All photos in this entry taken by Mark Fallon and used with permission.
Pretty much, on this blog, we’re switching off between All Pictures Of Cute Animals Chiara Saw On Holiday, All The Time, and All Pictures Of
Cute People Chiara Saw On Holiday, All The Time. Since we just did cute people it’s time for cute animals, and then it will be cute people again, and then it will actually be cute plants, just for something different, and then I will get back to whatever it is I usually do here.
But before we get started I have to admit something: even though these are all pictures of a dive trip I was on, of things I actually did see, they’re not…my pictures. I mean, you know I broke two cameras on this trip, right? And renting an underwater digital camera was really expensive, and I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be able to go about the business of diving (check the pressure gauge! Check the dive computer! Inflate! Deflate!) and be able to take any pictures. Any good pictures. I actually did think about my readers when I was deciding not to do this, thinking that it would be cool to be able to post underwater dive pictures, but I shook my head sadly on y’all’s behalf. “Sorry, readers,” I thought. “It’s not meant to be. You will just have to let me paint a picture with words, my lovelies, and let that suffice,” and then I went back to flirting, dancing around on the topdeck, and taking my seasickness meds. So much for the blog-reading public.
But! Enter Mark! Mark is a lovely English boy who was on a longer Australasian trip and was doing his dive course with his dad Kevin, who had flown out to meet him in Cairns. It was difficult to tell which of the two was more insane, father or son, but they were both lovely and fun and hilarious and adored by all the women on board. Mark (we started calling him “Trouble” after about hour five on the boat) had actually gone ahead and rented an underwater digital camera for the duration of the trip and would show us all his shots every night after dinner, to many envious oohs and aahs. Everyone else wished they could have those awesome pictures, too. I don’t know who came up with the idea, but all of a sudden we realized that, by gum, we could have those shots! We wouldn’t even have to throw Mark overboard to the sharks to get them! No, we could just put them on a CD and post them on our own blogs, while doing absolutely none of the work and paying a measly ten dollars Australian! Mark recouped the cost of the camera hire, and the rest of us got to concentrate on not surfacing with a mask full of blood because we ascended a wee bit quickly there on that last dive. Everyone was a winner.
So it is with much gratitude to that English boy who sort of had a haircut similar to my own (making telling us apart in some of the pictures difficult) that I present these pictures to you, assuring you that however awesome they may seem, they are not nearly as awesome as a) the person who took them or b) actually being there.
Okay, enough talking. How do you like this?
We were right at the end of humpback season when we went on this trip and the crew weren’t expecting to see any on the way out to the reef (it’s a three hour journey from Cairns). It was only the first of many fantastic things we saw. I mean, can you believe he got this shot?
On the boat there were people who were already certified, people who were just snorkeling, and then all of us who were doing the open water course. We were divided into two groups: Team Dave and Team Masa. I was on Team Masa, which—and I say this with all love and respect to Team Dave—was the clearly superior group. That said, here are members of both teams getting ready to hop off the back of the boat.
That’s me, doing a fancy forward roll entry.
And there we are getting ready to go down.
And there are a bunch of divers getting ready to do a skills test of some sort, down at the bottom.
I am so not looking forward to the test where you have to take your mask off and put it back on and then clear it. It’s not hard, exactly, it just sucks for some reason. My mask didn’t fit so well anyway and it took me forever to do and Masa was all “Okay?” and I was like “Uh, just another minute,” and he’d tap his tank and be all “Are you done YET?” All with hand signals, of course.
Kevin, however, seems to be doing fine with his test..
Okay, enough humans. (For now.) Let’s see some fish!
Here we have a beautiful anemone and its attendant anemone fish, which are, it turns out, pretty hardcore. I was checking some of these guys out on one dive and pointing at them and signaling someone else that, hey, look, anemone fish, cool, yay, anemone fish, and you know what that fish did? It swam up at me in a rather fierce manner and was all YOU WANNA GO? LET’S GO! BACK IT UP, BITCH, OR IT’S GOING TO GET INTENSE UP IN HERE! And then it showed me its tiny tiny teeth, and then I was all SORRY I’M SORRY ANEMONE FISH I JUST WANTED TO SHOW YOU TO SOMEONE OF COURSE YOU’VE BEEN HARASSED A LOT SINCE THAT MOVIE CAME OUT SORRY SORRY SORRY and then I got all out of breath and had to make sure I didn’t spit out my regulator. Anemone fish, man. Watch out.
I don’t know that these are actually damselfish, but apparently about fifty percent of all the fish down there are damselfish, so, you know. Probably these are too.
I don’t know what kind of fish this one is but I like its design scheme.
And I like anything black and white so I love this one too.
I couldn’t get enough of the giant clams; we saw quite a few of them and they were all different gorgeous colors because of the xooxanthellae in them. If you passed too closely above they would sort of flinch and sometimes close and that was very cool to see. I kept blowing my own mind every time I thought about how animal everything was down there: the rocks are animals, the plants and trees are animals. I would get this little jolt of awareness every time I hung over a bommie, just checking out the fish, every time I realized that it’s not just the fish that were alive.
While we are celebrating (as we don’t often enough, in my opinion) the invertebrate, let me direct your attention to this winsome nudibranch.
Back to fish, here is a very cool little spotted fish that stayed close to the sandy bottom and would sort of stand up on its two fins there. This was one of the first fish I saw on the first dive, when I finally descended to the bottom after having a hell of a time equalizing, and I was finally able to calm down and look around and not freak out because I was at the bottom of the sea.
These babies were brilliant too; they actually change color right before your eyes. They’re blue when they’re all peaced out, green when they get a little nervous, and then they turn white when they’re scared. They hang out near the corals and hide in them when beginner divers blunder too close. These guys are riiight on the edge between peaced out and nervous, it would seem.
And here! Here is a beautiful Maori wrasse. I didn’t see this one in person but I did see another one on another dive. Man, they’re big…and apparently, the ones we saw? Were on the puny side. It’s got a lot of names, this fish, but I made it a point to refer to it as Maori wrasse out of Aotearoa loyalty; it has delicate markings on its chin that look like ta moko.
Here is a deadly lionfish, who is just daring you to touch him.
And oh my gosh, there’s a shark! It’s a black tip reef shark and we saw it when those of us who did the Adventure Diver course did our deep dive. This is one of two that I saw on this trip; the other was was closer to me and was when I was snorkeling with my boat roommate Pauline. It was a little scary but not as bad as you might think. A bunch of us had gone to this Reef Teach thing the night before we left on the boat and they’d talked about what to expect from sharks there, and of course before our night dive we talked about them quite a bit…Dave was all, “Make a circle with your tanks facing outward, with the instructors inside the circle…” Actually, on the night dive there were about five sharks near the boat but they were gone by the time I got in the water, which was probably a good thing. Although, secretly? It would have been really cool to see them.
Although, honestly, to look at me in this picture, I don’t look as if I thought that would have been cool, at the time.
This is up there with the whale tail shot up there (it’s waaay up there, you saw it like half an hour ago when you were supposed to be enhancing open source usability) in terms of ridiculously-postcardy shots…I mean, seriously, huge props to my boy Mark for getting this with a point-and-shoot camera. We all went kind of insane when we saw the sea turtles, I can’t even explain it. There was something about them that I found oddly calming. I just wanted to follow them forever.
This is part of what I was thinking about when I teared up after the deep dive, about how my heart felt so big when I was underneath.
This is just to give you a little bit of a wider view of what it was like.
Ooh, look, divers! In the distance!
Here I am with my dive buddy Jill, giving you the okay sign to let you know that everything’s okay.
And here’s a nice picture of my friend Pauline (the one I saw the other shark with while snorkeling).
Masa congratulates his clearly superior team on attaining our Open Water certification.
And as we ascend, please check out the fish waiting for us right underneath the boat, hoping we’ll feed them.
And back up on the boat, we see a bunch more fish waiting for us to scrape our dinner plates directly into their gaping maws.
It feels like a long time ago, as I write this sitting on my living room floor by the heater with my fuzzy socks on. I can hardly believe it was only two weeks ago, that two weeks ago three of my days were filled with the improbable animals, with the push of the current, with the sun coming down through the water. It’s hard to believe that two weeks ago I watched the sun rise from underneath the surface of the world.
All photos in this entry taken by Mark Fallon and used with permission.