Notes from the field, from Blue Ventures expedition manager, Sarah Adams. Bacalar Chico Dive Camp, MesoAmerican Barrier Reef, Belize, 18° 07′ 53.32″ N, 87° 50′ 21.24″ W.
One of highlights of this expedition so far happened on consecutive days during week two, when the megafauna sightings went quite literally off the scale. At Barracuda Patch, after two advanced open water students had completed their navigation dive, we toured around some coral bommies for the final five minutes and came face to face with an enormous manatee, 3 metres in length and slowly, gently feeding her way through the sea grass sandy bottom, using her front fins to crawl along the sand and evidently interested to see what we were as she came within three metres of us before kicking off gracefully with her powerful tail. The boat marshal and captain also saw her from the surface and we were able to let Al and Clare know, who had been working on Divemaster skills training nearby, so that they were able to see her from the surface snorkelling; a truly awesome experience.
That would have been difficult to beat as an expedition high, were it not for the following day, when we were diving at Firing Range North, a pretty spectacular site in itself, with its beautiful corals, exciting spur and groove channels and abundance of groupers and trigger fish. Towards the end of the dive we were graced by a pod of eleven bottle-nosed dolphins, which breezed past close to us, rolling and arching through the water and then, once we were back on the boat, proceeded to give us an acrobatic show, playing in the boat wake and jumping high out of the water behind us.
Megafauna sitings must always come in threes apparently, and the following day the group saw a pair of nurse sharks “cuddling” perhaps recently mated, as well as two hawksbill turtles for good measure. Anyway, back to work…