Underwater Playground

Some tiny islands just 600m off the west coast of Guadalupe is home to many sea creatures and weekend visitors. Pigeon Island, which actually consists of two islands, is surrounded by the Cousteau National Park and has been well worth the three day stop over. We arrived in 30 kt winds and anchored up in a bay directly opposite the islands. Within minutes we were enthralled as four or so turtles came up to breathe around the boat. As Thomas was checking the holding of the anchor a really large ‘fish’ swam under the boat. At first Thomas thought it was a dolphin but I noticed its tail moved like a fish and not a friendly dolphin. Our decision is still reserved but Thomas was sure that he saw a black-tipped reef shark this morning when he went for a quick swim. Pretty harmless anyway but not the company you want to keep when you’ve just woken up.

Studying the guide to plan our best attack

Studying the guide to plan our best attack

A snorkel on the northern cliff of the bay revealed a shallow reef perfect for the windy conditions that we were still experiencing. We got to see a lovely reef garden, four turtles on the way over feeding on the sea grass on the bottom of the bay, numerous amounts of beautiful reef fish and a moray eel. The national park continued around the corner but the wind was still too wild and we weren’t sure about currents. Forty minutes was long enough anyway to enjoy the treasures there. We wondered if our mystery fish may have been a sucker fish that we saw on one of the really big old turtles. Some young Danes in an old wooden ketch that we keep running into have a sucker fish living under their vessel. They hand feed it morsels of meat and any leftovers. It’s probably doing a fine job keeping their aging hull free of algae too. They can get quite large so maybe it was just one of those that was thinking of moving in.

Captain Thomas with Pigeon Island behind him

Captain Thomas with Pigeon Island behind him

We were disappointed that our experiences may be limited due to the unruly wind but I had a rude awakening in the early hours of the morning because the wind had stopped. With 50m of chain out we could drift into our neighbours if they chose to drift over our way. After a brief inspection, everything was fine and there was just enough wind to keep everyone at chain’s length and away from each other. What it meant though was that we could go exploring over to the islands. So, we packed our snorkelling gear and headed over in the mid morning, just before all the tourists arrived. Thomas jokes that he gets his rowing exercise because of the reliability of the dingy outboard but this time he was spared. It would have been a really good workout and I must say, I don’t mind watching him build up a bit of sweat with his muscles bulging.

There was a very shallow passage of water between the two islands and this contained a great variety of brightly coloured fish and coral. I love watching a parrot fish that seemed in ecstasy at a cleaning station with all the little fish scooting about its gills and scales giving it a proper touch up. Being a Sunday, the tourists began arriving in hordes and broke the spell a bit. We had already been in for about an hour anyway so it was time to head back. A nice Canadian couple asked us over for pre-lunch drinks so we dried up and visited them then headed for the beach. The various shacks along the beach were purely for the beach goers and there was nothing beyond. Everything interesting here was under the water.

A beautiful underwater landscape

A beautiful underwater landscape

The next day we headed back over to the islands and we decided to circumnavigate them. Interesting rock formations, corals and a variety of little ecosystems captured our attention. Thomas was doing a lot of free diving. As we were on the northern tip of the island I spotted an octopus swimming with a few little fish chasing it. I called out to Thomas and the commotion must have alerted it into a defensive position. It sat on a rock to camouflage itself and then as Thomas swam down to it, it flattened itself like jelly. Thomas managed to take a few snaps and as he was coming up it swam off under a rock.

Three fish waiting to pounce back on the octopus- I don't think they liked him.

Three fish waiting to pounce back on the octopus- I don’t think they liked him.

One of the joys of diving and snorkelling is observing the behaviours of the fish and other creatures. Some appear to be casually going about their daily business without a care in the world and then others are buzzing about like they’re on Speed. Small fish are standing up to fish hundreds of times bigger them because they had dared to trespass into their territory. Some freeze against a rock, such as the octopus, and assume we can’t see it. Nocturnal creatures move about lethargically having been motivated to take some type of action. Mostly, we swim through them or above them without a commotion and get to see into their private world. I love it.

 

 

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