November 15th, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

Located just off the shore of Great Dog Island, a dive site called The Chimney was our first dive of the trip. The site includes a series of canyons and an allegedly awesome arch that we didn’t actually see due to the current. I was having some strobe issues with my underwater camera rig, so a bunch of the photos from this site are presented in black and white rather than overwhelming blue. Highlights included lovely canyon walls, schools of creole wrasses and some interesting underwater topography. It was exciting to dive on our own on an unfamiliar site and a taste of great things to come. As chance would have it, dives at Great Dog Island bookended our trip. Due to the swell, we returned to the south side of the island on our last day to dive at Coral Gardens.

November 15th, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

The coverage of our recent expedition to the British Virgin Islands begins at the site of our arrival, The Baths in Virgin Gorda. This well-loved area is essentially a beach covered in gigantic boulders, creating a variety of grottoes and nooks both above and below the water line.

We explored both on foot and on snorkel, and there were plenty of extremely shallow areas full of life. Fish were abundant and tiny orange anemones were often clustered in shady areas and crevices. Madam J found a gorgeous underwater arch we were able to swim through, and nearby I discovered a small cave with an underwater entrance leading to an air-filled dome. Judging by the number of names and initials carved into the ceiling, I was not the first to discover it.

April 22nd, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

I’m admittedly quite a bit behind in my posting after spending so much time on the Love the Lagoon fundraising event, but I did want to post the article from SXMFaxInfo about our mangrove marine life survey:

December 30th, 2010 by Marc AuMarc

Our next day of snorkeling expeditions brought us to two shallow shipwrecks. The first was in Cay Bay, a boxy, barge-type wreck. The visibility was generally poor due to the swell, and the wreck was not too picturesque, but it was still worth checking out. The bay is currently being developed for a new hotel, so who knows what the area will look like in a year or two.

Traffic kept us from the south shore beaches, so we had lunch and then did a quick snorkel of the wreck in Galisbay. Again, visibility was poor, but it was still pretty fun to snorkel the half-submerged wreck.

December 30th, 2010 by Marc AuMarc

On Monday we managed to visit four snorkeling sites. The first one was Gibbs Bay, which is located on the Dutch side between Dawn Beach and Guana Bay. It’s quite out of the way and also really nice. There were loads of soft corals, mixed schools of blue tang and surgeonfish and even some living elkhorn corals.

Next, we headed up to Dawn Beach and snorkeled the North side of the bay. Near the beach, there were some algae-covered patches of dead coral that were not that interesting. If you swim far enough to reach the outer side of the reef, there are a few soft corals, but overall it wasn’t that exciting.

Next we went to Coralita, the beach at Baie Lucas. The bay is relatively shallow, with sea grass and sand which gives way to some coral formations as you swim out. It seemed like a perfect place to see spotted eagle rays, and we did see one. There were quite a few nice soft corals there as well, and the bay is relatively protected, making it fairly calm.

Our last stop was at Le Galion, which is extremely shallow and calm. We swam out around the north corner of Baie de l’Embouchure and encountered a shallow area filled with sea urchins. In some slightly deeper areas there were a handful of living corals, and on our way back we found a couple spotted eagle rays feeding in the sea grass.

December 30th, 2010 by Marc AuMarc

Team members Chris and Theresa had tipped us off about this snorkeling spot during the summer, but this was the first time we checked it out ourselves, and it was quite fantastic. From the northernmost end of Orient Bay, we swam around the rocky outcrop. The first area was okay, but after passing a small sandy area we came to a much better area with soft coral-encrusted rocks and loads of fish. There were colorful encrusting hard corals and large areas of what seem to be mat zoanthids. As in many relatively shallow areas, the remains of large elkhorn corals were common. It was the first really great locale we visited on this expedition.

December 30th, 2010 by Marc AuMarc

On Christmas Eve, we tried snorkeling at the southern end of Orient Bay near Club O. Off the beach, the sea floor is mostly a mix of sand and sea grass patches. Near the point, there are rocks and coral skeletons as well as coral debris that has washed up and accumulated there. It wasn’t outstanding, but there were a variety of fish and a few living soft corals.

From there, we decided to check out the mangroves and shallow waters in the southern part of Baie de l’Embouchure. The visibility amongst the mangroves was mediocre, but we did have a nice time in the Bay. One highlight was the groups of urchins that gave cover to juvenile fish. It’s definitely a key nursery area for juvenile fish as well as young spiny lobsters.

December 30th, 2010 by Marc AuMarc

Our next stop was the Little Bay side of Fort Amsterdam. A swim from the beach at the Divi Little Bay resort brought us to a platform and a few boats where there is a sea trek underwater walkway and a sunken submarine that is probably at least 40 feet long. Unfortunately, a large swell made visibility poor, but we did hear that they planned to sink a small helicopter there in the coming weeks. A highlight was a rock formation where brown boobies were resting. We have to return when the viz is better.

December 30th, 2010 by Marc AuMarc

We are currently on an extended snorkeling research mission to document as many snorkeling locations on St. Martin as possible. On our first day, we started with the west side of Mullet Bay, which was not too good, just a few rocks with some algae and a smattering of tropical fishes. We did see a lionfish there, though:

Our next stop was Le Trou de David, but the swell was too big there to enter safely. Instead, we tried the pool between La Belle Creole and Pointe de Bluff. The pool is quite large and varies in depth from a few inches to a few feet. Inside the pool it was calm, with a mix of seagrass, sandy bottom and stones. Wildlife included sea cucumbers, juvenile fishes, stingrays and barracuda.

November 2nd, 2010 by Marc AuMarc

On our last day of diving, I did a couple things differently. Our first dive was a pinnacle we hadn’t done yet, and I’ll have to check Jenn’s dive log for the name. On this dive, I didn’t bring my camera, which was really nice after diving with a bulky camera for every dive of the trip so far.

On our next two dives, I had my macro lens, so finally there are a few portraits of fish and other invertebrates. The second dive was Man o’ War Shoals, which was the only exact repeat I did on the trip, but it’s a wonderful site. Highlights for me included a golden coney and a white and red nudibranch that Kelly spotted.

On our last dive, we jumped in a the shallow mooring at Tent Reef and the long dive time gave us the chance to see many wonderful things. Highlights for me included large patches of garden eels, a half-dozen lettuce sea slugs and a basket star curled up on a soft coral.