Nevis: Dives: June 2011

Alright readers we have all made it halfway through another week and things are looking good. This week we are staying in an exotic location but this one is a little bit warmer than the last one. How do the West Indies sound? Caribbean anyone?

At one point in time I was able to go on company family trips with my step-dad and his company. One of these trips was a week on the island of Nevis in the Caribbean. My family and I all have our SCUBA certifications and wanted to dive, so my mom (Gayle) and step-dad booked us three nights in the one hotel on the island that offered diving (Oualie Beach Resort). This was the cutest place. Each room was its own little pastel painted cabin with a sunroom. The trees, some with a hammock strung between them, were ringed with conch shells. The best thing though was that you were already on the beach when you walked out of your cabin and seventy-five feet later your toes were in the sea. I loved it, more than the Four Seasons that we stayed at later that week. The Four Seasons is fantastic but you miss the uniqueness of a country in a hotel like that.

We went on three, two-tank dives over the next three days and everything was gorgeous.  Brooke and I like to mess with each other and she got me pretty good on one dive. Here is my mom’s description on the event, she still loves to tell this story: I was partnered with the dive master and was swimming a little ahead of my mom and sister. Brooke looks down and sees the head, mid section, and claws of a dead lobster. Mom said that she could see the calculation on Brooke’s face as she looked at the dead lobster then looked at me. My sister picks up this lobster then swims up until she is to the right of me but in my blind spot before putting the head and claws of the lobster into my line of sight. I see it and freak out because suddenly LOBSTER. As I have said in a previous post, you can scream under water but you can also laugh. Mom and Brooke were giggling like kids at my reaction.

On another dive, I hear this banging on my tank, looking over I see my mom (who is on my right) pointing at something on my left. Turning my head I about jumped out of my skin again because just a few feet from me were Tarpon. Their scales shining silver-blue and the size of silver dollars. Mom thought my reaction was pretty amusing that time too.

On one dive I looked down and resting on the coral was a sea turtle. I grew up seeing freshwater turtles, snapping turtles, and box turtles. I never considered them beautiful or graceful but the sea turtle was both. In part it was the was the way that beautiful animal moved through that azure waters, and unhurried gliding swim away from curious humans over the coral beds and bright fish.

Our second to last dive in Nevis was a wreck dive. This was an actually wreck and not just a boat that was sunk for dive purposes. A bit of background here. Nevis is one of two islands in a two-island country that gained its independence. The other island is St. Kitts. In 1970 the islands were using a river boat ferry to go between the two islands. The river boat portion is important is because this craft was not meant for the seas and parts were difficult to come by. If I remember the history correctly there were a number of farmers from Nevis on St. Kitts for a market during Emancipation Day. The farmers all wanted to get back in time for the celebrations and the ferry was overloaded. I never managed to figure out exactly what happened, every person who told the tale had a different theory about the cause. No matter the cause the ferry began to sink. The bench cushions were supposed to float and thus could be used as flotation devices. With the way the ferry sank they somehow got stuck. Many of the Nevis farmers died that day, so many that it changed the islands. Low numbers of farmers, less production results in more imports to the island and higher prices. I actually heard this story several times over the course of my stay on Nevis and always learned something new.

Now that you have some background back to the dive. This was our first dive on our third day. Before we descend our dive masters gives us some of the information I’ve given you, he tells us the dive depth (about 80 ft.), and that there are still human remains in the wreck. Mom kind of freaks out at this and decides not to do the dive. The rest of us go down and we start out a little bit of a swim away. Depth perception is difficult underwater, especially when there is nothing to reference. Little light filters through at 80 feet underwater and silt and sediment decreases the visibility. Also, there was no coral where we were diving, just endless swaths of pale sand. Suddenly, out of this gloom is the ghostly prow of a boat. Seeing it was rather disconcerting: eerie and silent on the pale ocean floor. Despite its creepy vibe the wreck was a haven for sea life. Fish darted in and out of old windows, morays glared out at us from holes on what had been the deck. My sister scowled back at them; after Hawaii she still doesn’t like eels.

As we swam over top the wreck, the dive master indicated two objects in a fairly deep hole on the old boat. He then pointed to his head and his arm. The objects were a skull and arm bone (not sure which one, I didn’t ask). My understanding is that the bones were left as a memorial for the dead.

Our dive master on this trip was fantastic and one of the things that made him so was that he kept handing us live sea creatures. As we were over the upper deck he puts this thing in my hands that looked like a mass of slimy seaweed. Turns out it was some member of the starfish family. Later he handed my sister a species of clawless lobster, she then passed it to me. One thing about lobsters is that they can move quickly by using their tails to move water like a jet. Thus when you hold them you have one hand on their back and another on their tail, keeping it closed. I forget to hold the tail and the lobster rocketed out of my hand and back into its hidey hole.

SCUBA diving is a bast, it allows you explore a completely different world and get close to amazing animals that you would normally only see in a book or behind the glass of an aquarium. The one thing to always remember when diving or snorkeling is to respect the fragile environment and the animals that call it home.

I hope that you enjoyed a dive in the waters between Nevis and St. Kitts. Please join me Saturday for more tales of this glorious tropical island.

                     Brooke post dive. Photo by Gayle Youngblood

                         Mom and me. Photo by Brooke McGee

Note on the pictures: you will notice that Brooke is in a full wet suit, that is because she gets cold really easily. Where as mom and I only wore rash-guards under our BCDs.

**Featured Image by Gayle Youngblood

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