PUERTO RICO: Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Tuesday morning dawned bright and clear. Wendy & Drew were down at the patio for their standard breakfast — waffles & pancakes. This time, the meal included a piece of plain bread, unbuttered. We boarded the dive boat, delighted to discover that it was just Angel, Robby, Wendy, & Drew on this dive.

The boat headed out to “The Steps”, which is trenches running parallel to the wall. Angel decided that he would dive with us today, and we left Robby happily reading on the boat during our dives. We saw several moray eels (both green and spotted), a load of barracuda, butterfly fish, and two pufferfish,



We also saw a furry sea cucumber. When Angel saw it, he made a beeline over to it and scooped it right up. We swam down to see what he’d found. It looked really pointy, but was actually extremely soft. Kinda cute in a weird way…



Angel was diving deepest with Wendy about 10 feet above him and 10 feet behind. Behind her, about 10 feet up and 10 feet back was Drew. We dove about 15-20 feet in from the edge of the wall; it dropped away on our left. Whenever we’d see anything interesting, we’d scream into our regulators to let each other know we were slowing down or stopping to explore or observe. By the time we’d done that a few times, we knew Angel must be getting tired of it — he sees butterfly fish every day, so what’s another one to him? But to us land-lubbers, it’s pretty exciting.

So Angel moved pretty slowly when Wendy started screaming into her regulator and pointing off to the left, toward the wall. Drew had followed Wendy’s pointing finger and was also screaming. Angel rolled pretty slowly, first looking at Wendy then letting his gaze travel in the direction she was pointing. Even from 20 feet behind and above him, Drew could see Angel’s eyes get huge as he saw what we were seeing, sailing in from the blue water.


It was a manta ray, a big beautiful female manta ray. She glided in from out of the blue water — the open ocean to our left — directly at us. She hung around us for about 3 minutes, playing in our bubbles, riding up and down in the water column, and generally just checking us out before disappearing again. She was close enough that we could see the remora on her belly (you can see it in some of the pictures). Angel estimated her at 9 feet from wingtip to wingtip. Wendy & Drew knew they were seeing something special when Angel’s camera swung up and he was taking pictures just as quickly as we were! 



When we came up from the dive, we excitedly told Robby what we’d seen. He was so enthusiastic to possibly catch a glimpse of her that he strapped on tank and fins and went looking for a few minutes. Unfortunately, he didn’t see her.



After lunch and our one hour surface interval (during which Drew learned that a puttering boat on the ocean makes his stomach lurch), we dove our second site of the day… “Mohada”. While we were down, Wendy saw, among other things, two French parrotfish laying (as if asleep) motionless on the bottom. Their picture is below.



Perhaps the highlight of this dive, and tied with the manta ray as highlight of the whole trip, was when we saw a nurse shark, laying under a ledge. Angel estimates her at 11 feet long, and we were able to get close enough to touch her (though none of us did). We observed her for a bit until Wendy’s dive computer beeped, which woke the shark up and caused her to take her leave.



After our dives, we cleaned up and got directions to the tuxedo shop from Angel, who also suggested we make a side-trip to nearby Cabo Rojo lighthouse. He provided some great hand-drawn maps for us (great in Puerto Rican terms), which we display below for your viewing enjoyment.



Getting the tuxedo back to the shop was uneventful, and from there we started picking our way toward Cabo Rojo despite the fact that it was raining fairly hard. We talked for a bit about scrapping the idea and heading back to La Parguera, but we’re glad we stuck with it. Part of Angel’s directions to Cabo Rojo told us to stay on a road “until it becomes a dirt road”, which Drew took to mean stay on it for a long time. Angel said, “No, it’s actually a dirt road and it’s kinda bad, too”. One thing we learned — when a Puerto Rican tells you the roads are bad, believe him! The road actually did become a dirt road and, soon after, became undrivable because of all the potholes and, well, craters. We ditched the car and began walking up the hills over rough paths to get to the lighthouse.



In the picture above, you can see the beautiful white-sand beach on the right, a thin strip of land in the center, and the brackish water of the salt flats on the left.

In the Google Earth image below, you can see the lighthouse at Cabo Rojo and the cliffs clearly.



The lighthouse was spectacular, but what really caught our attention was on the other side of it. There was a breathtaking drop (about 200 feet) to crashing waves below just on the other side of the lighthouse. No guardrails, signs, warnings, attendants, or anything to stop a stupid person from running right off the cliff to their doom. It was amazingly beautiful.



We headed back to La Parguera and decided to stop at Paradise Scuba, the other dive shop in the little town, and the only one that allows guests to snorkel in the Bioluminescent Bay that is nearby. We were told to come back at 6:45pm. We went back to the room for a siesta and arrived at Paradise Scuba around 7:00, where we sat around the lobby eating empanadillas that were made by the shop owner’s wife. Despite the gentle rain, we left the shop around 7:45 to board the boat for the short ride to the bay. We were joined by 2 crewmembers, 2 Canadians, and 3 Americans. That group had been snorkeling all day.

When we entered the bay, we noticed that the water was glowing faintly when it was churned up by the boat. We got our snorkel gear on and jumped into the dark water. It was only about 8 feet deep. Whenever you moved, you are covered with tiny stars that glow for a second and then go out. You see, the tiny dinoflagellates get angry when provoked. They’re provoked by being disturbed in the water, and when they’re angry, they glow briefly. This website describes swimming with them as like “floating through stardust”. It is a singular experience; the photos on that site do not capture the beauty of it. We snorkeled for about 45 minutes then got back on the boat for the ride home.

Once we settled up at the shop, we stopped by the Chinese place again for some egg rolls, soup, and rice before heading back to our room to end our busy day.

To view all the pictures from this trip, click here.

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