Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Diving on Kelli's Birthday

Yup, Saturday was Kelli's birthday, but she wanted me to go for my morning dive anyway. I did pass up my afternoon dive and went to the Spa at Fiesta Resort with her. This way we were both happy and enjoyed our day immensely. Brad was wanting to dive the Grotto and do some filming there, and of course you never have to twist my arm to go to the Grotto. Brad had his video camera running pretty much the whole time I think, and was filming me as I was filming nudibranchs. He has some of his Grotto video posted on his blog now so you can go check that out. No sooner did we get out of hole #1 than I spotted this green sea turtle just sitting on the bottom. They tend to blend into their surroundings pretty good especially when they're deeper than 40', as the colors all tend to be lost because of the lack of light. You start learning to look for shapes or subtle movement and that's how you spot them. If you've been reading this blog long, you know that I have had no shortage of turtle encounters underwater, but I get just as excited as the first time everytime I see one. I love swimming alongside of them and just becoming a turtle for a few minutes. Not only are the colors on these turtles amazing, especially when you get them lit up with a flash from the camera, but they way they just effortlessly glide through the water always amazes me. They can just barely skim above the coral, hanging there seemingly weightlessly, or they can fly through the water at very quick speeds thanks to some powerful flippers. We both spent several minutes just filming this cool turtle and enjoying our "turtle time". Then we cruised over some of the coral outside of the Grotto, I'm not sure what Brad was looking for, but of course I was on the hunt for nudibranchs. The thing I find with nudibranchs, is you need to be very close to the bottom to spot them. They are typically pretty small and if you're not right on top of them you're probably going to miss them. This guy was less than an inch long, but he still stood out like a sore thumb to me. This is a Phyllidiella annulata, distinctive because of the purple circles with the black dot on the center. At 80' the purple patches look like a faded out green because of the lack of light, but once the camera flash hits him the purples come right back out. This Phyllidiella pustulosa was in the same neighborhood as the other nudibranch. I don't know if they tend to hang out in the same areas or not, but it does seem that where I've seen one of them, there will likely be another of a different species not too far away. This guy was a little easier to spot as he was about 1 1/2" long. Patience and looking carefully are the key to finding nudibranchs, as well as just going super slow. They are there, but most people never see them because they don't take the time to look. I think this little guy is a rabbit fish. They are very colorful and photogenic, which is why I like capturing them on my camera. One of their most distinctive features is the feather duster little plumes at the end of their dorsal spines. You typically can't see them underwater with your naked eye, but once you look at your pictures all the sudden you see it. And I saw all of this before I ever got back inside the Grotto. Then as soon as I came back in hole #2, the first thing I saw was 2 Halgerda guahan mating. Here I thought they were pretty much done, but evidently not, I am still inspiring nudibranch sex. I was talking to someone the other day who said they still have yet to see one of these colorful little nudibranchs. Obviously they haven't done a Grotto dive with me! I figured since Brad was filming me taking my pictures, it was only fair that I took some pictures of him filming too. Here he is in front of the #3 hole leading out of the Grotto. Of course I wasn't done looking for nudibranchs, and I wasn't done finding them either. This little guy was only about 1/4" long, but still jumped out at me when my light beam went across him. I don't know how anybody could get tired of seeing all of this underwater. There is always something new to discover, some different, and plenty of just plain cool creatures down there. This is looking out hole #1 in the Grotto. Each of the holes has a distinct shape from the inside looking out, but when you're coming back in to the Grotto, they look entirely different, which is one of the main reasons you'd better have someone with you who knows their way around the Grotto like the back of their hand. And as I was doing my decompression stop on the safety rope at 15' I looked up and spotted this, a couple Japanesicus touristiella's. They are quite a common sighting in the Grotto, however unless you're a diver, you probably aren't used to this view of them. Ok fine, they are a couple Japanese tourists swimming above me, but I thought it sounded much cooler the other way around.