Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Back in 1964, Sean Conery was filming the fourth in the James Bond series--Thunderball was the movie of the day.  Right here, off Staniel Cay, is a small coral atoll called Thunderball Grotto.  Who knows if the movie was named for the grotto, or the grotto was named for the movie?  One way or another, visitors do not count their trip complete without a snorkling excursion to see this natural wonder and all the pretty fish that live there. 

If you are a scaredy-cat like me, the best time to arrive at the entrance to the grotto is at slack-low tide. At high tide, one has to dive and swim under water, between the razor-sharp coral walls, keeping an eye out for fire coral on the way in. When the tide is rushing in or out, the current will be a force to be reckoned with, meaning one has to swim hard to get where one wants to be, or to hold position once inside.

In the movie, when James cautiously pokes his head up out of the water, he appears to be intruding on an enemy submarine base--a huge, cavernous structure. In actual fact, the grotto is not nearly big enough for 10 people to swim in at the same time, never mind a whole submarine or two. Inside, the coral walls have been carved out by centuries of tides and currents. The sun slants in through openings in the roof, and at low tide, a second entry is seen on the east side.

Yesterday, we took Heather on her first snorkeling expedition. She was thrilled to find the wet suit kept her warm and the dry snorkel would keep the sea from invading her airway. She didn’t immediately take to the flippers, but I reminded her that if she decided she needed to move in a hurry, she might appreciate having them on.

The small, yellow and black striped fish are called Sargent Majors. 

Isn't he cute?
My new Olympus camera is good to 10 feet under water--a Christmas present I am still learning to use.  I find the action is very slow, both the shutter speed and the processing.  Between me bobbing in the waves, the fish playing shy, not quietly posing for me and the slow camera action, it is a miracle I got any good shots at all.  The ones inside the grotto, where I wanted to show you the cave-like insides, were either too out of focus, or too washed out with sunlight.

Roy and Christine asked to see reefs.  Here are a couple for now.

I am sorry this one is so badly out of focus, but check out the colours on this angel fish!

Remember Dora, the funny blue fish in "Finding Nemo"?
She is a Blue Tang  like the one below.

Here we can just see the foot of the baby conch hiding inside his shell.

Captain B. can dive 25 feet and hold his breath for almost 3 minutes!!!!

Heather shows good form, and on her very first try too.

There are so many variations of the Parrot Fish.  This one was a uniform blue colour.  Others have many different colours and markings.

This star fish was as big as a dinner plate.  Ten years ago, we saw them everywhere.  Now they have become a rarity.

Today we are moving to Compass Cay, where we can swim with the sharks...nurse sharks that is, and not everyone of us will indulge in the privilege.

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