks valve is not fully open. Odd, I was sure I’d opened it fully. As soon as he has opened it, breathing comes easy again. I feel a bit silly. We dive back down to the others and finish the dive.
After a short rest back at the dive center we set out on the second dive by 11:30. This one is called Sand River coral. There is a river of sand that runs to the drop-off in a gully, with steep sides covered in coral. It’s really pretty. But the highlight of this dive are two Nassau Grouper fish, one very large. They seem to know the dive master and they tag along swimming with us, like a stray dog may latch onto you and walk just a few feet behind you, hoping for some love!
Only these Groupers are not after love, they are after food. And clearly this is not the first time. Same as the last dive, the dive master spears a lion fish (they are pests in the Caribbean) and no sooner is it removed from the spear than the larger Grouper grabs it, in a fraction of a second, and swallows it whole! Apparently they cannot eat a lion fish normally because the Lion fish will turn its spiny back to the predator with all its poisonous spines aiming the attacker. But once half dead, the Grouper grabs the Lion fish head-first and all those spines lie down harmlessly as it’s swallowed. It’s quite a sight, and we managed to capture on Go-Pro.
A few minutes later the same exercise happens again. These are not small Lion fish, and the Grouper now has two inside him!
Other than this spectacle, the coral is wonderful here. So full of color and life. Certainly the most colourful we have seen in the Caribbean. It was a really rewarding dive.
At the same time we got to know a local couple, Barbara from Poland and Simon from UK. They and the dive master, Jason, are really pleasant. Apparently there is a gathering of friends at the Sand Bar later this afternoon so we decide rather than heading off to South Caicos today we will stay here and join them.
The afternoon is a bit lazy. We wash our wet suits and hang them to dry then I do a bit of barnacle cleaning on the hull while Oana cooks lunch. After 30 minutes I come out and realize Oana’s wet suit has blown off the boat! I take the dinghy and search near the boat, but no sign of it so I go back to Cloudy to recheck. Maybe it didn’t go over board after all? Nope… definitely not there. So off in the dinghy again. This time I go about half a mile down wind and just about to make a search pattern back upwind when I spot it on the water ever further downwind. Boy oh boy that wet suit managed to float a loooong way in 30 mins! I don’t even think I could swim that far in 30 minutes. Now I’ve found it, it’s safe to tell Oana what happened 🙂
After lunch (round two of the Mahi-Mahi fish) we head ashore to the party hosted by Simon and Barbara at the Sandbar restaurant. Quite a few expats there, and looks like they have a happy little community here in Grand Turk. Most of them working for the government in one capacity or another. We hear some interesting stories from these expats who live and work here. And we in turn tell them our best yachting stories. No idea when time went by, and it ends up with just the four of us in the bar, with the bar closed. A really nice evening. Thank you Simon and Barbara for the drinks, the cake and the very entertaining conversation.
So nice in fact that we contemplate to stay yet another day, maybe dive again tomorrow and see them all again! So much for exploring Turks & Caicos… looks like it will only be Turks islands this year!