” It’s true that most of the [bull shark] attacks they make on humans are made in low visibility, [..] Our beautifully crystal-clear waters give us a huge advantage in that [..] we can see them coming from a distance. [..] Feeding these large sharks inside the reef is a recipe for disaster. [..] Other tips to keep yourself safe: Don’t become isolated, stay in your group, swim smoothly, not erratically, don’t wear bright colors or jewelry [..]”
This is an actual quote from a local Belize travel site. I pondered if I should mention this to my travel companion while in the boat to her first dive… ever. I pass a knowing exchange to our boat captain, Carlos, and he smiles back. No. Better not to tell her about these 10 foot monsters that are responsible for a majority of human shark attacks around the world and which according to the BBC have the strongest bite of all shark species. If we do see one, I’ll tell her its a nurse shark.
Kathi below is innocent and unknowing of what Carlos and I are discussing as we head out to Hoi Chan, the channel that separates inside the barrier reef from the open sea beyond. She has had an extensive 20 minutes of dive training in the pool to prepare her for what Cousteau would call “the wondrous mysteries of the deep.”
Of course I must leave my camera for the rest of the journey as we drop down 40 feet along the channel wall. A few yards away we come across a very larger green moray eel. It was laying on its side with mouth closed and seemed to be asleep or even dying. As we watched, suddenly it rose back up and began opening and closing its mouth again and breathing. Our guide explains afterward that the eel is letting the scarlet cleaner shrimp walk and forage through its gills. This one and the others we saw is huge, the width of my thigh and about as long as my entire 37 inch inseam.
Next we come across a large lobster hiding in one of the crevices in the coral rock face. This was very large at about two feet in length. I made a mental note on what kind of fish tacos I was ordering for lunch today when we got back on shore. Next to the lobster was a colorful lion fish also hiding in the cracks and florescent blue and red coral fans. I explained to Kathi prior that of all the predators in the ocean this particular 8 inch fish is probably the most dangerous. Here’s a few excerpts from a dive journal of a diver who got is finger stung:
“Suddenly there’s a shock of pain from my left index finger, which apparently came into a slight contact with one of the lion fish’s feather-like dorsal spine.
[..] The pain was almost unbearable; it was like a hot and very sharp knife had slashed my finger. At the bottom of the back side of the finger there was a small wound spurting green blood. [..} By that time it was completely swollen. The whole left hand, including the four fingers but excluding the thumb, puffed-up and looked unbelievably chubby. The fingers could only move slightly because of the swelling.”
You get the idea…
We swim to the channel itself and there are three spotted eagle rays. These are quite large — up to four feet in wingspan. They are faced toward the open sea feeding. We sit still for ten or more minutes and they swim right for us and played in our bubbles only feet away. After playing with those we come across a few sea turtles eating the grass below. They are careless and take no mind of our watching.
We head back towards the boat and swim over a large half buried sting ray. Their eyes look sinister. Their tail has a barbed weapon. Remember this is the creature that killed Steve Irwin — the Crocodile Hunter — with a barb through his chest.
Back at the moat, we find a large black grouper taking shade below the hull with its mouth wide open. I could take both of my hands and put them in a fist and put them right through that mouth opening.
Back on the boat and back to civilization, we recap our undersea hunt for the bull shark and decide tomorrow that we will take the hunt to the flats and different prey — the elusive grey ghost fish or Albula vulpes — the bone fish..