Photos and Diving…the Bahamian Way, Part 2

Welcome back to the Matt Mead Photography LLC’s blog Life Through a Camera Lens! As promised, this is second part of our two-part blog post highlighting the best of land and sea during my latest trip to San Salvador, Bahamas. This week will outline the diving experience at Riding Rock Resort and Marina. If you are new to our blog and would like to catch up, click here.

Once we jumped in the water on Castle Reef, the sharks showed up exactly when Bruce, our boat captain, said they would. After about five minutes of making sure my gear worked properly, I got to work photographing my sharks.  Along with the sharks, we got to spend time with a playful Hawksbill turtle, and a rather grumpy barracuda (which while working on my website, I realized I’ve been spelling wrong my entire life). At the end of the second dive on Vicky’s reef, we were greeted by a school of curious horse eyed jacks.

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The action really started on day 2 at Stew Pot, when we met the Caribbean reef’s enemy: the lionfish.

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We’ll talk more about these pesky fish in a future post. After pointing out the large specimen to our dive master, my dive buddy, Lori and I decided to cruise down the reef to see what else we could see. We only swam a short distance before we noticed a sea of scales, blood, and chum following behind us. I motioned for Lori to follow me back toward the carnage, told her to wait one minute, and right on cue, this big girl showed up with two of her adolescent children for a mid-morning lionfish snack.

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Once they had their fill of Mr. Lionfish, the shark family disappeared back into the deep blue. Well, Bruce was spot on again today with his prediction of shark sightings as we got to see them every dive so far and I was loving every minute of it!

It was on the second dive that I learned Lori’s signal for a hammerhead shark. It’s the same one that my friend, Matt, gave when we saw a manta ray in Curaçao, which is to flail around like you’re having a seizure. Unfortunately, I was too busy playing around with a grouper to notice. Note to self: pay more attention to the blue (that’s diver speak for the ocean). Not only were there reef sharks all over this dive there was a handsome scorpion fish waiting for us at the end of the dive.ImageSince there was no night dive, we went back to the Driftwood Lounge to keep Peaches company. We can’t have her feeling left out of all the fun!

With Day 3 upon us, I couldn’t get the thought of the missing the hammerhead out of my mind. Apparently, neither could Mother Ocean because she gave us a real show. Cable Crossing earned its ranking of 25 on Scuba Diving magazine’s gold list of “Top 100 Dive Sites.”  As soon as we hit the water, we were greeted by sponges spawning.Image

I won’t get into the dive signal for this, as we’re trying to maintain a PG-13 blog. Suffice it to say that Lori flooded her mask while laughing.

We saw skates (a.k.a. mini sting rays), barracuda, queen conchs, porcupine fish, and reef sharks but the star of this site was this playful little turtle.ImageAlong with being a NAUI instructor, I have over 200 dives under my belt; I still get excited when I see turtles.

After our 3-minute safety stop, we hit the boat and the first thing I did was bust Bruce’s chops about not seeing any hammerheads. He promised that on the second dive there would be some and, sure enough, his prediction was right on. We hit the water, swam to the wall and there was this guy. ImageIn my excitement along with having somebody pushing my trigger arm trying to get my attention, I didn’t get a chance to set my exposure correctly, or so I thought. Here I am, bummed out for the next hour because I thought I missed another chance to get a hammerhead photograph. I ignored pretty much everything else in my depression, until a playful grouper swam over to cheer me up.Image

Consoled by my play date with Mr. Grouper, we decided to swim back to the boat. While floating underneath the dive boat, I just happened to look out into the blue and these two beauties were casually swimming by.Image

Mother Ocean had taken pity on me! Once back on the boat I had to admit to Bruce that I owed him a Kalik (a local beer). Hell, I will gladly buy him a six-pack when we go back next year!

Cable Crossing that night delivered some great brittle stars. ImageI also found this guy that my wife, Teri, decided to name the Yoda fish. He’s actually called a spiny pufferfish. Image However, my highlight was something I didn’t get a photograph of: a school of juvenile reef squid. They were too tiny for my camera to focus on. You’ll have to take my word for it when I tell you that it was the single coolest thing I’ve ever seen underwater!

Hitting the water on day 4 would prove interesting, after a day like yesterday, how could Mother Ocean top herself? We got the chance play around with some flamingo tongues, a queen angelfish, barracudas and the house reef sharks. The highlight of this dive, however, came at the end. While hovering at 15 feet for our 3-minute safety stop we were allowed to watch a reef shark sunning itself. Image

The last day of diving is always the most depressing. Nobody wants to leave, but we all eventually have to return to reality, and yuck, snow. As you can imagine we tried to do everything we could to stay with Mother Ocean as long as we possibly could. We saw everything on the last day, and I mean everything. From swimming hydroids, to skates and hermit crabs, to this indigo hamlet…ImageIt was as if the ocean’s residents were coming out to bid us farewell. And that was only the first dive!

The second dive for the day, our final one of the trip, gave me the most lasting memory of diving in San Salvador, which I have to say, ranks a close second to the juvenile reef squid from the night dive. We were at Witch’s Cauldron, cruising along the reef and taking in what the site had to offer. When I looked off to my left, I noticed something silvery with a large tail just out of my sight. I thought Well, it’s too big to be a barracuda, so it has to be a shark. Oh, and was I right! After playing with a curled up basket star, Image

I turned to head up the reef when, right in front of us, was the single biggest hammerhead I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, the water was way too turbid for my camera to focus on it. Instead of fighting the camera, I just put it aside and watched in awe as she casually swam up the reef. Wow, what an amazing way to conclude a diving trip!

The resort alone, with its’ amazing and attentive staff, incredible food, and comfortable rooms,  is enough to draw me back for a third consecutive year. Add the best shark diving in the Caribbean, and it’s no wonder I can’t stay away. If you are looking for a great vacation spot, fantastic diving with awesome visibility, look no further than our friends at Riding Rock Resort and Marina in San Salvador, Bahamas. If you would like to know more, please visit their website at www.ridingrock.com.

Any photos featured in parts 1 or 2  of these blog posts will be available for purchase at my website www.mattmeadphotographyllc.com.

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