Thursday, March 13, 2008

Turtles, Golden Cowries & Whales!

Even though I had an absolutely awesome time diving in Bali, last weekend rivaled here right here on Saipan. I was cleaning fishing line off the cliff outside of the Grotto last Saturday when I spotted this Napolean Wrasse coming right for me. It took me a minute to get my hands untangled from the fishing line and get my camera, but I did manage to get a couple shots of him. He's far from the biggest I've seen, but it's still an impressive sight seeing one of these guys underwater.
There is a huge cluster of this strange coral called Plerogyra sinuosa outside of the Grotto. It is considered a fairly uncommon coral and likes to be where there is a brisk current. It makes for great pictures and has very cool little designs on each individual sack. Do you know where this cluster is? Have you ever seen it? If you catch me at the Grotto sometime and want to see it, just let me know. I'll give you a hint, it's very close to this.
This is one of the biggest giant clams I've seen on Saipan and it's outside of the Grotto. Fortunately it's tucked in a nice little hideaway and I don't think too many people know where it is, which might explain how it's gotten to be the size it is.
This was the view looking up the cliffline outside of the Grotto and up toward the surface. Every weekend this cliff is tangled with fishing line, and it's no small effort to fight the current and the swells and to steady yourself enough to untangle it from the coral heads.
Kelli went diving with me Sunday morning at Lau Lau. As I had my nose buried in the rubble looking for nudibranchs, she spotted this green sea turtle that was heading for us as he tried to escape some tourists. I managed to get a few good shots of him before he took a turn and headed off. Kelli is really starting to get the eye for spotting things down there, and I think it's making it much more fun for her to dive as a result.
Sunday afternoon I went back and took a few more pictures of the Plerogyra sinuosa coral outside of the Grotto. This time I poked my camera up through a hole underneath it and got the blue water and sky in the background. I'm always relieved when I do something like that and I don't bump into a lionfish, they seem to like hanging out in just such holes.
I always enjoy getting shots of the orange fan coral with the deep blue ocean behind it. This particular fan is on the wall leading up and out of the #2 hole in the Grotto.
And I was just cruising around looking for nudibranchs to take pictures of when I came across this guy just sitting there. It is a Cypraea Aurantium, or a Golden Cowrie. Years ago the tribal chiefs were the only ones allowed to have a golden cowrie, and they were worn on a necklace as a show of his position. These are a fairly rare shell to see, and especially during the middle of the day just sitting out in the open.
As I was doing my safety stop in the Grotto I saw some swimmers above me just floating in the water. I thought they looked pretty cool with the sun creating a cool effect on the surface of the water, and the colors of the trees, bushes and sky all blending in for a very colorful effect. As I was on my way back from my dive at the Grotto I called Kelli and found out they were watching whales at Marianas Resort. I was almost there so I pulled in to see if I could get lucky enough to catch one of them as well.
They were a long way out by the time I got there, and I had to use my 300mm zoom lens to get it, but you can make out the whale tail, which is grayish in color, it's just to the right of the white water, which is where the whale was breaching. I also heard some whales singing when I was doing my Saturday morning Grotto dive, that was definitely one of my coolest experiences ever. So even though Bali was awesome, Saipan is pretty awesome itself and never fails to surprise me.