Trip Start Feb 21, 2009
6Trip End Mar 04, 2009
Overall, we were both glad we went, and it was cool to see what the area had to offer. But in certain ways the diving left something to be desired. The dive operator was less than impressive; considering how expensive the dives are (almost twice as much as an average two-tank dive elsewhere), the equipment was pretty shoddy, and the divemaster was a little bratty. The visibility wasn't great - supposedly it's usually around 15 meters, but on our dives it was more like 7 or 8. There was also a fairly strong current, which I'm not really fond of. When you want to stop for some reason, you have to grasp onto a rock, taking care not to accidentally grab an eel or fire coral or something similarly inconvenient. And then, with the water and silt rushing by, and the sound of it in my ears, I always feel that if I let go, I'll fly off into the oceanic void. So that aspect wasn't great, but I think I was feeling particularly critical, since it was Shen's second day ever of ocean diving and I really wanted him to see how great it can be.
Despite all that, we saw some very cool stuff. They have these little rays that they call "mobiles" that look just like manta rays, but they're only about a foot or two wide. Strange to say about a ray, but they're adorable! They like to play on the surface of the water. Right when we arrived, one leapt out of the water near the boat and flapped his little wing-things in the air. Before we left, two of them sped by us with their wings upright, looking like parallel shark fins going by. Underwater, we saw two separate schools of them, with maybe 40-50 rays per school. Just like fish, they swam in formation, and they looked like little spaceships cruising around together. We were told that people have seen schools as large as 100 swimming by. They're really cool. We also saw a lot of big eels, and very cute blennies, little fish with cartoon-like faces that pop their heads out of small crevices in the coral.
We also were not disappointed in the shark department. We saw quite a number of relatively small white-tipped reef sharks. We spotted one under a little cave, and when we stopped to watch, he came out and swam around a bit in front of us. They're so beautiful, and really neat to watch in their own environment. Before we went down, I was hoping we'd see something bigger. But given the current, it's probably best that we didn't see a tiger shark or similar - I probably would have lost my rockhold, been swept off by the current and bumped right into it! Not exactly how I want to encounter a large predator. Oh, pardon me! I'll just be getting back to the dive boat now.....right after I pee my wetsuit....
On our surface interval, we hiked through the park and lay around on the picture-perfect beach at the ranger station. The rainforest on the island is pretty thin, and we mostly just saw a lot of iguanas and lizards. But the island is home to big crocodiles, some of which have been known to chase visitors, so we spent much of our hike scaring each other with crocodile stories. By the end of it we were pretty jumpy with every little lizard that skittered across our path!
So although it wasn't perfect, a bad day of diving is still pretty awesome, and the marine life made it worth it. And we've already started talking about where in the world we want to go when we next have the opportunity, so hopefully we have lots more diving ahead of us.