What I've seen these past couple days is so darn awesome that I'm attempting to upload a few short (and rather poor quality) video clips despite the internet working against me. Please leave feedback on weather or not they work. 

So the past two days we signed up to go watch some fish porn! Red snapper spawning to be precise. Most marine species of fish produce eggs. Some families such as wrasses, parrot, surgeon, and snappers release these eggs into open water in a behavior known as spawning. This usually happens at either dawn or dusk. Some species spawn in pairs, and others spawn in groups comprised of thousands of members of the same species. This action develops gradually, and culminates when all the fish shoot up to the surface, spewing their eggs and sperm simultaneously, and then come back down quite suddenly. When these actives occur depends on the phase of the moon and the tides, and for red snappers, that is four days before the full moon at a very precise location and time of day. 

Our alarm went off at 4:15, an awful hour that neither Fletch nor I was prepared to handle. We rolled over and woke up again a moment later at 5:00, then made a mad dash to get to the shop in time. We arrived just prior to sunrise to be greeted by fluffy pink cotton candy clouds and water as smooth as glass. It was going to be a good day. 

When we arrived at the dive site our divemaster hopped in the water with a mask to wait for the signs that the red snappers were going to begin their mating rituals. Our whole group, all advanced divers with a good bit of experience, were ready to back-roll off the boat and into the water the moment he said go. The excitement as everyone sat on the edge of the boat all geared up in the crisp morning air was palpable. Finally our guy gave us the word and simultaneously we rolled and descended into the cool blue water. 

When I found my bearings, I looked up to see the red snappers accumulating into a giant ball of fish, all swarming together like bees in a hive, just at the edge of the plateau. They swam together tighter and tighter into an ever growing ball until they began to spiral upwards and shoot back down almost as quickly as they had gone. At the bottom of their descent they swam in a massive stream out into the open blue, dispersed slightly, then looped back to the edge of the plateau where they began all over again by swarming into a massive ball. I hovered there near the edge of the plateau while thousands of fish hypnotized me with their dance. It wasn't just red snappers either, black snappers swooped in to eat the fish eggs as they were released at the peaks of the red snappers' shooting ascent upwards. 

After watching several cycles of this, lost in frozen fascination, one of our divemasters appeared in front of me and held a 'rock on' hand sign up to her forehead. I gave her a quizzical look and then realized she was asking if I'd seen the bull sharks yet. I had completely forgotten the briefing already in which she had in fact told us that bull sharks would be there wanting red snapper for breakfast. I eagerly swam out into the open blue, completely forgetting my fear of one of nature's three most dangerous shark species. 

If you've been following me over the years than you should know by now that I love sharks. They are beautiful creatures and nowhere near the bloodthirsty, man-eating machines that hollywood would have you believe. The author of the book Jaws, later became a shark conservationist and said that if he had known then the true nature of sharks, he would never have written the book. If you are going to fear sharks, there are three species that are  responsible for the majority of shark attacks on humans. Three species out of 440 known species (if that puts it in perspective for you). Great white sharks, tiger sharks, and bull sharks. The scariest of those to me personally is the bull because it can survive in fresh water and has been found hundreds of miles both up the Mississippi and Amazon rivers. And yet when our divemaster said bull shark I went hurrying over to look for one. 


I swam out into the open blue and sure enough, once I got my eyes to focus on the never-ending blue surroundings, there below me I could see the telltale stout features of bull sharks, two or three lurking in the depths below me. Bull sharks get their name because their snouts are short but incredibly thick. They look like the bulldogs of the shark family. Also, like a bull, they circle their prey and bump into it before actually attacking. As I stared down in wonder, I gradually began drifting downwards to get a closer look, all the while turning in circles to see my surroundings. Suddenly, a little too close for comfort, a massive bull, bigger than any shark I've ever seen outside a cage, came swimming right past me. I could see its cold, beady black eye, the thin line of a mouth hiding deadly sharp teeth, and mostly, it's terrifyingly massive body, 13 feet at least and thicker than a tree stump. It swam past me, eyeing me coldly, and all I could do was hang there, limp and suspended like a jellyfish. Just then my computer started beeping at me, yelling for being too deep, so I began to swim upwards, out of the cold, dark depths where the sharks lurked. 

I ascended back to the level of the plateau where everyone else was waiting. The spawning had ceased. The ocean suddenly seemed extremely silent and still. I don't know what kind of drums and cymbals had been crashing epically in my head for all of the morning's activities but at that moment, with no more spawning and the sharks out of site in the depths of the ocean, it was all so very quiet. We ascended from our dive and I felt as though I had just been on the most grand adventure. I felt as though I had just experienced my first dive all over again. 

We drove over to Siaes Corner for our second dive and took a surface interval on the boat. The water was so crystal clear and the surface so flat like glass that looking down at the reef below was like looking into an aquarium. We watched from the boat as schools of moorish idols swam along the reef, sergeant major fish came up to the surface to eat bits of rice, and we even watched as a white tip reef shark swam over the reef. It was better than a glass bottom boat. 

The beginning of our second dive passed nice and relaxed without anything to crazy happening. As we were all experienced divers everyone just did their own thing. I found a little flatworm, half the size of my pinky, and watched it swim over some corals. It's body was yellow, with white wings speckled with black. I looked up just in time to see someone pointing at a ray swimming past in the distance. My first though was manta, but then it flapped its wings downwards and I saw the telltale polka dots of an eagle ray. It kept zig zagging its way closer and closer to us, until it finally reached our little group and started swimming rings around us, showing off his beauty. I've never seen an eagle ray that big before. They are usually relatively flat but this guy's head was so large it was practically round. At one point he started flying straight at me and then at the last minute went up, just missing bumping into my head. I hadn't realized but I had been holding my breath (don't ever do that while scuba diving) and the moment he dodged up I let go an exhale. My bubbles made him jump which you can actually see in the video. 


Schools of blue-spined unicorn fish swam past along the wall, their protruding forehead horns making them look like swimming unicorns. A small group of bump headed parrot fish were spawning, and we watched as they spiraled upwards and then darted back downwards to regroup. We found a large clump of corals with a white tip reef shark hiding underneath. There was a small window in his little cave that let us look down at where his head was and we watched with amusement as he started at us, opening and closing his mouth in a silent song.

We had such a spectacular day that we signed up to go again the following day as the red snappers would be spawning every morning for four days, each day getting better than the last.

We dropped in the water the following day to find very limited action initially, but after twenty minutes or so of swimming around trying to find the spawning, the red snappers began their dance. Where the day before we had seen thousands of fish, now there were tens of thousands. They swam circles into an enormous tornado of fish and then gradually began to make their way along the reef in an invisible stream. So many fish.


As we reached the culmination of our dive, tens of thousands of red snappers all spiraled upwards, releasing their sperm and eggs into a foggy cloud that left us all blind. I found Fletch and we swam and swam, trying to find our way out of the fish jizz, only guessing at where we were going because there was no visibility. We finally found our divemaster and made our ascent. I must say my hair has never been softer.


We headed back to Siaes Corner for dive #2 and descended down as deep as our computers would allow to look for sharks. One in our group was diving a rebreather which allowed him to descend all the way down to the bottom. His rebreather also meant that he didn't have any bubbles so sharks weren't scared away from him. We watched from ten meters above as a large silvertip shark approached him with curiosity. It was difficult to see any more than its outline and its silver-tipped fins from our positions though.

For dive #3 we went to a new dive site for us called Sand Bar. It was a very pretty site with sandy patches surrounded by nice corals. We spent some time looking at leaf fish, a funny variety of scorpionfish that is brightly colored and looks like a leaf standing on its side. There were four yellow fish and one purple one in total. After several minutes of playing with those funny critters I swam off to a nearby piece of coral to find an octopus sitting there changing colors and moving around. It would move to a new spot, camouflage itself in hopes of remaining unseen, then move over to another spot and repeat the process. It was a beautiful creature to watch and I sat there in the sand, mesmerized until I remembered to look at my computer and saw that I was already seven minutes into deco. I said goodbye to the octopus and to another marvelous day of diving.