Drifting in a line where you can see from one end of the group to the other is a difficult feat when done in the murky waters of the UK, but in the Bahamas it’s easy! Entertained by a few sharks and turtles, we drifted for a considerable distance in fast, clear flowing water. It also gave the opportunity to muck around with each other, like riding the tank like a horse jockey, forming skydive stars and have divers diving in and out of them, making it one of the better drifts I have done in a long time.
Now, I don’t have much live-aboard experience, as I only have done 2 of them previously, but we were asked by Mark Evans to join him on a live-aboard Aqua Cat cruise around the Exumas Cay Islands in the Bahamas last November, a request that we just could not refuse
Well two weeks ago it was time to put down the tools of the trade and swap them for some diving gear.
We flew on a Saturday morning to Nassau straight from Heathrow on a BA flight. Arriving at the Nassau International Airport, we were greeted with the smallest airport queue in the world! We were done and dusted in the blink of an eye and standing outside with our bags, waiting for the taxi ride to the boat.
The boat itself is a purpose build catamaran which boasts 3 levels. It has a large spacious dive deck with ample room to store your gear on the rear of the boat, large bedrooms and a massive dining room come lounge with attached alfresco deck, and a large upper sun deck. Both the dining room and the sun deck boast free help your self beer pumps and soda fountains
Diving consisted of a “late” morning start with the first dive around the 09:00 am mark, (after breakfast!), followed by an 11:00 am ish dive. Then lunch, with a third dive at 02:00 pm with small break then a dive at 04:00 pm. Dinner was always promptly served at 06:00 pm and to finish the day’s diving a night dive at 09:00 pm. After which the beer or cocktails flowed freely.
Food was plentiful, a combination (fusion) of American (North and South) and European Cuisine, interspersed with the local catch of lobsters. (or crayfish in normal terms)
Diving was a combination of deep wall dives in the mornings to shallow reef dives late at night with an increment of shallower and shallower reefs as the week progressed. There was always plenty to see, anything from nudibranches, flamingo tong snails, big eyed jacks to sharks. Every dive boasted a wide array of different species of crustaceans and fish. Diving was easy with lots of exits on the boat. The girls preferred the back entrances low to the water line, as a common entry point while the guys, used the 6 foot side drop, all making it easier to exit the boat en masse. We had a large mixed group of Northern Americans (USA and Canadians) and Europeans. We also had a mix of diving qualifications ranging from freshly new open waters with 6 dives to the battle hardy 5000+ divers. This mix gave a good interaction and lots of fun underwater and above!
The highlight of the trip was diving with the Sharks during the Shark feed. The bait was lowered and secured to the anchoring point of the boat and we sat in a semi circle around the bait ball, watching small juvenile reef sharks tearing into the block of ice. Now we were at a maximum depth of about 10 metres, but boy did we get hit by deco, some more than others. I will mention no names but you know who you are! 😉 xxx. So compulsory hanging on the line and sucking the spare tank was a bit of a must when you have 27 minutes of deco to do. Most of use got away with 5 to 7 minutes though 🙂
Another fab dive was diving at Sea Station 3000(tm) or the Coba Cage. It’s a big big octagonal trapezoid submerged fish aggregation device that is anchored at 30 metres to the sea bed and sits just under the waves, just shy of 10 metres. It’s a massive structure and with the recent hurricane activity, the top part netting was torn away, leaving a large semi saucer shape floating in mid water! The sheer scale of the structure is immense!
We not only explored the underwater landscape, but above water, as excursions were organised on a regular basis to the land to explore hidden beaches and see endangered wild life. One of the excursions led to an island inhabited with grape loving Iguanas that would come running to the beach when they heard the first sign of the RIB. Grapes were fed to them on sticks, but the occasional toe was also preferred, making the human attached to it jump higher than the Iguanas could!
The last excursion was the Marine Park HQ, exploring the island it sits on, with its azure waters and powdery parrot fish poo beaches. It was a fantastic end to the trip and before we knew it we were back in Heathrow, and back in the hustle and bustle of the human word.
As I said, I don’t have a lot of live-aboard experience, but this was a 5 star floating divecenter/come hotel!! Ace!!
Hajo and Sarah