by Natalie Novak (January 2012)
After I had been gone for a couple of months in low season, I finally returned to Akumal in late November. When I first got back to town I was so excited to go diving for the first time in two months. Being dry that long always makes me nervous, like a smoker craving cigarettes. It is always such a relief to get back in the water, that I have come to define my feelings for diving as nothing short of an addiction.
The first people to dive with me after my return were old friends, Scott and Kiko. Ivan and I trained them to dive years ago and it is so much fun to see how comfortable and happy they are in the water now. So my first few dives were with old friends and a new BCD (Buoyancy Control Device or, as I often call them, an inflatable vest. I think they have such an intimidating name because they were invented by men in the Navy in the 1950s.)
So Ivan, Scott, Kiko and I jumped off the boat and into some lovely dives together! We drifted with the current as I pointed out animals that seemed as familiar as old friends. In a few days of diving we drifted past green, and hawksbill turtles, garden eels and spotted drums. One species of parrotfish was mating in a great cloud and tiny damselfish fiercely defended their homes in the coral, like tiny, silent, angry Chihuahuas!
On our last dive together, we drifted out over a long sand bar. We were in 40 feet of water in front of Akumal Bay, between the dive sites called Lobster and South-point. We spotted stingrays. I pointed out razorfish, who bury themselves in the sand at the blink of an eye.
And then I found something that I had never seen before, and I wish I could tell you what it is, but I still don't know. It looked kind of like a giant anemone, 40 times bigger then any anemone I have seen in Akumal. The biggest one of these mystery things was at least four feet across. Each of the "fingers" swayed with the movement of the waves (much like my braids). They looked soft and jelly like, though no one touched them. When I looked closely, in each finger there were some evenly spaced white dots. This made me think that these things may be eggs or developing baby somethings. There were three of these organisms in total: two smaller ones, that were a foot around, and the bigger one which was four feet around. And fingers seemed to be breaking off the bigger one, which looked as though it were falling apart from the center outward. I have asked divers who have been diving in Akumal for 20 and 30 years if they can identify these creatures, and no one can, so they are my mystery of the deep—or at least my mystery at 40 feet of depth.
If you want to explore Akumal underwater with Ivan and me, check out Dive with Natalie & Ivan.