Monday, August 27, 2012

Bimini Blast: Our STAYcation Part II

Duncan arrived back from his shoot in the early hours of the morning along with our friend Glenn, who had been on the shoot with him. We had rented a boat for the day, so everyone was rushing around to get ready and head out the door. Scuba tanks, bait, dive gear, lunch of champions ( peanut butter and jelly) and cameras filled every empty space on the boat. Walt arrived and we launched into our adventure.

Our first stop was Triangle to dive with Caribbean reef sharks. The sharks here have become familiar with divers over the course of 20 years of research and filming that has occurred at the site. We anchored the boat and began baiting. We are spoiled at this location and usually have sharks around us before the boat is even set. On this day nothing seemed to be happening,not a shark in site. Dunk and I looked at each other, as we had only encountered this one other time. Three years ago we were skunked on the same site because block rigs had been dropped in the area and their target was sharks. They were created with car batteries as anchors and had metal wire with large rusty hooks. No doubt a shark had struggled or been captured on one, causing the other sharks to disappear. Dead shark is a repellent for many shark species and companies are working on synthesizing dead shark as a repellent to keep sharks away from longlines, beaches and other areas that might be harmful to them.

We waited about 15 minutes and I made the call to move on with our day. There was no sign of life and we knew there would not be. We got reports from two other groups that attempted a snorkel on the site and they got skunked as well. It was later confirmed that a vessel had been shark fishing the previous day. Nothing like some asshole
(pardon my language, but this angers me to no end) tourists to go “shoot fish in a barrel.” Real fisherman huh? I was disappointed that our camera loaded friends didn't get the experience, but beyond disappointed and angry at the fact that people cannot leave sharks alone! The locals respect this site and understand its importance, but tourists don’t care about the damage they leave behind because it is not their backyard. I am not Bahamian, but I live in Bimini and this is my backyard!

We headed to another site to find some nurse sharks and were happily greeted by a slumber party of six nurses wedged under a coral head. They cruised around and sniffed our bait. This is one of my favorite spots, although only ten feet deep, to visit and hangout. The current was ripping, which made the dive challenging, especially in shallow water, but everyone got some nurse shark love.

We had such a blast hanging with the rays earlier in the week that we headed
back to Honeymoon Harbor to finish off our day. Glenn had never been and getting goosed by a stingray is really a must when visiting Bimini. We plopped down our delicious bait and were immediately mugged by 10-12 stingrays. They have no manners and do not mind giving you a goose or a bit of chew. If they get your toes it feels really weird. Glenn was like a kid on Christmas, the typical reaction, as rays swarmed him and traded lots of Bimini love for a free snack. There were several families picnicking on the beach and they came to check out what were doing. One mentioned she heard stingrays were dangerous, but we quickly coaxed her into the water and watched as she squealed with delight as a massive ray sat on her lap.

Before long we had a few other guests join us, as two large nurse sharks and two good sized Caribbean reef sharks came in to check out the commotion. Six kids, balanced precariously on a paddleboard, shouted, “shark,” and immediately headed off to get a better look. I love it when people yell, “ shark,” and move in for a closer look rather than running for the hills. The kids shouted and laughed as the shark tried to avoid the ruckus they were causing. “ Cool, “ and, “ awesome,” were shouted at least a dozen times. We basked in the glow of Mother Nature’s classroom and continued to talk to spectators about the rays and sharks. We definitely changed a few minds which soothed the wounds inflicted earlier by the lack of sharks at Triangle.

The conditions were perfect as stingrays zipped across the white sand bottom in gin clear water. I am pretty sure Denny was actually drooling as he fired shot after shot on his camera. Two and a half hours were absorbed by sharks and rays and we soaked up the final moments. Dunk and I dropped everyone off for a snorkel lap around the concrete ship, as it really is another must for the Bimini visitor. We were back before sunset and ready to celebrate the day with a cocktail. I blended some frozen deliciousness and we enjoyed some local fare.

Sadly Shari and Walt departed early the next day, but we scurried to get on the water before Dennis had to catch his afternoon flight. The tide was right for us to make a run through Smuggler’s pass in the mangroves. This aptly named route was utilized by rum and drug runners in the past and is one of the most amazing places on the planet. We zipped through the channel, not as wide as the boat in some places, and relished in the complete rawness of the mangrove forest. The occasional airplane passing overhead was the only reminder that were were not a million miles from civilization. Very few people on the planet have visited this region and it really is a hidden treasure. Schools of juvenile snapper darted a head of us as juvenile green turtles raced each other across our bow. A large Southern stingray cruised a long and a juvenile lemon sharks took cover in the thickness of the mangrove root maze.

The channel finally opened and we were deposited in the lagoon that separates the north and south islands. In the distance the development has littered the landscape with piles of sand and heavy construction equipment. Boggles my mind that a treasure like this channel exists and people are blind to it, having no empathy towards the vital roll it plays in the life of the island. A role that not even the al mightiest of dollars can rival.

We anchored the boat and swam. We floated, laughed and wallowed in what we had just experienced. Such a breathtaking place that never ceases to amaze me. We said goodbye to the mangroves and pulled up at Stuart’s Conch stand to toast the day with a cold libation. Front row parking on the beach and cold Kaliks in our hand immediately. We had become frequent guests in the recent days and I have to say it never got old. There is nothing bad about sitting on a deck over the ocean with a cold beer and a lovely breeze. We shoved off and headed for home so Denny could make his flight, although I am sure he wouldn’t have minded missing it.

Thanks to our amazing friends for sharing our home and this incredible little island.Check out Denny’s VIDEO that captures some of the brilliant moments from this part of the adventure as well as the FIRST.

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