Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Dive The Tourists Missed

For about the last month this big red lionfish has been in the same basic area. He's either tucked into a hole or just out floating on the currents. I went out Saturday afternoon with Doug and Robin, the latest victim of Axe Murderer Tours, and we headed out hole #1. I watched 2 groups of tourists all go above the lionfish, never seeing it. Part of having a great dive and seeing lots of cool things is being able to spot them from a distance and knowing what to look for. I've seen tour guides and tourists miss turtles all the time too, they just aren't used to looking for the shape of the shell, and they miss them because the turtles blend in with the bottom as far as color goes.The one particular bunch of tourists I saw stood out to me because every single one of them had cameras, some of them very fancy and expensive cameras. They had just missed a photo opportunity with the lionfish and now they just swam over the spot with the bubble coral or Plerogyra sinuosa. Most people think this is a huge egg mass, but it is actually a type of coral. Each of the little sacks has a very cool pattern on it and it makes for great pictures.And sure enough, the dive guide took them right over the spot that this giant clam is tucked away but never took them down and showed it to them. By now I was wondering just what exactly he was showing them and what they were getting pictures of. They were always a good 20-30' above the bottom just looking down on everything. That's fine if you just want to see the big fish, but you will never get to see these little guys.These little fish share holes with the shrimp you see next to it. The shrimp are very skittish and won't come out if you're making any movements or noise, so you need to just lay there for a minute very quietly and they'll give you some great photo ops. Then I watched as they went back into the Grotto, and sure enough, they stayed about 15-20' off the bottom, which meant they never saw any of the nudibranchs.If they had a dive guide who took the time to get to know the Grotto a little better, they might have been able to see these mating Halgerda guahan, yup they're at it again. These guys really aren't that hard to find, but you need to know where to look and what to look for, because they do blend in fairly well. I think these are some of the most fascinating creatures down there, but about the only time that the tourists get pictures of them is when I wave them over and point them out to them. And because the dive guides don't take the time to look for the little stuff and give their paying customers what they want, they miss out on pictures like this one of a Halgerda malesso silhouetted against the blue water and sky in the background.The Grotto truly has some amazing things to show off, but I just wonder how many of them are ever captured on tourists cameras and taken back with them. If this group that I followed last Saturday is any indication, they are missing 95% of the really cool stuff to see, and I think that's a shame.

By the way, I have changed the way I am doing my blog now, and if you click on any of the pictures it will take you to that picture on my http://www.saipandiver.smugmug.com/ site. You can then buy the picture there by clicking on the "buy : this photo" icon with the little shopping cart next to it, located right above the picture. You can choose the sizes and textures you want and Smugmug does an excellent job of printing them and get them out to you right away. They make pretty cool gifts if you want to give somebody a little bit of the island flavor. Maybe the dive shops should start giving them to all their customers since they don't point out all these cool things to their tourists!

1 comment:

scubatripp said...

It's a function of experience and the size of the dive group. Many, many of the divers being taken to the Grotto should not be there in the first place especially in large groups.

If the beginner divers, dive shops and guides would take the time to dive Lau Lau, Obyan, and say Shipwreck before they venture to the Grotto they would no doubt see a lot more and be a hell of a lot more comfortable (and thus safe) in the water.

It is extremely difficult for an instructor to take 7 or 8 or more highly overweighted, beginner divers down close enough to see much of the stuff that's down there. It is unlikely that the instructor is missing all off this action but rather that they don't want to deal with the consequenses of showing a big group of unskilled divers a small object near the bottom.

What they should be more concerned with is not taking them to the Grotto until they are ready. This in the long term is good for everyone. The customers are more comfortable and relaxed and will no doubt shift their attention from trying to stay alive or off the bottom to looking around and seeing things thus resulting in an even better experience. The dive shops and guides can make additional money by selling additional check out or refresher dives and believe me if you stand your ground and say it's for safety new divers will respect that especially if no one else will take them.

I made a post here (http://saipanscuba.blogspot.com/2008/04/its-saturday-morning-my-first-real.html about a similar group to the one your talking about and it really is scary what these instructors and dive shops are willing to risk to make some money.

The really funny thing is they would probably make a lot more if they did things the right way!