Day Eight, Belize……

Spotted Toad Fish in Belize

Before, I forget – Happy Birthday to our, son, Dustin (25 October). Okay, Mother Nature was a bit feisty yesterday and sent us a fair amount of wind to stir things up. So, the noticeable current on the second dive did me in for the day. Even though we moved on to Turneffe Island a day early and got a significantly improved conditions, I chose to sit out the afternoon dives and my husband finally got to see some eels by going with our friends. For whatever reason, I had been finding lots of sea cucumbers instead on this trip. However, this morning’s first dive was filled with eels, so perhaps that problem has been resolved. The underwater visibility is down some and while that makes it slightly less pleasant, it isn’t a big deal. For the second dive, we chose to look specifically for smaller creatures in the sand and around the coral heads so the reduced visibility wasn’t a factor. I will do the first dive of the afternoon, and not the fourth. My husband will go with our friends again and actually be able to dive several minutes extra. I often come back 5-15 minutes before my husband really wants to, but he indulges me.

I must now talk about toad fish for those not familiar with them. Toad fish are odd creatures (of which there are many) that you encounter underwater.  They are not found in many places, and certainly not in South Florida. Turneffe Island is the native home of the spotted toad fish and you have to know what signs to look for. They tuck into rocky areas, but “clear out” sand from their habitat, so there will usually be a uniform pile of sand mounded in front. The afternoon divers yesterday found toad fish without me and when I went on my next dive, I was in fact victorious in my search. Others located more, but I was happy with the one. More eels, too, but not another turtle, which was mildly disappointing. A quick glimpse of an eagle ray and plenty of yellow-headed jaw fish, plus more arrow crabs and Pedersen shrimp.

As aside about lionfish because a staff member had a terrible encounter that will actually be a guest post in the future. For those who are not aware of the danger, lionfish are beautiful and are favored in many aquariums. The problem is that they are Pacific and Indian Ocean natives and have no predators in our hemisphere. They are voracious predators, have toxic spines, and breed rapidly. A situation occurred several years ago that released lionfish into Atlantic and Caribbean waters and as happens with invasive species, they are out of control. They deplete and sometime decimate native fish populations and there is an effort to eradicate them; an effort that has had limited success to date. Marine biologists are working hard to try and find a predator that will take them on, but again, no luck yet. The staff at Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) in Key Largo has developed a cookbook to show how to safely catch, clean, and cook them, but that hasn’t caught on in too many places yet either. It is a delicious fish and we eat them whenever we get the chance.

Oh, the terrible encounter was that a staff member was jabbed in the hand with a spine as she was distracted and her hand is swollen and temporarily restricted in use. It’s also quite painful, although tolerable. She is literally “suffering with a smile”, not to mention lots of jokes about her “claw hand”, and hopefully the swelling will diminish soon.

Sea Cucumber on Reef

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