Archives for Coral Reefs

Shipwrecks (Steven W Smeltzer)

Debris Field, Oro Verde, Grand Cayman

Some of the most interesting types of shipwrecks for scuba diving are the purpose sunk ships that have been scuttled to create artificial reefs. After adequate preparation, this is a wonderful way for older ships to give not only a benefit to scuba divers but also a shelter to a variety of marine organisms (see National Geographic article “Artificial Reefs: Trash to Treasure” February 5, 2001).

Shipwrecks (Steven W Smeltzer)

Port Side, Doc Paulson, Grand Cayman

Along with true shipwrecks, there have been and continue to be a large number of ships sunk to create artificial reefs (Wikipedia provides a list of some wrecks that have been reefed over the last twenty years including the HMAS Adelaide and the USS Kittiwake which were just sunk in 2011). These wrecks have come to be an important part of the local ecosystems*. In fact, these wrecks may also offer an opportunity to help improve the condition of reefs

Shipwrecks (Steven W Smeltzer)

View from above. Carthaginian, Maui Hawaii

globally. Studies from the Red Sea and other locations tend to show that there is little difference between developments of an artificial reef as compared to natural reefs. Artificial reefs made from steel vessels offers long-term development for the reef and immediate space for organisms to inhabit.

Shipwrecks (Steven W Smeltzer)

Decent, USS Kittiwake, Grand Cayman

PADI and NAUI offer specialty shipwrecks diving courses to train divers in “safety, hazards and cautions, special risks of overhead environments, entanglement, limited visibility, deep diving, equipment, site of wrecks, sources of information, search methods, underwater navigation, legal aspects, artifacts, treasure, salvage, archaeology, and much more”. Wreck diving can be a wonderful experience for any diver. However, before penetrating any ship the diver should have adequate training according to the state of the ship being explored. Deep water wrecks, “natural” shipwrecks, etc., should only be explored by experienced and trained divers using appropriate safety gear and precautions.

Shipwrecks (Steven W Smeltzer)

Frogfish Closeup, Carthaginian, Maui Hawaii

Unlike true shipwrecks many reefed ships such as the USS Kittiwake in Grand Cayman, have been extensively prepared for reefing to make entry, exploration and exiting the ship relatively safe and easy. However, many older reefed ships should be approached cautiously and if the diver is not “wreck” certified penetration of the wreck should not be attempted. They key is to understand the condition of the wreck and what the diver is likely to encounter before entering the water. Use of a high quality scuba diving operation will greatly add to the safety and enjoyment of the diving experience.

Shipwrecks (Steven W Smeltzer)

Port side, main deck, USS Kittiwake

As an underwater photographer, shipwrecks hold a special fascination to me. To be able to capture the mystery and character of the ship in a photo is a special challenge. However, there are those moments when you are able to get everything just right and the photo seems to come alive. The ability of a photo to transport the viewer into the image and experience the wonder of the moment is the real test of a truly amazing photo.

*Note: While there continues to be some debate about the benefits of creating artificial reefs, the benefit of these reefs can be clearly seen from many long-term – 20 year plus artificial reefs in the Atlantic, Pacific, Mediterranean and other locations. You can read more about reefing of ships at www.natgeo.com and many other websites and review “National Guidance: Best Management Practices for Preparing Vessels Intended to Create Artificial Reefs” which was developed by the USEPA and the US Maritime Administration.
Come explore my shipwreck diving photos in the following galleries on my website and remember “the pool is open”.

The Carthaginian II Gallery

USS Kittwake Gallery

Doc Polson Gallery

The Oro Verde Gallery

Ships sunk for wreck diving (from Wikipedia)

Date Ship Name Location Country
2011 USS Arthur W. Radford (DD-968) Cape May, New Jersey United States
2011 HMAS Adelaide Avoca Beach, New South Wales Australia
2011 USS Kittiwake >West Bay, Grand Cayman Cayman Islands
2009 HMAS Canberra Barwon Heads, Victoria Australia
2009 USNS General Hoyt S. Vandenberg (T-AGM-10) Key West, Florida United States
2007 HMNZS Canterbury Bay of Islands New Zealand
2006 Xihwu Boeing 737 British Columbia Canada
2005 Carthaginian II Lanai Hawaii United States
2005 HMNZS Wellington Wellington New Zealand
2005 HMAS Brisbane Mooloolaba, Queensland Australia
2004 HMS Scylla Whitsand Bay, Cornwall United Kingdom
2004 USS Oriskany Florida United States
2003 CS Charles L Brown Sint Eustatius Leeward Islands
2003 HMCS Nipigon Quebec Canada
2002 MV Dania Mombasa Kenya
2002 USS Spiegel Grove Florida United States
002 HMAS Hobart Yankalilla Bay, South Australia Australia
2001 HMCS Cape Breton British Columbia Canada
2001 HMAS Perth Albany, Western Australia Australia
2000 HMCS Yukon San Diego, California United States
2000 Stanegarth Stoney Cove United Kingdom
2000 HMNZS Waikato Tutukaka New Zealand
1999 HMNZS Tui Tutukaka Heads New Zealand
1995 HMCS Saskatchewan British Columbia Canada
1997 HMAS Swan Dunsborough, Western Australia Australia
1996 HMCS Columbia British Columbia Canada
1996 MV Captain Keith Tibbetts (formerly Russian-built Frigate 356) Cayman Brac Cayman Islands
1996 Inganess Bay British Virgin Islands
1995 HMCS Mackenzie British Columbia Canada
1992 HMCS Chaudire British Columbia Canada
1991 to 2001 Wreck Alley – The Marie L, The Pat and The Beata British Virgin Islands
1991 MV G.B. Church British Columbia Canada
1990 Fontao Durban South Africa
1990 T-Barge Durban South Africa
1987 to 2000 Wreck Alley San Diego, California United States
1987 USCGC Bibb Florida United States
1987 USCGC Duane Florida United States
1981 Doc Poulson Cayman Islands
1980 Oro Verde Cayman Islands
1970 Glen Strathallen (sunk to produce a diver training facility) Plymouth United Kingdom

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Description

Mala Pier, Maui Hawaii, (Steven W Smeltzer)

Atlantis found, Mala Pier, Maui Hawaii

Mala Pier is without a doubt one of the top if not the top shore dive on Maui.  This is especially true of the available sites on the leeward side of the island near Kaanapali. The pier is in the middle of Lahina near the Canary Mall. When you are driving along the highway from Kaanapali back towards Kahului you can see the pier on the right just as you start into Lahina. Mala Pier is an extremely easy boat dive and a moderately easy shore dive (the only difficulty is the entry if you go over the reef on the side of the pier).

Mala Pier, Maui Hawaii, (Steven W Smeltzer)

Yellowfin Goatfish, Mulloidichthys vanicolensis, Maui Hawaii

The dive itself is between 15 to 35 feet and you can spend well over an hour assuming you have reasonable air consumption. Mala Pier is loaded with all kinds of schooling fish, Green Sea Turtles and Hawksbill Turtles, White-tip Reef Sharks, lots of Butterflyfishes, and much more making it an excellent site for underwater photography.
Mala pier was built in the early 1900’s by the Dole Pineapple company to be able to offload pineapples from Lanai.  They would then have them processed at the Pineapple Cannery in Lahina which is now the Cannery Mall. Mala pier, for a variety of reasons, was never used by the Dole Company but did see service in WWII for loading and unloading supplies. The concrete pier stood until 1992 when it was destroyed in hurricane Iniki.  However, the destruction of the pier has been a boon for scuba divers in Maui.

Mala Pier The Dive

Mala Pier, Maui Hawaii, (Steven W Smeltzer)

White-tip Reef Shark, Triaenodon obesus, mano lalakea, Maui Hawaii

Mala Pier makes a great morning or afternoon dive and is spectacular as a night dive. However, I would highly recommend that you dive the site first during the day before attempting a night dive. Visibility is usually quite good, from 40 feet and up. There is no current to speak of and the site is quite easy to navigate. You swim out following the remains of the pier and then turn around and follow them back to shore. No worries, very easy navigation. There are also a few coral mounds in the sand surrounding the pier which are also quite interesting and make for great macro photography. But you should be a reasonable navigator to investigate these additional sites.
To enter Mala Pier, there is ample parking found at the pier and there is also a place to rinse your gear after the dive at the top of the boat ramp. The dive site can be entered in one of three ways, entering via the beach on the west side of the pier that is still standing, walking down the boat ramp but don’t tell anyone I mentioned the second option, or  probably the third and easiest option is to enter via the small beach to the east or shore side of the boat ramp and then swim around to the dive site.’

Mala Pier, Maui Hawaii, (Steven W Smeltzer)

Keeltail Needlefish, Platybelone argalus, Maui Hawaii

If you enter Mala Pier from the beach, on the west side, it is best done when there is a high tide.  You will have to cross a very shallow reef and will most likely have to walk part of the way out over the coral. If you choose this entry I would suggest that you float your gear and not put on your fins or BC until you reach deeper water. Please check the local tides with Google or go to tides.info and search for tidal information for Lahina before your dive.

However, I would highly recommend entering Mala PIer via the small beach to the east of the boat ramp.  This is a very easy entry and a requires a relatively easy 10 minute swim around to the pier in calm water.

Mala Pier, Maui Hawaii, (Steven W Smeltzer)

White-tip Reef Shark, Triaenodon obesus, mano lalakea, Maui Hawaii

Once you enter the site you will quickly get to about 15 feet of water and can begin your dive. You will notice many Keetail Needlefish around the standing and fallen columns of the pier. You will also see a number of juvenile fish of a variety of species in this same area. As you move further along the pier you will encounter a wide variety of corals attached to the pier and a number of different types of Butterflyfishes, Bird Wrasses, Goatfishes, Green Sea Turtles and much more.
If you are looking for sharks you can almost guarantee that you will see several White-tip reef sharks on this dive. There is usually one or more resting under the fallen columns towards the far end of the pier. You will also see sharks resting on the bottom typically on the western side of the pier usually mid-way down to pier to the end of the pier. You can also encounter these sharks as they are cruising around the ruble in search of the next meal. Don’t worry they won’t bother divers unless they are significantly provoked. So approach slowly and then take the time to appreciate these marvelous creatures.
This is a great dive site. Take your time to truly appreciate it. If you need to rent tanks check out Lahina Divers, they are my favorite dive operation on Maui, but you can also rent from a number of other locations.
You can see the complete photo gallery for Mala Pier at stevenwsmeltzer.com as well as more on underwater photography and landscape photography or you can follow me on Twitter at Images2Inspire.

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Scuba Diving (Steven W Smeltzer)

West Wall, Scuba Diving, Grand Cayman, Bonnie’s Arch

For most people into Scuba Diving, there is nothing like a wall diveand there are hardly any better places for a wall dive than Grand Cayman. Looking out into nothing but blue, the visibility well over 100 feet, Spotted Eagle Rays performing a ballet just in front of you, a reef shark or even a Tiger shark swimming by, this just could be paradise.  That is if you are into scuba diving.

 

 

 

Scuba Diving History

Scuba diving has come a long way since its invention.  In 1771, British engineer, John Smeaton invented the air pump. A hose was connected between the air pump and the diving barrel, allowing air to be pumped to the diver. In 1772, Frenchmen, Sieur Freminet invented a rebreathing device that recycled the exhaled air from inside of the barrel, this was the first self-contained air device. Freminet’s invention was a poor one, the inventor died from lack of oxygen after being in his own device for twenty minutes.

Scuba Diving (Steven W Smeltzer)

Spotted Eagle Ray, Aetobatus narinari, (Euphrasen, 1790), Grand Cayman

In 1825, English inventor, William James designed another self-contained breather, a cylindrical iron “belt” attached to a copper helmet. The belt held about 450 psi of air, enough for a seven-minute dive.

In 1876, Englishmen, Henry Fleuss invented a closed circuit, oxygen rebreather. His invention was originally intended to be used in the repair of an iron door of a flooded ship’s chamber. Fleuss then decided to use his invention for a thirty-foot deep dive underwater. He died from the pure oxygen; oxygen is toxic to humans under pressure.

In 1873, Benoît Rouquayrol and Auguste Denayrouze built a new piece of equipment a rigid diving suit with a safer air supply, however it weighed about 200 pounds.

The modern demand regulator was invented by Emile Gagnan and Jacques Cousteau along with an improved autonomous diving suit. In 1942, redesigned a car regulator and invented a demand regulator that would automatically fresh air when a diver breathed. A year later in 1943, Cousteau and Gagnan began selling the Aqua-Lung.

Almost anyone can learn to scuba dive. There is a basic level of health and fitness that you need to have to be safe and to enjoy your time underwater. You will be required to fill out a medical form before starting a certification class. In some cases, you may have to see a doctor before you begin training.

There are many scuba classes for kids under 14 years of age. Being a senior citizen is not a problem either, provided you have a fair level of fitness and approval from a doctor. There are also training programs for the disabled so they too can enjoy the sport of scuba diving.

What Does the Word S.C.U.B.A. Stand For: The word S.C.U.B.A. is an acronym for

Scuba Diving (Steven W Smeltzer)

Exploring Starboard, USS Kittiwake, Grand Cayman

Self-Contained-Underwater-Breathing-Apparatus. A scuba system allows autonomous diving (diving without an air line to the surface). The word also describes the sport of scuba diving.

The term scuba originated during WWII. It was used to describe navy divers who used oxygen rebreathers to attack enemy ships from underwater. Today you can use the word scuba to refer to the sport of scuba diving or to the equipment used by those who take part in the sport.

Scuba diving today has an estimated 3 to 6 million divers global and is growing rapidly.  With today’s advanced equipment, availability of online learning, getting started with Scuba Diving has never been easier. So come join the millions of other divers and take fish pictures, explore shipwrecks, glide over coral reefs and enjoy the beauty and fragility of our wonderful oceans.

For more information about scuba diving, underwater photography or to view photos from the underwater world visit my Website or Blog and/or follow me on Twitter for more inspiration from around the world.

You can also find more historical information on Scuba diving at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Cousteau and also on cousteau.org

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The Freckled Snake Eel, Callechelys lutea, is one of the more interesting eel species in Hawaii.  They borrow into the sand by day, appearing to labor heavily when breathing.  Their eyes are typically closed and can be approach quite closely if done slowly.  Even though you only see only its head sticking up from the sand, the Freckled Snake Eel can be up to about a meter in length under the sand.  Take a little time to watch this eel’s behavior if you are lucky enough to spot one.

Freckled Snake Eel (Steven Smeltzer)I photographed this Freckled Snake Eel at Molokini Crater just off of Maui in Hawaii at about 45 ft (13 m).  The snake eels can be found in the sand channels that run out from the remaining wall of the old volcano.  As you traverse the site and swim across the sand channels from one group or finger of coral to another, make sure to check the sand closely and you might be able to spot a Freckled Snake Eel.  You can also find these eels out swimming at night but it is quite rare.  If you do spot a Freckled Snake Eel approach slowly and spend a minute or two watching this interesting creature.

The Freckled Snake Eel is one of 15 families of true eels found in the coral reefs surrounding these islands.  The eel is typically light yellow in color and has numerous black spots covering its body.  These eels typically dwell at a depth range of 4 to 24 metres (13 to 79 ft), and forms burrows in sand sediments. Males can reach a maximum of 104 centimetres (41 in).  This eel is another of the many endemic marine species in Hawaii.

Check out other photos of eels on my blog or on my website.

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Reef Silversides, Hypoatherina harringtonensis, are always a great site and make for very interesting Reef Silversides, Atherinidae, Clupeidae, Engraulididae, Orange Canyon, Grand Cayman (Steven Smeltzer)photographs.  These massive schools of fish are seen throughout the Cayman islands.  They form into large defensive schools to confuse predators and the “swarms” seem move as one as they react to changes in pressure underwater caused by the movement of predators or other threats.

They can be approached easily while scuba diving if you take your time and you can even swim through these schools and have the fish literally enveloping you.  There have been large schools around Orange Canyon, where I took these shots, the Oro Verde wreck, and many other locations.  You can find schools of these fish in most dive sites from time to time and be sure to take time to observe their behavior.   They prefer shallow protected bays and lagoons and protected areas around the reef usually staying at depths from 0 to 10 meters.

They are greenish white on back, silvery with bluish reflections below; moderate silver stripe covering 3 rows of scales down from top plus edges of two adjacent rows bordered above by an iridescent blue-green line, from gill opening to tail, at front silver stripe is nearly as wide as pectoral fin base; tips of tail dusky.  There are a variety of these fish and it is almost impossible to tell them apart in the water.

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Sigma 17-70 mm (Steven W Smeltzer)

Candy Cane Shrimp, Sheraton reef, Maui Hawaii

Sigma 17-70 mm (Steven W Smeltzer)

Candy Cane Shrimp, Sheraton reef, Maui Hawaii

The Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC Macro lens available in Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax and Sigma mounts deserves strong consideration for underwater photography from the higher end amateur to the professional. While zoom rings for the Sigma 17-70mm are hard to find (if you can) the versatility and quality of the lens is such that if you are willing to invest a little time this could be a great lens for a variety of underwater settings. The lens is good for macro shots as seen in this image of a Candy Cane Shrimp in Maui

Sigma 17-70 mm (Steven W Smeltzer)

Bonnie’s Arch, Scuba Diving, Grand Cayman

It also is quite good for wider angel shots such as this photo from Grand Cayman.

I first took the Sigma 17-70 mm for a test drive in Hawaii. Since, I could not get a zoom gear for my Sea&Sea housing, I just made one. 🙂 If you are not intimidated this is not very hard to do especially if you have other zoom rings lying around that can be “modified” or you can also build a very passable zoom gear from PVC pipe from your local hardware store, but I will leave that for another story.

Sigma 17-70 mm (Steven W Smeltzer)

Sigma 17-70 mm f2.8-4 DC Macro Lens

When compared to other similar lenses, the Sigma 17-70 mm is one of the heaviest and largest instruments of all. This is not a surprise, though, because the lens is also the fastest and similar lenses such as the Sony/Zeiss 16-80 mm, which has a better focal range, doesn’t have an ultrasonic autofocus motor.

The Sigma 17-70 mm f/2.8–4.0 DC Macro OS HSM is an optically complex instrument. It has 17 elements in 13 groups. One element is made of low-dispersion ELD (Extraordinary Low Dispersion) glass and three other elements are aspherical (one hybrid element, two made using the “glass mold” technology). It is definitely superior to its predecessor that had just one SLD (Special Low Dispersion) element and two ordinary aspherical ones. Inside the lens we can also find an aperture with seven diaphragm blades which can be closed down at 17 mm to f/22 and at 70 mm – to f/32.

All in all a versatile lens that can deliver great shots in most situations and is great when you are not sure if you will be shooting macro or wider angle shots on a particular dive.

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Technical details: Sigma 17-70 mm

Lens Construction: 15 Elements in 12 Groups
Angle of View: 72.4 – 20.2 degrees (Sigma SD format)
Number of Diaphragm Blades: 7 Blades
Minimum Aperture: F22
Minimum Focusing Distance: 20cm/7.9 in.
Maximum Magnification: 1:2.3
Filter Size Diameter: 72mm
Dimensions Diameter: 79mm X Length 82.5mm
3.1 in. X 3.2 in.
Weight: 455g/16.0 oz

 

 

 

Shark Week is an annual, week-long TV programming block created by Tom Golden at the Discovery Channel.  This annual series of programs provide some awesome information on these wonderful creatures.

Shark Week (Steven W Smeltzer)

White-tip Reef Shark, Triaenodon obesus, mano lalakea, Maui Hawaii

Shark Week originally premiered on July 17, 1988. Featured annually, in late July and/or early August, it was originally devoted to conservation efforts and correcting misconceptions about sharks. Over time Shark Week grew in popularity and became a hit on the Discovery Channel. Since 2010, Shark Week has been the longest-running cable television programming event in history. Now broadcast in over 72 countries, Shark Week is promoted heavily via social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Episodes of recent years are also available for purchase on services like Google Play Movies & TV/YouTube, Amazon Video, and iTunes. Some episodes are free on subscription-based Hulu.

Shark Week (Steven W Smeltzer)

Shark Week

Since its early days, Shark Week has evolved into more entertainment-oriented and sometimes fictional programming. In recent times, it has attracted much criticism for airing dramatic programs to increase viewers and popularity. This fictitious programming, known as docufiction, has been produced in the last few years. Examples of such programs include Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives, Shark of Darkness: Wrath of Submarine, Monster Hammerhead, Lair of the Mega Shark, and Megaladon: The New Evidence.

This strategy was hugely successful, especially for the program Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives, as it became one of the most watched programs in Shark Week history, primarily for the controversy and backlash it generated. The mockumentary was based on an ancient giant shark called megalodon, which is now long extinct. The airing of this program fueled an uproar by viewers and by the science and science-loving community.[4] It eventually started a Discovery Channel boycott.[4] Since then Discovery has increasingly come under fire for using junk science, pushing dubious theories, creating fake stories and misleading scientists as to the nature of the documentary being produced

 

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Sharks are amazing creatures. They have roamed the Earth’s seas since nearly the beginning of time. Their size, power, and great, toothy jaws fill us with both fear and fascination. Sharks have few natural predators allowing them to roam the earths oceans with relative ease.  There are over 500 types of sharks ranging in size from a few centimeters  to more than 15 meters.  They are found in all seas and are common to depths of 2,000 meters (6,600 ft). They generally do not live in freshwater although there are a few known exceptions, such as the bull shark and the river shark, which can survive and be found in both seawater and freshwater.

Sharks (Steven W Smeltzer)

White-tip Reef Shark, Triaenodon obesus, Maui Hawaii

They are “cartilaginous fish” meaning that the structure of the animal’s body is formed of cartilage, instead of bone. Unlike the fins of bony fishes, the fins of cartilaginous fishes cannot change shape or fold alongside their body. Even though they don’t have a bony skeleton like many other fish, they are still categorized with other vertebrates in the Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata, and Class Elasmobranchii. This class is made up of about 1,000 species of sharks, skates and rays. They have five to seven gill slits and rigid dorsal fins, for which they are famous.  And though they kill only a few people each year, media coverage and movie portrayals of attacks have marked sharks as voracious killing machines. Our fears—and appetites—fuel an industry that hunts more than 100 million sharks each year and threatens to purge these vital predators from the oceans.

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We were about 10 minutes into the dive when we entered the canyon and found it filled with Silversides.  These interesting schooling fish always make a great shot.  The Silversides typically come  between June and August and can be found in the many grottoes, wrecks, caves and swim-throughs, on the reefs surrounding Grand Cayman.

Silversides, Atherinidae (Steven Smeltzer)

Surrounded, Silversides and Scuba divers, Grand Cayman

Silversides, Atherinidae, are one of the key reef species in Grand Cayman and the Caribbean in general.  These great swarms of fishes provide an excellent food source for many of the larger species of fishes and provide a wonderful experience for divers as well.  It is a great experience to be surrounded by one of these “balls of fish” or to watch Tarpon or Barracuda dart through the swarms.

 

The large balls are a defensive mechanism for the fish and you will notice that the entire swarm tends to change direction at once, acting almost a s single organism instead of thousands and thousands of individuals.

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The Green Sea Turtle is a wonderful, graceful creature.  They capture the imagination especially when seen gracefully swimming underwater or as young hatch-lings racing for the relative safety of the sea.

Green Sea Turtle, (Steven Smeltzer)

Green Sea Turtle, Grand Cayman

The Green Sea Turtle inhabits tropical and subtropical coastal waters around the world.  It is a large turtle and may grow to over 300 kg (700 pounds).  These marvelous creatures can also live for up to 80 years.

The Green Sea Turtle is named for the greenish color of its skin. Its shell can be a dull brown to an olive green tint depending upon its habitat.  There are generally though to be two types of green turtles including the Atlantic green sea turtle, normally found off the shores of Europe and North America, and the Eastern Pacific green sea turtle, which has been found in coastal waters from Alaska to Chile.

Green Sea Turtle, (Steven Smeltzer)

Green Sea Turtle,

Unlike most sea turtles, adult green sea turtles are herbivorous, feeding on sea grasses and algae. Juvenile green turtles, however, will also eat invertebrates like crabs, jellyfish, and sponges.

Green Sea turtles have lengthy migrations from feeding sites to their individual nesting grounds, normally on sandy beaches. Mating typically occurs every two to four years in shallow waters close to the shore. To create a  nest, females leave the sea and choose an area, often on the same beach where they were born to lay their eggs. They dig a pit in the sand with their flippers.  The nest pit may contain as many as 200 eggs.  After the eggs are placed into the pit it is covered with sand and the turtle returns to the sea.  It takes approximately two months for the eggs to hatch.  Immediately after hatching is the most dangerous time of a green turtle’s life.  The short but difficult journey from the nest to the nest to sea requires the young turtles to evade multiple predators, including crabs and flocks of gulls.

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Wall dives.  There are no other dives like them.  The opportunity to float in “space” as you look away from the reef into the deep blue of the ocean is amazing.  In Grand Cayman you can look down on the wall on the north dive sites and realize it is about 4,000 ft to the bottom.

Wall Dives (Steven W Smeltzer)

West Wall, Scuba Diving, Grand Cayman

Great wall dives surround Grand Cayman.  There is often 100+ feet visibility along with great corals and a wide variety of marine life especially on the North/East end.
There are a number of great wall dives around the world, but I must admit I am partial to the Cayman Islands.  You can find other very good wall dives in Honduras, Canada, Palau and Mexico, but to me there is no comparison to the Cayman Islands.  The visibility, the ease of access, the variety of marine life, the vibrant corals all set Grand Cayman apart from other wall dive opportunities.  The North Wall is mecca for wall divers, with almost 50 different dive sites, from the legendary Babylon, to  Andes Wall, to Eagle Ray Pass to many, many others.  These dive sites often have visibility of over 200 feet, amazing corals, sharks, rays and much more.

The north end of Grand Cayman can be a little rough, but the dive sites are well worth the trip.

There are a number of great dive operators on the island.  I would check out Red Sail sports. They have a good diver operation and we have diving with them for over 15 years. Don’t forget to mention that you I sent you their way.

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The Kohala or Humpback whale faithfully returns to Hawaii each year to give birth to their young.  Although the Humpback whales begin arriving in Hawaii in December and don’t all leave until May or even June, February to April are the best times to experience the whales.  If you  stay in Ka’anapali in Maui you can watch them through out the day from the beach.  Better yet take a Humpback Whale, Megaptera novaeangliae, Hawaii, whales, Breach, corals reef, coral reefs (Steven Smeltzer)whale watching cruise.  Gemini Charters operates off Kaanapali beach and will pick you up at the Westin Maui Resort in the morning and the afternoon from December to April or you can drive into Lahaina where you can take a whale watching tour with the Pacific Whale Foundation.

Humpback Whale, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui Hawaii (Steven Smeltzer)Both operators offer great charters with the main difference being the Gemini boat is a catamaran and I believe is a bit more comfortable.  The Pacific Whale Foundation has a large two deck boat and is very comfortable, but not quite the same feel as the catamaran.  But either way you will definitely enjoy your tour.

Humpback whales migrate annually from summer feeding grounds near the north pole to warmer winter breeding waters in Hawaii and other areas closer to the Equator. Mothers and their young swim close together, often touching one another with their flippers with what appear to be gestures of affection. Female Humpback’s nurse their calves for almost a year, though it takes far longer than that for a Humpback whale to reach full adulthood. Calves do not stop growing until they are ten years old.

Humpback whales are known for their magical songs, which travel for great distances through the world’s oceans. These sequences of moans, howls, cries, and other noises are quite complex and often continue for hours on end. Scientists are studying these sounds to decipher their meaning. It is most likely that humpbacks sing to communicate with others and to attract potential mates.

Humpback Whale Song Maui

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