Pinel Islet and Little Key

Pinel Islet and Little Key are two small islands in the marine reserve. Pinel is a popular snorkeling destination, while Little Key is seldom visited. Strong winds and surf over the past week left the conditions less than optimal, with relatively poor visibility on both sides of Pinel. We snorkeled in three locations: the backside (sea side) of Pinel, the front side (St. Martin-facing) side of Pinel, and a circumnavigation of Little Key.

I took my new 85mm macro lens underwater for the first time, and it wasn’t the most practical choice for the situation. As you can see from the photos, it has the potential to be great to shoot small, flighty fishes. At the same time, it is difficult to use (as any lens would be) for snorkeling as it is hard to maintain a fixed position. Debris in the water also made it difficult to focus at times, when the camera focused on the debris rather than the subject.

Still, we had an excellent exploration, particularly when we swam out to Little Key for the first time. The coral there is generally healthier than that in the designated snorkeling area of Pinel. We found a scorpionfish, schools of young grunts with a few yellowtail snappers mixing in, trumpetfish and many other creatures. The general topography is shallow corals mixed with sea plants on the side facing Pinel, which shifts to sandy and grassy shallows facing St. Martin. Wrapping around the island, facing St. Barths, there is deeper water, maybe 20-25 feet with various soft corals and sponges, often growing on the dead skeletons of large elkhorn corals.

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