Heading back to Anacapa


 

Urchins

After the previous days Whale watching trip I was a little worried that the ocean conditions would be less then ideal for diving. The weather was warm and sunny but there was still enough wind that the waves were choppy crossing the channel. Several people were looking rather green by the time the dive boat found a suitable sheltered spot to anchor. Everyone manged to stay in good spirits though and the diving was a lot of fun. I was enjoying the warm temps(57F that’s approx. 13C) since its considerably warmer then Monterey or salt point were the last time I dove those water temps were 51 to 52F. Some people said they were cold anyway but I presume they were used to tropical waters.

Garibaldi

We were greeted with the usual critters, Garibaldi, sea hares, anemones, urchins various rock fish and numerous fish darting in and out of the kelp. Due to the conditions we stayed anchored in relatively shallow waters so I didn’t see any of the large sheepshead fish and groupers I’ve spotted on other trips.

chiton and purple urchins

Fish amongst the kelp

Sand dab

Sadly there appears to be a lot more of the Invasive species that are preventing the normal kelp forests from growing as abundantly as it usually does and which hides the rocky bottom where so many interesting critters live. I also noticed a lot more brittle stars then I have in previous years.

sea hare

 

brittle stars

After the first couple of dives we enjoyed a delicious lunch back on the boat and a short rest before the final dive of the day. this time I spotted some tube anemones and had to stop and take pictures.

Tube anemones

 

All to soon it was time to head back after a final stop to say bye to the dolphins jumping in the channel. We arrived back to Ventura where I loaded the motorcycle up for the ride home.

Thar She blows!


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When the local Bakersfield Scuba club was kind enough to schedule an outing during my Spring break from classes I felt I just had to go. After I had signed up I mentioned to a co-worker I’d head down after work Friday and spend the night on the boat, she pointed out the office would be closed for good Friday. I decided to head to Ventura early and signed up for a whale watching trip with IslandPackers the company that  also provides trips out to the Channel Islands. After a leisurely start I headed out Friday morning and spotted these California poppies growing way up on this hillside while stopped for gas.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I still made in to Ventura well before lunch time and my 1PM departure time so I stopped and got some lunch then wandered around the shops in the harbor and took a few pictures of the sea lions that were playing amidst the boat docks, also a few sea birds and the pelicans diving into the harbor img_5492-l  kept me entertained.

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It wasn’t long till it was time to board the Island Explorer and head off in search of whales.

Turned out the seas were a little choppy and folks who opted to stand out along the bow rail got wet as we crossed the deep part of the channel.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We slowed for awhile when a Fin whale was reported to be off the port side but I never spotted it. We then continued around Anacapa Island and along the more sheltered side we spotted several grey whales. First sighting I had for the day was a big tail fluke sticking straight out of the water :)

img_5681-x2 It wasn’t long though till we also saw the spouts of water being blown in the air from several other whales coming up to the surface.

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All to soon it was time to head back to port. We got to pause and admire the numerous dolphins that swim near the islands on our way though.

img_5663-xl They really do seem to enjoy seeing who can ‘surf’ the waves coming of the boats the furthest as we go by.

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Arriving back in port I still had a couple of hours to kill till the Spectre was due to be at the dock so I decided to wander down to the little dive shop in the harbor and then go get some dinner. At the shop I was lucky enough to run into some folks who had come down from Bakersfield for the trip and we all decided to head over to Brophy Bro’s seafood restaurant for dinner. It being a holiday weekend and a Friday night there was a long wait for a table or even a spot at the bar but we weren’t in any rush and I’m sure the food tasted even better after our wait. After a very enjoyable dinner we wandered over to the dock found the boat waiting for us and a few divers already aboard. A couple of us stayed up on deck late telling sea tales and then it was time to hit the rack and rest up for diving, but I’ll leave that part for my next post.

Whale Sharks!


Heading out from Cancun

Heading out from Cancun

As the last day of my trip to Mexico approached I got up early and climbed aboard a van heading north to Cancun. We;d gotten word that the weather had cleared up and we’d be heading out to find the whale sharks.

At the port we had a short briefing- no flash photography, don’t touch the whale sharks etc. and a quick breakfast. Coffee wasn’t done but I managed to snag a cup that had finished brewing right before I headed on board. A veritable fleet of boats was heading out, all seeking the whale sharks. Since there was still a slight swell from the storms that had passed through and we had to haed a fair distance offshore, several people were looking a little green by the time we reached the location of the Whale sharks. Still, everyone was eager to jump in once we got there.

whaleshark

Whale shark.

We had been told to be sure and look underwater as soon as we jumped in and this proved sound advice, the glare on the surface gave no hint of this whale shark that became immediately obvious once I submerged.

Whilst they seem to be swimming slowly and relaxed their sheer size means that they swim considerably faster then a person so getting ahead of them for long enough to take pictures and video proved challenging but I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge.

Whale Shark gulping in plankton rich water.

Whale Shark gulping in plankton rich water.

Whale Shark passing beneath me

Whale Shark passing beneath me

By the end of it all I was sunburnt, had blisters from finning hard to keep up and incredibly tired but it was oh so worth it.

swimming with these gentle giants was an amazing experience.

I even shot video

We had a short delay while some people were transferred from another boat that had experienced engine trouble on the way out, then it was on to Isla Mujeres for a chance to enjoy the scenery and a delicious lunce of ceviche.

Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres

 

I had one final adventure before heading home though. After getting out of the van at my hotel in Playa del Carmen I discovered my camera was missing! I had taken it out to show people the video of the whale sharks and left it in the van. I was frantic as I could not imagine losing those pictures or video. After a struggle to make a call (the phone at the hotel never seemed to work right) I contacted the tour company and they assured me they’d have it on the van for their first tour leaving Playa del Carmen at 645 in the morning, plenty of time before my afternoon flight. Sure enough after a night of tossing and turning I met the tour guide at Senor Frogs and he’d brought my camera! Then it was time to pack up and head for the airport for a rather lengthy trip home. can’t wait to return to the Mexico Riviera.

Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen, another beautiful sunrise.

Where are the whale sharks?


Sunrise at Playa Del Carmen

Sunrise at Playa Del Carmen

After the wonderful Cenote dives and a restaurant in a cave only one thing could improve this trip and that was seeing whale sharks, but the weather still wasn’t co-operating. Since I’d already had a day of sitting around taking it easy I decided to book a little site seeing excursion. One of the big attractions in this part of Mexico is the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza, these are a good 3 to 4 four drive away from Playa del Carmen though and would really require an overnight stay to do them justice. Since I was still hoping for an improvement in the weather that would allow  the boats to leave in search of the whale sharks, I decided to head to Tulum instead. this proved to be an excellent choice as the heat of summer was tempered there by a cool ocean breeze as we toured the ruins overlooking the beautiful Caribbean. Tulum from the Mayan for wall or fence is an impressive fortification overlooking the ocean.

Templo Dios del Viento (God of Winds Temple)

Templo Dios del Viento (God of Winds Temple)

I had a very enjoyable time touring the ruins and checking out the numerous iguanas that have set up home in the rubble.

Iguana

Iguana

Then it was time to head out for lunch and a little snorkeling at  nearby Xel Ha .

This sheltered inlet has been turned into a resort with an all you can eat buffet, and various attractions. I chose to spend my time there checking out the multitude of colorful fish as I swam around.

color fish, Xel Ha

color fish, Xel Ha

Xel Ha

Xel Ha

 

Then it was back to Playa Del Carmen for some good news, the weather looked to be improving, the next morning the boat would head out from Cancun in search of Whale Sharks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mexico Riviera


Iguana at tulum

Iguana at tulum

I had a few days off work this summer and planned to go down to the channel islands or something else nearby but then priceline gave me a fantastic deal on airfare and hotel for a weeks stay in Playa Del Carmen! How could I pass this up?

This area of Mexico known as the Mayan riviera had long been on my list of places to visit due to  the geography of the region. The whole peninsula is made up of limestone! this means there are loads of caves almost everywhere you go. Now,  because the area is mostly flat and barely above sea level most of these are filled with water but that just adds to the fun. In Mexico the openings to these water filled caves are refered to as Cenotes derived from the Mayan word dzonot for well or sink hole. That was another reason to visit this area- lots of history especially with some very interesting Mayan ruins to see.  Now August may not be the ideal time to head to Mexico, it’s a little warm for starters and the chances of a tropical storm or hurricane are definitely higher this time of year but there’s advantages as well. First was the already mentioned low cost of my trip, I’m sure due to booking during the “off season”, the other reason? Whale Sharks. These huge critters congregate near isla Holbox from late July through September so I’d have an excellent chance of seeing them.

First up was a simple cavern dive at Chac Mool cenote, since I’d need a guide and equipment I booked this through Manta divers in Cancun. They sent Lief to meet me and 3 other divers. On the way to the cenote he briefed us on what to expect.

Chac Mool Cenote

Chac Mool Cenote

Conditions at the cenote were as promised- beautiful clear water. The water is fresh though an interesting phenomenon occurs where at a certain depth you cross into salt water. The interface between these two layers is referred to as the halocline and makes for some very interesting diving. The difference between the layers causes a haze similar to hot air rising off a road on a summers day. We also got to experience changes in buoyancy which really requires the diver to pay attention.

Entrace of Chac mool cenote

Entrance of Chac mool cenote

entering the halocline

entering the halocline

We passed through uneventfully though and I thoroughly enjoyed our swim through the cenote, there were even some nice formations in the cave and a very small boat resting peacefully on the bottom.

formations

formations

After lunch at the cenote it was time to head back to my hotel and enjoy a nice cold cerveza as I watched the waves roll in. I was supposed to head out early the next morning in search of whale sharks but tropical storm Isaac had other ideas and the port was closed due to storm warnings.

Looking around for other things to do I found a listing for Mayan ruins and an aviary in nearby Playacar. I did some sight seeing along the way as I walked to Playacar.  The aviary is a small park filled with birds and wild life including a small enclosure that ensures you can get a close up view of some pretty interesting birds. Great for photography. A little on the expensive side considering they’ve raised the price from 150 pesos to 300 but since I didn’t have anything else to do I was happy for the opportunity to check out the birds.

Keel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus)

Keel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus)

frangipani (plumeria)

frangipani (plumeria)

The next day was a chance to visit some more cenotes this time though we had something extra special to check out. We headed out to Angelita. This Cenote is mostly a very deep pit. Here the accumulation of leaves and organic matter that has fallen into the pit produces hydrogen sulphide gas. At around 110 feet of depth this gas forms a layer floating ontop of the saltwater below. So when diving it appears like this is the bottom of the pit. After penetrating this cloudy layer though you emerge in the clear salt water below. As we were getting ready to dive we spotted a tarantula walking by.

Tarantula

Tarantula

Cenote Angelita

Cenote Angelita

Entering the hydrogen sulphide layer

Entering the hydrogen sulphide layer

While this was a very interesting dive there are not a lot of formations to see in a pit so for our next dive Lief suggested we head over to a popular favourite Gran Cenote where there were lots of beautiful formations to check out. He even located a couple bats near the entrance for me.

Bats

Bats

Gran Cenote

Gran Cenote

After our dives Lief and Alex to us out for some wonderful tacos and cerveza, we had to order some more beer since the video Alex was editing wasn’t done but I don’t think anyone minded.

Then it was time to head back to Playa Del Carmen to watch the tide come in again.

Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen

Since the tropical storm still had the port closed I spent the next day wandering about town and decided that for dinner I’d investigate a cave I’d heard of right in town!

The restaurant ‘Alux’ in Playa del Carmen is built inside an actual cave. Since the location is dictated by the location of the cave its not near the other tourist restaurants  but isn’t all that far either.

Alux

Alux

restaurant in a cave

restaurant in a cave

It makes for a scenic location but the extreme humidity and heat made it a bit hard to enjoy dinner.

I certainly enjoyed walking around checking out the cave for a bit after I ate though.

Next up still waiting to see the Whale sharks!