Friday, October 11, 2013

October 11 and 12, 2013 - More Fish Pictures, the Trip Winds Down, Flying Home

Esther and I have this problem when it comes to taking pictures whenever we go out: she's taking her shot and I'm right next to her, two feet away, taking the same shot. That works out generally most of the time because she posts her pictures in one place and I post my pictures in another. The people that suffer the most are our mutual friends and family that have to scroll through duplicate Facebook postings of first her accounting of the trip and then mine. The fact that we only had the one underwater camera for this trip has doubled the problem because while we passed it back and forth during snorkeling, now everybody is seeing the exact same pictures twice. All the underwater shots have been lumped into a sort of shared resource because for the most part we can't remember who took what- unless one or the other of us is in the shot.

We did more today than what I'm posting here. We had yet another incredible meal with Jacki and Phil and Esther posted the one picture of the four of us (me holding Esther in a "death grip"). Before that Jacki took Esther shopping for dresses while Phil and I hung out at the condo and discussed manly things.

Now I'm typing this over two weeks later and I'm missing the island and I'm missing the time that Esther and I spent alone (longest in recorded history) and I'm missing Jacki and Phil and I'm missing just not being at work every day and not dealing with all the stuff.

My point is this- here are some great pics that we took in the morning and here are some quick shots on the flight home, but so much happened that I didn't get a picture of. But- these are mostly the shots that I did get and here they are.


The Gamma

Parrot fish

Florida Keys

Huntsville, Al

All the pics from the 11th are here, all from the 12th right here.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

October 10, 2013 - Georgetown, Stingray City (with Stinky), Kaibo and Starfish Point

Today was the busiest of days. Our big plans included a boat trip, but we started the morning with Phil taking us out to downtown Georgetown to walk around and see the various sights.

"Tradition" the Seaman's Memorial

The steam-powered clock tower; statue dedicated to women's equal rights on the island in foreground

Mural along the sidewalk- a depiction of Cayman's history in the form of a visual timeline

One of Phil and Jacki's friends that we met on bowling night, Chris had offered to take us out on his boat to Stingray City. Actually he phrased it something like "I'll get my guy to take you out in my boat". Turns out his "guy" is a charter captain that regularly takes groups out. We launched from Chris's house right into North Sound and skipped across the water towards Stingray City.

I've seen rays in aquariums, I've given them a little poke in the touch tanks where they've had their barbs removed to avoid incident. Yeah, none of that can prepare you to be mobbed by them in the shallow water. Chris tossed out some chunks of squid to feed them (careful not to get any squid on you, they'll give you a hicky trying to suck it off) and soon enough we were surrounded. 

Two rays and a conch on the left

Me getting a little island love from a ray

After playing in the rays and picking up a conch to check it out we climbed aboard the boat to head out- but then Captain Andy spotted something in the water next to one of the big tour boats. A dorsal fin breaking the surface of the water. It could be only one thing... 

Stinky! The rogue dolphin that we had seen pictures of posted around Rum Point earlier in the week. Stinky found us particularly interesting and came along side the boat to get a closer look.

Esther felt it was like sitting at a restaurant and spotting a bad-boy rapper across the room. He was covered in scars and bite marks from either other dolphins or sharks and the occasional boat propeller. Stinky left us in his search for love and we left Stingray City in search of lunch. 

After catching a bite to eat at Kaibo Beach Bar and Grill, Andy piloted the boat over to Starfish Point so we could see and touch the stars. There were about half a dozen out in the shallows of the beach. We didn't stay too long- see the little blob on the left side of the picture below? The water was filled with box jellyfish. Not wanting a repeat of the stings we got during the Bio Bay swim, we hopped back into the boat. 

The other guys wanted to see if the fish were biting so we skirted along the edge of the sound and open water to put a few lines out. Andy and Phil taught me how to use a hand line and I actually caught a couple of grunts. Andy pulled in a parrot fish but before heading back to shore we let all the fish go.

All the other pictures from the day can be seen here.

Esther took a ton more pictures that I did not include in my collection and they can be found on her page here.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

October 9, 2013 - Turtle Farm, Hell in a Handbasket

Today may have been the only day we didn't swim in the sea. We did swim, but it was in a man-made lagoon at the Cayman Turtle Farm


This crab was hiding in a sinkhole-like cave just off the nature walk at the Turtle Farm. It was roughly the size of my head. 


My first arboreal wild iguana. In the states we have squirrels, in Cayman they have young iguana.  

These little guys are about as common as the iguana. If iguana are squirrels then these are chipmunks. I thought I understood that they were called "lime lizards" but I apparently misheard "lion" lizards. I've found them online as curly tailed lizards for obvious reasons. (Okay I can also find three images on the vast interwebs where they call them "lime lizards" and Esther swears that's what they are called too. Now I'm not sure of anything. I am a man without an anchor to reality, adrift in a sea of uncertainty.)

Back to the turtles...




We hung around for the nurse shark feeding over at the Pool of Things That Can Bite You. In my mind, a nurse shark is about three feet long and has teeth made of blunt spork pieces. The two nurse sharks they had at the farm were about as big as me and could literally suck the skin off your hand. So... new thing to be terrified of everytime I enter the water: getting my hand-skin sucked off.

This is the only picture I took of this guy that you could not see his butt crack.


This is Cayman's largest rodent, the agouti. If Iguana are squirrels and lime/lion/curly tail lizards are chipmunks then the agouti is bigfoot because I never saw one in the wild. I'm not convinced this little dude isn't animatronic.

Like a capybara but without the dignity, grace and nobility. Also smaller.

This one little turtle made a mad dash for freedom on the man-made beach at the man-made lagoon. He crashed around and delighted some small children. An attendant brought him some water to make sure he didn't overheat and then he turned around and returned to the water of the lagoon, defeated, plotting his next prison break all the while. It's really hard to effectively flee for open waters when you have no thumbs or fingers or actual feet to speak of.

Esther dreams of (blue) turtles

And then, as I've been told I would do all my life, we went to Hell. According to Jacki, she used to hide in the rock formations wearing only flip-flops when she was a kid to the delight of tourists. WHAT THE HELL, JACKI?? 

Quick shout-out to my homeschoolers and unschoolers...

And lastly, the best picture of the whole trip.

These and a few other pics from the day can be found climbing pointy rocks in their flip-flops right here.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

October 8, 2013 - National Gallery, Camana Bay, and Bio Bay

We were up at the crack of dawn (almost) to get back in the water right outside the condo. My flipper flopping is still fairly amateurish, but I've really figured out keeping the mask clear. Esther found this urchin exoskeleton right after descending the ladder. Jacki was just trying to describe to me the shape of one of these the night before at Smith Cove and as soon as I saw it, I understood. These are fragile and it's not extremely common to find one whole.

This parrot fish looks afflicted, but she's getting her scales detailed by two bluestreak cleaner wrasse while a blue tang peeks out from below.

This bird was hunting for fish in the shallow pools right next to us while we were checking out the flounder in the above picture. 


Phil and Jacki picked us up later this morning to check out the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands. In the main exhibit hall was a collection called "Images of Yesteryear" that included several black and white photos of the island from 1900 to 1960 including one of a car being floated by raft to the island and several of the early inhabitants. Outside building is a collection of sculptures and a labyrinth that Esther was compelled to walk to completion. 

We had lunch at a restaurant in Camana Bay, a more recent addition to the island. Esther and I climbed the observation tower for a 360° view of the island.

That evening at sunset we set out for a tour of the "Bio Bay", a sheltered part of North Sound where during the nights of low moonlight can be seen the bioluminescent dinoflagellates. Sadly, we have no photos of the actual glowing dinoflagellates as they are problematic to photograph. I have found several pictures on the web of what are supposed to be people swimming and kayaking in the bio bay, but our experience looked little like that. The dinoflagellates react to changes in water pressure by luminescing (similar to fireflies) in quick bursts of light that is a pale blue color. The effect looks like sparks of bluish-white flying off of any part of you in the water as it moves- clapping hands, snapping fingers. By rotating my arms in the water they looked electrified.

All the pictures from today are swimming around here.