by Barbara Eller (March 2013)
The weather has been beautiful with deep blue skies, temps in the mid to high 80s, and wind. We have had some high winds the past week-and-a-half, too high for diving and also too high for some cruise ships to make it into port. Patrick keeps telling me how beautiful the sea is with the white caps rising high on the tops of the waves, then breaking over the blues and greens of the water. I have to agree; it is beautiful but way too rough for any diving. The port captain has had the red flag out every day.
Each morning I check to see how the wind will be for the following days, hoping it will begin to drop. FINALLY!!!! Saturday looks like it will be a good day to dive. I give Luis a call. I have been diving with Luis and Luciana; they work at Kabah-na, a resort that is just a kilometer from where we are staying this year. It is located south of Mahahual and the reefs are pristine.
Luis says Saturday will be a perfect day to do something special. So I am on the beach at 9 a.m. sharp, waiting for the boat. It will be just the two of us so we are going to a site called Faro Viejo, in front of the old lighthouse in the north. The wind has really died down and the water is calm. As the boat gently rocks, we put our gear on and do our buddy check. Luis brought his camera and also a spear gun; he wants to get some lionfish for lunch. We plan on doing a back-roll off the boat then will be dropping down about 90 feet.
As we drop down I see three large barracuda below us. The area is different from our usual dive sites. There is no wall but gently sloping white sand with coral scattered around, some smaller pieces of coral, and others very large. Even at this depth there is so much color in the coral and the fish life is unbelievable. Two of the largest angel fishes I have ever seen just swam past us. We slowly begin our dive, Luis looking for lionfish and I am checking out all the coral for little creatures. The basket coral are not the large ones I am used to seeing but shorter, and three or four growing together. We swim over to a group of fish having breakfast at a nearby coral. There are five Queen Angel fish among the other yellow, orange, and blue fish nibbling on the coral. Then we both see some large lionfish on the other side. Luis slips around and is able to spear two of them and a smaller one. As he is getting his spear ready to use again, a moray eel sticks his head out of the coral and looks around. He spies a lionfish, goes after it, but misses. Returning to his little coral home without lunch he then sees the lionfish that Luis has caught and starts coming after them. Moray eels are the only fish we know to hunt and eat the lionfish. Quickly Luis cuts the smaller one free and before you can blink, the eel lunges, grabs the lionfish and is back in his home. We left before he decided to take all of our catch. (Watch this video to see the eel in action.)
We were swimming over a large area of sand when I saw something strange over to my left. As I got closer to it, I saw a small coral with a fish next to it. It was a lionfish asleep on the sand, his spines were lying flat against his body, and he was white. At first I thought it was dead, it looked so ghost like. (After the dive, Luis explained to me that because the fish was touching the sand, it adapted to that color as camouflage.) Luis speared the fish and, as soon as he did, I watched as it returned to its original color, beginning at the head and slowly moving back to the tail. The awesome things we see while diving.
We continued on exploring our private aquarium, finding some brittle starfish, a very small juvenile Spotted Drum, and a little boxfish. Just before it was time to end our dive, we saw a large grouper asleep on the sand. I swam over to get his picture; Luis said it was about 17 kilos (35-40 pounds). At a nearby coral I saw a small lionfish and signaled Luis. As he got close he handed me his spear gun. Watch the video and see me spear my first lionfish. Then Luis signaled to begin our assent for a safety stop.
Back at Kabah-na we rinsed our gear and hung it up, ready for our next day of diving. Luis, Luciana and I relaxed on the beach with drinks and some nibbles while reliving our dive. Before leaving, Luis cleaned the lionfish and was kind enough to give me some fillets to take home for dinner.
Kabah-na Resort has cabañas and a wonderful restaurant on a beautiful beach. I hope sometime soon you have a chance to visit Kabah-na, meet Luis and Luciana, and have them take you on some wonderful and special dives. And just maybe I will join you.
Until then ...
Many thanks to Luciana Gabarini and Luis Amezcoa Benitez, who gave me permission to use his video.