Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Turtles, Nudibranchs & The Grotto

You always know it's going to be a great dive when as soon as you exit the Grotto you have a green sea turtle coming up swimming right next to you. No sooner had I exited hole #1 than this guy came up and nearly bumped into me. He wasn't spooked or running from anything, he was just out for a leisurely afternoon swim, and fortunately I was in just the right spot at the right time. I have some divers ask me how I get so lucky as to always be in just the right spot at the right time, I get pictures of mating nudibranchs, mating of different species of nudibranchs, and turtles that seem content to just eat right next to me and let me take all the pictures I want. Yes, luck does have something to do with it, but you also just have to put the time in underwater. If you only go on one or two dives a month, or just a few dives a year there is no way you're going to see a fraction of the things I manage to come up with. Typically I go on 3-4 dives every week, sometimes more, and I usually spend a minimum of 2 hours underwater on each of those dives. When you are spending 8 hours every weekend underwater, you are bound to run into a few cool things. And by spending that much time down there studying the habitats of various marine critters you learn where to look and where the most likely places to spot the turtles or nudibranchs are. One of the things I enjoy the most about diving is that I discover something brand new almost every time I go. And when you stop and figure out the amount of time I spend underwater, that's pretty amazing. I also believe that turtles are my personal good luck charm. I think that God sends them along to guide me to other very cool discoveries. I can't even begin to count the number of times that I've been filming and following a turtle and he has led me to something like this giant clam. Now I have dove the Grotto hundreds and hundreds of times, I'm probably close to getting 1000 dives in there. I have been over this particular area more times than I can count, but in following the turtle he led me right to this giant clam this time, and I swear I've never seen it before. This is by far the biggest clam I've ever seen around Saipan. The sheer size of it made me just stay there looking at it in awe for quite a while. I tried to get a picture of my hand next to the clam so you could get an idea of just how big it really was, but it didn't come out quite as good as I was hoping. When I put my arm above it for measing purposes, the clam stretched from the tips of my fingers all the way to my elbow, I'm guessing that has to be a good 16" anyway. Now I know that these clams get much bigger than that in Palau, but for Saipan that is one big clam. Now that I know where it is, I'll be checking up on it periodically to measure it's growth.
This was a little hole in the rocks and coral, I thought it looked like a little window to another world. I love capturing all the various colors of the coral and sponges in the foreground contrasted to the blue of the ocean and the fish swimming past in the background. I'll be the first to admit I have very little artistic ability, but I'm just totally blown away and inspired by everything in front of me everytime I go underwater. It's a nonstop photo opportunity, everywhere you look there is something else amazing to take a picture of. And of course it wouldn't be a normal dive for me if there wasn't at least one nudibranch picture. This little guy was about 1/2" long and was on the big rock right by the rope rock. I find that if I just spend 15-20 minutes at the end of every dive looking carefully over those rocks there are usually several very cool nudibranchs there. You need to go very slow and get used to looking for their shapes or colors, because some of them are very hard to spot. Hopefully you've enjoyed this virtual dive with me, but aren't you thinking it's about time to get wet yourself and discover just how amazing diving is?