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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Week 4 at Pez Maya: incredible underwater spots, manatee glimpse and some weather problems!

Week 4 at Pez Maya started off really, really well but then kind of ground to a halt due to bad weather and a whole host of other problems.

On Friday we all did two dives. One lucky group had a totally amazing dive and spotted all sorts of exciting creatures. On the boat on the way to the dive site they saw a green turtle and a hawksbill turtle surfacing to breathe. They were doing a coral spot, practicing coral ID, and during the dive saw two southern stingrays, a golden tailed moray eel and a 2m nurse shark!!! It was just chilling out under a ledge and everyone got a really good look at it. It was amazing! Another group saw a nurse shark that day too (at the same site, so possibly the same one) and another group saw a lion fish. Lionfish are beautiful animals with big frilly fins but they are bad news. They are not native to the Caribbean and have no natural predators here so their numbers are growing unchecked. Apparently they started appearing after a hurricane destroyed an aquarium a few years ago. They are extremely venomous so there isn’t a great deal we can do about them but we record sightings and pass the information on to one of our local partners to monitor their spread.

On Saturday we did our usual beach clean and kitchen clean on base and also participated in a beach clean further down the coast. The beach at Pez Maya is generally fairly clean because we clean and survey it each week, but this new beach doesn’t get cleaned regularly and was an absolute tip. There was a vast amount of rubbish and it was quite possibly the longest beach in the world (well it seemed that way at the time), but we got there in the end. It’s so sad to see such a beautiful beach in such a sorry state. It was a beautiful sunny day and the sand and sea and palm trees were looking perfect and then there was all this rubbish all over the place. Anyway, we cleaned it and surveyed the rubbish that we found and then returned to base for our Saturday fun dives. The aim here is to dive Monday to Friday doing one or two dives each day for either dive training, coral or fish training or actual surveys and then each Saturday we do a dive purely for fun. It was quite exciting to be let loose on the reef unsupervised to explore!

Sunday is our day off so we took full advantage and went adventuring. A group of us (Peter, Jessie, Jenny, Faried, Deepak, Erin & Laura) went to Dos Ojos, a cenote near Tulum. In this part of Mexico there are huge river systems underground. Occasionally parts of these systems break the surface in the form of cenotes. These vary hugely in appearance from ponds surrounded by mangroves right through to breathtaking cave systems like those at Dos Ojos. The water there was so clear that it looked like there was nothing there at all. You could see for miles and the caverns were full of amazing rock formations. It was so pretty!

Meanwhile Jo, Tia and Katie went out “deep sea fishing” with folk from Boca Paila, the fishing lodge up the road. That was the plan anyway. What actually happened was that they spent the day fishing and not catching very much in the lagoon. They weren’t impressed but they did catch a brief glimpse of a manatee so it wasn’t all bad!

From here the week took a bit of a dive. On Monday we suffered from some key-related car troubles so we could only do one dive each. We couldn’t dive on Tuesday either because the sea was too rough to push the boats out. On Wednesday things were looking up. We pushed the boats out and the first wave set off to do their dives, but by the time they returned the wind had picked up so the rest of the day’s diving was canceled. On Wednesday we couldn’t dive due to the fact that the boat key broke off in the ignition (not had much luck with keys this week really) and by the time that was fixed the wind had picked up anyway. Thursday was too windy for diving too so all in all it hasn’t been a great week for diving, but fingers crossed the weather will improve for the week ahead.

Despite the lack of diving we have been kept busy. Chris, Faried, Aaron and Jenny planned and taught the first English lesson in Punta Allen on Thursday. There were about 30 kids and they learned how to introduce themselves, how to say what time it is and learned a wee bit about verbs to. Once their brains were all tired out they had a game of football and sang some songs after which the kids all launched themselves at Aaron and climbed on him! Another group paid a visit to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve Visitor Centre this week to learn more about the reserve in which the base is situated. They saw some of the animals native to the area and managed to fit in a kayaking session too.

Back on base everyone has now passed their fish and coral tests and we’re working our way through the extra information we need to carry out the surveys. Those who are interested are working their way through the rescue diver theory and a few folk went to a cenote on Thursday to carry out some of the Rescue Diver practical skills.

It certainly hasn’t been an ideal weather week but hopefully we’ll spend a bit more time in the water next week. Still, plenty of things to do on base! Fingers crossed!