Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras, C.A. 2010

Scuba Diving

Utila, Honduras

Roatan, Honduras

Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles

Cozumel, Mexico

Florida Keys, U.S.A.

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My Aquarium

I finally got the chance to experience the diving of Roatan. Oh, I was here before, but I managed only 3 dives in one afternoon before departure. This timeit was different, having exactly 6 days of diving. I captured roughly 600 underwater images during this period, but I promise not to share all of them with you. I think I managed to cut it down to about 80 images, give or take.

I tend to like images for various reasons. Obviously when it's the first time to see and capture an animal that excites me. Also, regardless of the animal, when I can capture that near perfect image I'm also pleased. There is also the case of the first photo I'll share. The coral is some sort of Tube Sponge and I just absolutely love the way I captured the image. I did zero photo editing on this picture. The part that I truly love is this is exactly how that coral looks at depth as well.

There are the obvious usual suspects that should be seen on just about any Caribbean reef... The Sand Diver.

And then there are those animals that you won't see all that often just about anywhere. Another first for me, a Slipper Lobster. Although I never saw one in person I knew exactly what it was upon sighting. Some people also call them a Mother-In-Law Lobster because they are so ugly. Yes, the tail is also the head.

And then there are those animals you wish you didn't see in the Caribbean.

Lionfish are a Pacific native fish that has taken hold in the Caribbean and spread like wildfire in recent years. 2 years ago Lionfish were not yet eported from Roatan. While there this trip sightings of them were not uncommon. With no natural predators and a voracious appetite this can only spell bad news for the small fish of the Caribbean. Rumor is they taste good so hopefully they will start appearing on menus Caribbean-wide.

We spent the week diving at Fantasy Island Beach Resort and dove with their SCUBA center. Darry was our DiveMaster and he did a wonderful job finding us the little critters this part of Roatan is known for.

Amongst his finds were roughly 15 seahorses. At the end of the week he would signal "seahorse" underwater by the typcial 'riding the pony' hand gesture, and in return I'd signal back like I was yawning. What I can I say, he spoiled me. Ok we all know that's a line of shit; no one is ever bored and tired of seeing seahorses.

These next two are neat... Same coral had three different seahorses on it. I was only able to manage to get two in a single photo, but neat nonetheless.

And this one is just crazy. Seahorses are supposed to be camouflaged. This guy kind of stuck out like a hooker in a Catholic mass.

A close cousin to seahorses is the pipefish. I have successfully had pipefish spawn in my aquarium, but I had never witnessed one in the wild. Darry changed all that for me this trip, too. He was able to find 2 seperate pipefish, but I messed up both opportunities to capture them on film.

That's him, dead center, over exposed. I did the same thing again on the next photo. On most dives I'm the lone photographer so I just hang at the back of the pack and take as many photos as I'd like. On this trip that wasn't the case. On most dives there were 4 or 5 cameras underwater. In those circumstances the rule of thumb for underwater photographers is three photos and then move along. If you can't get your shot in three tries you missed your chance or you circle back to the end of the line. Sadly, I couldn't tell I was overexposed on my viewfinder. I really thought I did well to capture both of these images. Oh well, maybe next time.

I snagged a couple photos because I saw something rather neat occuring. A sponge was overgrowing a gorgonian, but the gorgonian kept on growing. It made for an interesting subject I didn't pass up.

Two of the more prized dives on Roatan are Mary's Place and Calvin's Crack. It's important to not reverse those names. They are deep crevaces that open up to a floor-less wall at the end. Calvin's was silted up when we went through. Visibilty was still plenty good but it made for tough photography.

We were the first group on Mary's Place and I was the second diver through the channel so I had some excellent viz.

Ok a series of photos coming up of nothing in particular. Just some macro shots incorporating many species of life.

 

 

Those little groupers always made great subjects. They are called a Graysby.

And then there was the big groupers. And I do mean big. The Yellowfin Grouper.

Hard to tell from the picture, but that guy goes several hundred pounds. What I find most awesome in the photo is all the cleaner gobies circling his mouth. I went in for a closer shot hoping the grouper wouldn't be frightened away.

And success. Of course groupers aren't the only predators getting cleaned by those little fish. Green moray eels are always receptive to a good cleaning.

Sometimes smaller eels have a way of popping out of the reef right on top of you, much to the surprise of both parties. Such was the case was this little fella -

Let's take a look at some more Bay Island's usual suspects... once you get to 70-80 feet or deeper, especially in Mary's Crack and Calvin's Pad, you'll spot lots of Blackcap Basslets.

What dive trip of mine hasn;t had this parrotfish framed?

One cool Hamlet.

A second cool Hamlet.

Who doesn't love Angels?

I always enjoy a couple good night dives per trip, and this vacation was no different. Some of the usual suspects were out at night, like the squirrelfish.

And of course the ever entriguing octopus.

These guys can be quite curious at times.

While photographing this particular animal I was laying on my stomach on open sand as was a fellow diver alongside me. The octopus was eaxactly like you see in the photo below.

After I took this photo the octopus reached out with one arm and grabbed a hold of the wrist of the diver alongside me. The diver reacted by jerking thier arm away and the octopus released and disappeared. I'm not sure which partisipant was more startled.

You can also find lobsters during the day easily enough, but by night both they and crabs start to roam free across the reef.

Make sure to give the "Not OK" sign when you spot a fireworm.

Sometimes parasites are cool looking.

What reef aquarium is complete without a pair of these guys in it? This particular Coralbanded Shrimp was huge, but it was also alone. I followed it for a few moments but no mate was found. He was on the mast of the Mr. Bud wreck.

Swithcing to the chapter of "A face only a mother could love," I offer a couple happy competitors.

\

A toadfish. I swam over the top of him at first and snagged the above photo when I first saw him. Then I circled back around for a head-on shot to capture all his beauty.

And then there was this beauty queen contestant the following day. It was shy so we coaxed it out with some fresh offerings.

But I think the best ugly face award goes to this guy, what do you think?

We have a winner!

Ohhhh, what else do I want to share with you. How about a couple coral pictures. Some interesting mushrooms...

Brain coral...

How about a brain coral with cleaner godies awaiting their next client?

Yeah, I'm cool...

There are always various schools of fish that swim through. It isn't uncommon for something to pass right next to you while doing a safety-stop at 15 feet. Examples of this -

Jawfish are always one of those fish that most often gets overlooked by most divers, but for me it's always a treat to stumble upon these guys. I found several harems at the shore dive on our resort and I also found some off the aft of the Mr. Bud wreck.

One fish that lives in similar habitat to the jawfish is the garden eel. I have never seen one of these in the wild but heard rumors that a few lived off the aft of the Prince Albert wreck - an easy swim from our resort. I went the whole week without seeing a garden eel and divers were coming back from the Prince Albert claiming to not have seen any garden eels. Those, much like jawfish, often get overlooked, so I wasn't putting much faith into these accounts. On my last day there I made a drop-off dive over the Prince Albert and found what I was looking for.

A single individual about 8 fin kicks off the port side of the aft, 72 feet of depth. I'm sure more were present nearby but I found what I was looking for and it was time to move on.

There were a couple more critters I was searching for to check off my list, both of them shrimp. I was able to successfully locate both species and photograph them, but they aren't the best photogrpahs. Keep in mind these shrimp are about as long as your fingernail and skinnier than a pencil plus mostly transperant, I'm happy to get the photos I did.

The Pederson Cleaner Shrimp. I have some sorta out-of-focus shots that show up to 5 shrimp on the same anemone.

They are symbiotic with the Curly-Que Anemone so if you spot the anemone look for the shrimp.

These guys were a challenge to photograph. My strobes were overexposing the image, but without my strobes focus was difficult combined with getting enough light into the lens for a decent exposure.

Like I said, these shrimp are uber tiny and mostly invisible, so when I am able to capture a photo like the following I'm pretty happy. Yes, that is a pregnant female.

Can you imagine how small those eggs are. In real life likely smaller than the size of the period at the end of this sentence. When I took this photo my flash was off, my camera was zoomed to about 8x, and the glass port of my camera housing was maybe one inch from the shrimp. That is what I'd call a Macro Photo. Using the same technique I captured the other shrimp I was hunting. I only found one, and it remained difficult to photograph, but I did manage to get something of it.

That little guy, called a Sexy Shrimp, is even smaller than the the Pederson Shrimp.

And one last photo... an Arrow Crab. Always an interesting find.

Follow me to Utila for some underwater photos from there or check out the dry-side of Roatan from this trip at this link.

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Vacations

Utila, Honduras

La Ceiba, Hondura

Roatan, Honduras

Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles

Minocqua, Wisconsin

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Miscellaneous

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