Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Sharptail Eel

When I spotted this guy, I had no idea that I had spotted an eel that many divers, and locals of the island have never seen before. Our dive instructor who had been giving dive tours for years had never spotted one of these before, and when I showed him the picture I took, he was baffled at what the creature could be.
At first I thought I was seeing a water snake, so I stood as far away as possible, because I didn't know if it was poisonous, or if it would strike at me.

When I got home, I had to find out what this long eel like snake actually was. After hours of endless photo searching on Google.come, I came across the Sharptail Eel.

The sharptail eel is a rarer sight, and is normally found in Panama, but sometimes seen in the Bahamas, only more rare.

I felt pretty excited that I managed to see this eel up close. It's actually really pretty, with a long slender brown body, and white colored dots on it's body.

The head is the most interesting because it actually looks more like a snake, but the Sharptail Eel seems to have some sort of whiskers.

This fella was literately no more than 10 feet off shore, and he seemed to be slowly cruising around the bottom of the sea. Maybe looking for some crabs to feast on?

Don't Forget To Feed The Fish!!!

I don't think there has been a day that has gone by where Grand Bahama Island has not been on my mind. Coming home was nice, but honestly I don't think I will ever look at the waters here where I live, quite the way I did in the Bahamas.

Here there are no magical worlds of colorful reefs underwater, nor are their fish swimming at your sides.

One of the first things we did when we arrived was feed the fish some bread that we took from the resort. I had no idea that we would have such a large school of fish in just seconds. It was surreal, amazing, and unforgettable.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Paradise Cove Tours

Ahhh... sweet sweet serenity.

Before arriving to the island, we pretty much had a mapped out itinerary to follow. We were going to go on a snorkeling tour through blue holes. Blue holes are large craters in the sea, which is the home to so many different tropical fish, and I knew this would be something not to miss. Unfortunately the tour was no longer operating Blue Holes, which was sad.

Instead of sitting around though, we figured we'd simply do another tour for the day we were going to do Blue Holes.
We were given a book of activities to do on the island from the customer service desk at our resort.

In it we found Paradise Cove Tours, which was an all day tour to Paradise Cove, which is located on the west end of the island.
For only $35, the tour included, lunch, free transportation, and of course snorkeling in what is called Deadman's Reef; which we were told was the islands best spot for snorkeling.
The tour was not quite as planned though, because the tour bus refused to come pick us up at our resort seeing that we were the only couple doing the tour. They said we were too far away, and that there were not enough people from our resort who booked the tour.
We had to take a $20 cab ride to the casino at Westin where the tour bus picked us up.
A good 20 minute drive or so, and we were finally at Paradise cove.
You walk up a narrow little walkway to a beach hut, where food is served. Here you can rent snorkel gear, lounge chairs, towels, and umbrellas for a very small price.
We rented a lawn chair. An employee at the beach shack set it up for us, and we were ready to go.
Paradise Cove is pristine and beautiful, with white sand beaches, crystal clear water, and a reef far out in the distance.
It took some time to swim out to the good snorkeling spots which are located very close to the small mountains of rock that rise up out of the water.Many say that only good swimmers should tour Paradise Cove, but at the beach hut you can rent out flotation belts in order to make the swim easier on you. If you take your time though, and just take in what you are seeing down below in the crytsal clear sea, you won't have an issue with becoming fatigue. I found that just drifting worked best.
The water is not scary deep, but it gets very deep when you are near the reefs.
Some areas in the water are so deep that it may even scare you, but if you relax, and just enjoy what you are seeing, you will adore the large craters and dips in the sea floor.
Far out you will be looking around 100 feet down, and it does not even seem that you are that deep until you look over at your partner and see just how far their body is from the surface. It's all pretty surreal.

The corals all seemed relatively dead at Paradise Cove, but the fish are there in an abundance, and sting rays seem to enjoy this area. One ray was around 10 feet long, and was literately 3 feet from shore. So be very, very careful when getting into the water- although they do not attack, their barbs are deadly, and odds are if you step on one, it will not hesitate to lash out on you. Try and scout it out before just flopping in!The thing I really loved about Paradise Cove is that while swimming out to the reef you will come across a huge landscape of green seaweed. In this seaweed you will notice large clumps... upon close inspection you will notice that these large hunks of seaweed are actually living sand dollars. They come to the weeds to collect them to their bodies for camouflage. If you don't look closely you could miss one amazing sea creature.
Now the coolest part is that the green sea bed ends onto a huge landscape of white sand. This sand is not barren though. Here you will find the shells of the former guests of sand dollars. I was able to find sand dollars here in bucket fulls... however they have been sitting down there for so long, that when you try to pick them up, they turn to dust.
I was able to find about 5 or 6 really good sized sand dollars that stood together. Some the size of my palm.I liked to call this area at Paradise Cove, Sand dollar Graveyard.
The waters here at Paradise Cove are pretty much filled with the same types of fish we saw at the resort, with the occasional sting ray, and a few odd balls that we didn't see in the waters at Fortuna Beach. We were looking primarily for sea turtles, but unfortunately it wasn't the right season.
The one thing we did see here in an abundance besides live sand dollars, and sand dollar shells were these odd blue fish that seemed to glow. I only wish I knew what they were called, but they had these spectacular blue dots on them that seemed to just light up. Like lightning bugs of the sea.
Out near the rocks, we came across about 4 or 5 Bahamian lobsters hiding in small pockets in the rocks. They have no claws!!!
The absolute best thing though that I spotted here were these gorgeous neon yellow and orange sea slugs. They were so easy to miss... but like I said, if you take your time you will see more than expected.
Not only were there neon yellow sea slugs, but I also came across some blue ones, and grey colored ones. They are so beautiful, and so graceful, just inching along pieces of coral.
Unfortunately my underwater camera had a hard time focusing in on the small sea slugs.

After swimming around for what felt like an eternity, we headed back in shore for some conch chips, and Bahamian lobster.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Unexso, Grand Bahama Island- Not To Be Missed!!!

Another gem nestles on Grand Bahama Island, is a little cove I like to call Paradise's creatures. (Well that's what I would have called it). It's actually called Unexso.
You can find all sorts of information on Unexso literately the moment you step off of your plane into the Freeport Airport. There will be brochures on racks as you leave the airport. Be sure to check em out, because there are so many activity brochures for you to grab.

What is Unexso?

Oh my God, it's just about the most mind blowing experience you will ever participate in. You have many choices though, at Unexso you can either have a dolphin encounter, a dolphin swim, an open ocean dolphin encounter, and so on. They also do shark dives!!!

We paid extra for the dolphin swim. The encounter is a little cheaper, but truly you wont experience the dolphins one on one, unless you do the dolphin swim.

You have to make reservations, and from wherever you are staying you need to take a cab into Porty Lucya, in order to take a ferry over to Unexso, which is hidden down a weird channel like cove. The ferry ride is part of the experience, and it is fantastic.
On the way I was able to look down into the water and see huge tropical fish swimming around. Not only that, around 10 minutes into the small ferry ride, you will see a huge abandoned pirate ship in the channel, which is just so... neat.

You will also see some of the locals shoe string fishing from the bulkheads.

Once you pull up you will see just about the cutest little atmosphere I think you will ever see. To the left there is like this adorable little hut covered in tropical leaves high up on a hill. You get off to the right, where you meet with your instructors.

We had a pretty lil' blond gal take us to our swim. The best thing about the swim was that it was only my boyfriend, I, and another couple of two. It was very private, and made it all the more comfortable.

Before hopping into the water, we were given a quick lesson on what to expect. We were also given the dolphin's names. Ones name was corral, but I cannot for the life of me remember the other ones name, simply because he was the behaved dolphin. We were told that corral at times could get fresh, which was true because she pounded my leg in, in the water with her tail. I still think she did it on purpose. hehe. Thankfully it didn't hurt... but it was one hell of a series of powerful thrusts to my leg.

After swimming around with the dolphins, the time was just about up for us to come out of the water.

First though, we were told to do certain hand signals to the dolphins. Once we did the hand signals, the dolphins would perform a trick, such as waving, spitting, speaking, and so on.

After that, we then took photos with them.

It wasn't over there though, because next we got to come out of the water and see the dolphins in all of their glory. They did flips, waved, and a slew of other awesome tasks.
The experience was not over yet though... nope. Before boarding our ferry, we were taken to a small area in the forest where a group of parrots and macaws were. Here we were able to kiss the birds (yes this one bird actually kisses!), pet them, and feed them. It really added to the enjoyment of the place. Unexso is not to be missed.

If you are going to Grand Bahama Island, you must, and I cannot stress it enough- you must take 2 hours out of your plans to take a trip to Unexso. An experience never ever to be forgotten.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gold Rock Beach, Grand Bahama Island

See the websites main photo? That's the gem that was nestled across the street from Lucayan National Park. If you pull up at the park, you honestly would not even know it was there, unless you previously searched for it online. The locals may also mention it to you, and if you are lucky, hopefully your cab driver mentions it, because there is no sign.
The sign is hidden down a very small narrow dirt path, surrounded by tropical plants, bushes and flowers of every kind. If you look closely across the street, you may be able to see the path, but it's a bit over grown.

Once we found the little path, it took us to a huge green rock that stated GOLD ROCK BEACH. You now know you are on the right path.

You have 2 options. For us though, we had only one option because the small bridge that would have taken us straight to the beach was out of service, and blocked off. We had to go right, and follow the path that is called Mangroves.

The Mangroves is pretty tedious, especially if it is blazing hot out. We actually were a little lucky, and a little unlucky because it began to rain, and we had to be very, very careful walking the Mangroves, because it is a long, long path through marsh land. Some areas of the path are nothing more than puddles of 2 inch water, which would break off into sections of a long narrow plank. You have to be very careful on the planks, because there are no railings, and if you fall in, you fall into water. The water is not deep, but there are many bushes growing from the water that could hurt you.

You cannot help but think a big alligator is going to come up to grab you. It's really phenomenal the whole trek through the Mangroves because you will feel like you are on some sort of safari. If you stop to take in the surroundings you will sometimes see a large crab scurrying about. You may also see a bunch of spiders.
Once the path ends, you are not quite to the beach yet... but you will feel the anticipation building up.

You are instead taken to a dark overgrown area of tropical woods, with huge trees. Looking around we saw so many different types of enormous bugs, beetles, and butterflies. A huge cicada the size of my hand was actually dead and stuck in a spiders web. A sight I thought I'd only ever see on the Discovery Channel.

A few feet through the woods you come up a small dirt hill, and just below the hill, you will find miles and miles of the secluded perfect white sand beach. The water is probably the clearest and most beautiful waters we found on the entire island.

I stood up on the hill and took in what I was seeing. Gold Rock beach was the absolute description of Paradise. Here I felt a trillion miles away from home. Here it was as if I had found a hidden gem that nobody else had ever seen. The beach is untouched. Not a footstep in the sand... not a soul.

Gold Rock can be seen out in the distance. If it is low tide, and you have your snorkel gear you can swim out to it. We though were hesitant seeing that if anything were to happen, we would be miles away from help, so we sort of just stuck to the shore, and snorkeled a few feet out. The water when we arrived was nearly low tide. Low tide is awesome because the sands create a work of art that is truly not to be missed!
The waters weren't teaming with life here though. We didn't see many fish, but we did happen to spot a bunch of gigantic crabs swimming about the white sandy bottom of the sea.
Gold Rock Beach is also a must if you are a fan of Pirates of the Caribbean. Some parts of the film were actually done here on this beach. There used to be an actual ship from the movie on the beach, but it has since been removed due to hurricanes.

You can see from the beach that the hurricanes that hit the island a few years back have managed to rip some huge trees right from the roots. However if you really look at this disaster, and what it has left on Gold Rock Beach, you will truly look at it like a beautiful disaster, because all of the fallen trees have added to the scenery. The trees have become dried out gorgeous stumps of drift wood, and it is simply stunning.

Gold Rock Beach is not to be missed! You cannot go to Grand Bahama Island, and not see Gold Rock Beach. The only visitors you will find here will be the pack of little birds that scurry about on the shore, checking you out while you take a swim.

Lucayan National Park, Grand Bahama Island! NOT TO BE MISSED!

Besides all of the gorgeous corals and fish we saw right off shore at our hotel, I wanted to mention that our gorgeous resort was not the only thing Grand Bahama Island had to offer! Not by a long shot!

By day 1 we already had our weekly itinerary set up. We planned to see Lucayan National Park, Unexos, and Paradise Cove. We stretched it out so we had a day to relax at the resort, and then a day following of excursions, a day to relax, a day to go out. It really made for the most relaxing vacation I could have imagined.

Lucayan National Park was by far my most favorite thing about the trip to Grand Bahama Island.

We arrived to the park by cab on Sunday, which was a mistake in a way, because we had no idea how religious the Bahamians were! Nearly the entire island takes the day off on Sunday, so if you are going to Grand Bahama Island, don't plan any excursions likely they will be closed!

At any Rate Lucyan National Park was closed, and the cabbie seemed happy for us! She told us we now didn't have to pay the $3.00 admission, and we could just get in for free.

This was very scary because we were literately in the middle of nowhere, and there was not a soul in sight. I kept thinking that some evil drug guerrillas were going to jump out of the bushes and murder us.
Once though I let my mind rest, and took in where I was, I felt okay. Still though a bit on edge seeing that I had never in my life experienced such seclusion. It was just too weird!!!!

We walked into the park, which is mainly just a small dirt path with tons of different types of tropical flowers, and many species of orchids! I felt like Alice in wonderland!

The first path branches off into different directions, with adorable hand made wooden signs giving you a brief description of hat would be up ahead.

The first thing we experienced was the bat cave!!!! Now in NY, we would never be allowed to explore such a place without a guide. Yet here I was, about to travel down a small set of spiral steel steps, into a frigging bat cave!

Safety is your own priority, and it was what made me nervous, because we were alone! In the bat cave there are no railings, or anything to save you from possibly falling!
Once I was in though, and settled down, I was absolutely amazed at the sights around me. First and foremost, the bat cave was actually a cave with water. A small deck sits above the water for you to look into. Above your head you can see and hear the mob of bats squeaking and flapping about. Upset obviously that we were there.

The water in the cave was simply spectacular, seeing that the sun would shine in from the hole above making the water glow an odd eerie glowing color of green. I could see into the cave at all of the enormous fish swimming around.

I took in the scenery for about a half an hour before finally resurfacing. I had to look back, because I knew it would be the last time I'd see such a sight... well that is, until I return next year!

After taking in the bat cave, we realized that there were many different types of spiders all around us. It made me nervous, because I was in unfamiliar territory, and I had no clue if these guys were poisonous or not. At any rate though, the spiders made me squeamish, because they were no itty spiders like we have here in NY, these suckers were like the size of my hand! Damn things could probably catch birds in their webs!
At any rate, we next followed a sign that led to Ben's Cave.

We didn't get to actually go in too deep because there were absolutely no lights on, and I was afraid of what, or who could be in the cave. Not only that the entrance had a nice 4 foot spanned out cobweb, so I backed off pretty quickly. Next visit I plan on doing a tour.
I absolutely love, love, loved Lucyan National Park. A spectacular, secluded wonderland. However, across the street was where the real gem was, and I was saving that for last.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Unda Da Sea...

We spent hours looking around underwater, and snapping photographs of all sorts of tropical fish. Out in the distance, just about 30 feet off shore we came across a large coral reef. The hotel actually added a large buoy in the water to make it easier for people to find this wonder.

I was in love. If given the opportunity, I'd trade my lungs for a pair of gills. In the reef we saw fish that were 10 times the size of what we were used to seeing in salt water tanks. Puffer fish the size of footballs, zebra fish the size of pancakes, and schools of rainbow colored fish in the thousands would come quickly dashing by our heads.

The best thing about everything was that the fish were barely shy. Some were curious and would come close to get a look at you,

others would hide behind rocks and peek their heads out to take a look at you, others more bashful, but still didn't scurry to hide from us.

The fish were the magical, but the corals in every odd shape, size and color were the magic. The charm, the underwater rainbow of life all dwelling within the coral formations.

In the distance on the very first day, I spotted my first sting ray. This wouldn't be the last of them either. I saw a different type nearly every time in the water.

Take a Closer Look...

Wow, where the water ends, and sky begins is anybodies guess....

Before jumping into the glowing aquamarine colored waters, you have to really sit there for a moment and take it in. In the distance the blue hues seem to blend in with shades of glowing greens and blues. Like a rainbow of colors, and it's like nothing else on earth. I would refer to it often times while there as the ocean of Kryptonite, because truly that is the only thing I could compare this ocean of beauty to. A gem. Rare, special, and exotic.

After taking in the colors, I put on my mask and slowly made my way into the water. It's truly amazing because the water is just as warm as the air...there is no 'getting used to the water' in the Bahama's...the water is possibly warmer than the air, and it feels divine on your skin.

Under my feet I could feel hard lumps that I thought were just rocks. Upon inspection I came to realize that I was standing on a graveyard of broken coral pieces, beautiful seashells, and tons of snail and baby conch shells. I felt bad for a hot minute, till I realized that this shell graveyard was dead.

However just as I was about to scratch this large area of shell and coral scraps off as dead... I realized many of these mini conch shells were moving about. Many of these tropical shells were homes to none other than hermit crabs. Hermit crabs like I had never seen! In NY our hermits are relatively small, and house themselves in black snail shells. Some grow large, but primarily the larger ones are rarer sights.

Here in the tropical waters, hermit crabs looked as tropical as their surroundings. Some were pale white, and looked like they were covered in frost! Others were near fire colored with long slim claws.

I inspected this seashell graveyard for about an hour, and realized that it was not as I first imagined. It was far from dead. With a close eye I was able to see hundreds of different types of crabs scurrying about the shells, tons of hermit crabs in all different types of shells, shapes, and sizes, and when I stood really, really still I was shocked to find that baby tropical fish housed themselves this close to shore. I was no less than a 3 feet out, and all of this was delivered. Truly, and amazing, amazing experience.

The entire time while cruising the shoreline, I was also being followed by odd large angel fish. At first they actually scared me, because as soon as one comes along, you have a whole school of them surrounding you. These fish alone make you feel totally out of your element, and it's spectacular.

Dolphins at Unexo, Grand Bahama Island, Flipping Video!

Dolphin Moonwalking at Unexo, Grand Bahama Island Video

Stingray Right Off Shore at Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach; Video

Puffer Fish That Lives In The Larger Reef At Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach

Beautiful Video Of Fish At Reef on Grand Bahamas Island