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  • Steve

Sharks, Seahorses, Juvenile Spotted Trunkfish & the Demon Eel

City Dogs have been at it again, diving on the north side of Roatan with the amazing crew over at Subway Watersports at the Turqouise Bay Dive Resort. The day before yesterday, we went to the White Wall dive site in the morning, followed by the appropriately named Sponges after a thorough surface interval noshing on pineapple, soaking up some of the amazing Honduran sun, and chatting with our charming group of dive professionals. Divemaster in training Ray was a great guide through both the sites, navigating the complex, sometimes powerful currents on the north side of the island with practice, ease and occasional guidance from soon to be specialty instructor Hallie.

A couple of days ago, we had the distinct pleasure of doing the shark dive in the capital of this big, small island, Coxen Hole. Andrea and I both did this dive years ago when we got our Advanced Open Water (AOW) certificiations from PADI (Professional Association of Dive Instructors) at Splash Inn (shout out to Fernando Cortucci-- the funniest instructor, ever).

This time we did the Roatan shark dive as part of our Instructor Development Cource (IDC) Shark Conservation Specialty. There was quite a bit of current out there, the wind was pretty strong out of the southeast, which made our entrance and exits less than ideal.

It was an utterly enthralling experience nonetheless. Swimming with something like twelve or thirteen large black-tipped reef sharks is simply put unforgettable. Words can describe it, but fail to do justice to the amazing sights unfolding right in front of your eyes. Video does a better job but still falls woefully short of capturing the real core essence of the event. Some things need to be experienced to be understood.It isn’t scary, the best word I can come up with is majestic.

One of the black tipped reef sharks was trailing a long line of fishing wire from the bottom right corner of her mouth, and I almost wanted to reach over and pull the wicked barb out. We’ve all seen a video where the guy pulls the fishing hook from the shark, right?

We all want to be him, to help out a creature maimed by the greed of mankind like that, but I wisely kept my hands tucked tightly in while I was out swimming with these gorgeous creatures with big toothy mouths. I like my hands, I need them to do lots of things, like writing, pulling lines, carrying tanks, washing dishes, tying knots, etc.

The fluid grace these sharks exhibit as they move through the sea, the cold dark intelligence in their eyes is something that absolutely has to be seen to be believed. They are grace in the water personified and make the best diver look like a clumsy, overweighted student.

Having said that, it was the resident goliath grouper, the one that the divemasters have decided to call Lulu, that got the majority of the “small amount” of fish they bring out in a small battered white bucket. It was something to see this grouper deftly outmaneuver these lithe sharks -- things we’ve been conditioned into thinking of as mindless killing machines by things like Jaws and Shark Week.

Seeing them move through the water -- swimming with them -- it is virtually impossible to come to anything less than the conclusion that sharks are, like us, flawed and imperfect, saddled with their own unique burdens, each with their own stories to tell, sadly forced to compete with tough little groupers like Lulu.

Seeing it for the second time, it was also a little unsettling because feeding apex predators like sharks in what is ostensibly a marine park conservation area feels like a contradiction in terms, but this is Central America; doublethink is quotidian.

Of course, we’ll get the video ... on DVD, of course -- I mean, who still uses DVDs or distributes media on them in 2018? I was really hoping they’d upgraded with the times, but it’s Honduras, so I feel lucky I’m not getting a VHS tape.

We’ll share more of the video that the crew over at Shark Dive Roatan did of our amazing experience with the sharks once we get the DVD and have it uploaded to Youtube, but in the meantime, hit us up in the comments, or let us know what you’d do if you were surrounded by thirteen hungry female black tipped reef sharks.

Yesterday, we went over to the south side of the island, to just outside Little French Key cut, where we did two amazing dives, also with the Subway Watersports crew. The fact that they have shops on both sides of the island is just one of the things that makes Subway such a great dive shop. The people who work there are what really make Subway such a fabulous place. Led by the charming younger Darren, we found a seahorse on the first dive, in addition to numerous other amazing marine life encounters.

On the second dive, I saw my favorite thing ever, the juvenile spotted trunkfish, “the pea” -- they’re a tiny little round spotted ball with eyes and little fins madly fluttering in the current. I got a good long look at it, but when I tried to motion for the grouip to come, when I looked back down, it was gone. So no video of it, you'll just have to settle for Shawn Jackson's photograph. So it goes.

We also saw a tiny, like one inch juvenile slender filefish hiding in the soft corals, it was a great day of diving, full of both big and small sea life, the kind of stuff we love to see.

Today, we went out on the north side to Rockstar, where we were treated to the demon eel absolutely begging for food -- it’s either terrifying or cute depending on your state of mind, but it’s also a very real reminder that human activity has a very real effect upon the entire marine ecosystem. We also did Milton’s Wall, where we saw more amazing marine life near Turquoise Bay. Simply put, it was another amazing day of diving, full of the type of experiences that define our reality here on Roatan.

I you want to swim with the sharks, or have a once in a lifetime sailing adventure, City Dogs Sailing can make it happen.

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