Turks and Caicos (Providenciales and Aggressor Yacht)- 2020

In the middle of Covid 2020….I was able to escape down to Turks and Caicos and never felt safer.  This was one of the few places Americans can travel to with additional requirements (PCR negative test and heightened travel insurance including medical evacuation coverage).  As I had won 3 days of scuba diving there (with Dive Provo who I would highly recommend diving with if you go www.diveprovo.com).  I’ve been trying to get down to Turks and Caicos for almost two years since winning this prize and finally made it work.  So a week in Provo was just want I needed including 3 days of scuba and the island living was perfect.  The weather was a little bit of a bummer as it was unexpectedly rainy and everyone we met said how unusual this is for November, but the fresh air and open country was nice.

When I went to get ready for the first dive, I had all my dive camera housings and equipment, but realized I left the little camera at home…whoops!  That’s a first, so I was just enjoying the diving without my camera.  The 6 dives in that week were great with giant barracuda’s, so many sharks we lost count and 3 large bottlenose dolphins came and swam with us which I have never seen.  I was able to get photos of the dolphins from someone else that was able to capture them.  It was so amazing to see the dolphins up close while diving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The two dolphins swam with us for a while after we left the dive site

 

The rest of the first week was cruising the little town, swimming and walking on the beach and visiting the local brewery.

 

 

Last morning on the beach for a 4 mile walk

 

 

First glimpse at the ocean when I arrived on the island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During one of the non diving days, and one that was expected to be rainy and cold, it was the perfect day to take a trip to the local brewery for a tour.  Arriving early…the owner and tour guide asked if we wanted a beer and at 10:45…that was a simple yes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tour was about 30 minutes long with good knowledge, viewing from the high catwalk above and finished with flights of beer.  All for $15 and nice way to beat the rain and drink cheap beer.

The bottling line and process

Adding hops and testing the brew

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sampling the 8 beers on tap that day

Getting the new bottles ready to be cleaned, sterilized and filled

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning a bit at the Turks Head Brewery and mandatory beer tasting!

The two cute cats that came to visit at the condo. Turks is the grey and new little friend Royal is the white one

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was even a local cigar rolling store.  This guy makes about 100 cigars a day and the work he did so far that day was in front of him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cocktails on the beach at sunset…way better than TV on the couch in my PJs at home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the week on land…I boarded a liveaboard yacht.  Before I left the US, I got a last minute deal for the liveaboard and did my research about covid safety, fire escapes and other safety issues and decided to take the trip.  The trip was 75% off for the last minute spot and I was already going to be in the country and didn’t need to rush back so it was a no brainer.  I’d never get a deal like this and opportunity to live, dive (27 times in 6 days) and be out on the water (vs home on my couch during covid).  So I booked the trip, changed my flight and stayed.

When I got to the yacht, my luggage was all disinfected (like ghostbuster style) and we waited for the other 14 guests to arrive that afternoon.

The yacht and my home for next week

Disinfecting my luggage before boarding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I met my new roommate for the week (Modupe – who is a professor at Columbia and just so nice!).  After meeting the other 14 guests, we had a family of 4, group of 3 friends, married couple about my age and another 5 other singles.  We later learned from the boat crew, we were one of the most social groups they have ever had (and I’m sure we were all starved for social interaction).  Modupe had brought a go-pro and brand new seatec camera.  She wasn’t feeling like taking photos and I was planning to rent a camera, so she offered for me to try out her new camera.

So here goes with a whole lot of photos.  I took over 1,850 underwater photo during the week plus about 200 more from the first week.  So I’ve narrowed down over 2,000 to just 99 below.  I know…still a lot, but so many nice pictures to share.

Modupe and I before a morning dive

 

The camera was so new…she just bought it and brought it to Turks, so I was reading the manual on how to set it correctly and was off.  In the end, I ended up taking 1,850 underwater photos so these are the best of the best to get a sample of the week.

Few Pics from the Yacht:

Often we had 6 people crammed in the Hot Tub

First glimpse at the hot tub…which quickly become our post dive getaway!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 1: Sunday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up close with a nurse shark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lionfish – so pretty, but so poisonous

 

A school of yellow grunt fish coming to check out my dive buddy John.

These schools of fish were so curious and fun and beautiful with the sunlight coming in.  I captured this as John was coming around the school to end our dive.

 

Day 2: Monday

 

Jack Fish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sun setting an hour later when I came up from this dive.

This was just a simple selfie between dive 3 and 4 to separate the photos on the camera, but I liked the lighting. This was about 4:00 compared to the sunset when I came up and hour later

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazing sunset on 3nd night on the boat

 

 

Night dive with so many sharks in a feeding freezy!

 

Shark Videos

I took a few short videos of the sharks at night as people always ask me how close they come.  On this dive, they were very close, at times bumping into me and other divers.  While we can’t tough the sharks…if they touch us or bump into us it’s ok.  The one that bumped into me was quite solid.  These are all in Youtube if the link doesn’t work you could copy and paste.  The videos don’t do the shark frenzy justice but gives a little perspective to the darkness at night and active shark activity.  There were about 20 sharks at one time around us.

  1. https://youtu.be/L-5FAomNOJo (28 seconds)
  2. https://youtu.be/1Fb9ZhAiLwE (7 seconds)
  3. https://youtu.be/vsIEua5Vz8A (15 seconds)

 

Day 3: Tuesday

Spanish Anchor (taken by captain)

 

 

Peek-a-boo – this fish would build a house out of rocks and coral and then pop up and down. Quite entertaining to watch

Same anchor taken by me without fancy strobes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sing along with me…Baby Shark Doo doo, doo doo doo doo. After we found this baby nurse shark, I was singing this song almost the rest of the day.  But it was worth it as such a little baby shark all by himself was so rare!

 

Baby nurse shark hiding…but we found

 

Swimming up close for a better shot of the baby shark

 

 

Sting ray hiding in the sand – barely saw him when swimming by but those eyes…just popping out

 

Guess I got too close as he up and swam off

Stingray hiding in the sand – just see the eyes poking out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travelocity traveling gnome has been here for years (per our captain)

Barracuda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just the average shark swimming right by me

Eye to eye with a stingray – the stare-down

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ready to head back in the water again…

 

Lobster out for a night time walk – rare to see them out walking like this

Giant Grouper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 4: Wednesday

 

Lionfish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flounder with his fin up

Scorpion fish also known as stone fish as it looks like stone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barracuda

Giant crab hiding…but he lost his left claw in battle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I loved the flounders as they really blend in so well.  This helped with an underwater torch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The food was outstanding on the boat as we had a chef that was amazing and also would customize as needed.  Today was Lobster night and this was one of the best dinners I had to get a pic.

Amazing lobster dinner

 

 

Day 5: Thursday – Thanksgiving!!!

 

So I got up close and personal eye to eye with him

another hidden stingray

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sea turtle down around 97 feet

Got a shot of John checking out the shark…they were often this close or closer to us

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barracuda

Love the turtle – sadly not many of them in Turks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cow fish – changed to blue color as he sensed us near

Cow fish – started out with browns and whites in color

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The captain captured me taking pictures of the cowfish with John coming up behind me

 

A large coral nursery to allow rare corals to regrow and then be transplanted into the reef to continue to grow.  This garden was sponsored by the liveaboard company I was with and there were about 20 of these structures growing new corals

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dome – world famous for a crazy reality show set underwater

The Mad Max replica metal Thunderdome was originally built for the pilot episode of a French reality TV show in the early 1990s. The show never made it past the pilot, and the dome has since collapsed, though it’s still a spectacle worth the trip and hosts plenty of marine life nowadays.  One of the “games” was the players would free dive down (no scuba air) and would have to search within this enclosed dome for coins.  If they found coins, they would find a mermaid to win a breath of air.  Part of the game was some of the mermaids didn’t have air to give and when you took a breath you got nothing…but more panic.  Crazy no one died in this game, but because of this Turks and Caicos has a decompression chamber on the island – it was part of the deal to film the reality show.

 

I’m swimming through the collapsed dome. This was about 35 feet down and I couldn’t imagine free diving for 11 minutes like people did in the reality show. Was happy to have my scuba gear to breath with!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shot of part of the remains from up above. This is about a quarter of the dome.

One of the windows there the mermaids may/may not have air for contestants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giant Barracuda – Look at those teeth!

 

 

 

 

 

 

giant green moray eel

Spotted eel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The captain took this as I came up and the sun was setting right behind me.

Sunseting as I came up from a dive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 6: Friday

This will be our last day of diving.  We were told due to the tides and the crossing back to the marina, we would have to start early and if we wanted to dive, it would be a 5:00am dive.  Yikes…that’s early and basically is a night dive.  I decided to make the dive as it would be night and then the sun would come up and the fish/sharks would be waking up and it’s a great time to be underwater.  So 4:30am alarm and off to the ocean to dive.  I’m so glad I did as it was outstanding.

 

Colorful corals and sponges growing together (by torch at 5am)!

Some little crab or shrimp had taken this conch shell as a new home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spotted eel swimming out in the open

Right after the 5:00am dive – about 6am as the sun was coming up

sunrise at 6am

 

 

The captain also promised us mimosas with our breakfast since that would be the last dive (and the rule was once you drank any alcohol…diving was done and you became a snorkeler).  So as we were getting ready for a champagne breakfast, the captain told us something isn’t working right on one engine, and they had to address before making the last crossing to the mainland.  This meant we would miss our entry to the marina at the right tide, so we would stay out at sea most of the afternoon and be able to get some bonus dives in.  Yea…one more dive for me (as I had to stop 24 hours prior to my flight the next day).

I realized I hadn’t taken my traditional beer picture yet and thought what about taking a bottle of beer down on my next dive.  I asked a dive instructor (as wasn’t sure if the bottle would break at depth or there would be an issue).  He thought it was ok, but said to check with the captain.  After some discussion, the captain and crew decided it was safe to do, made me promise to bring it back up with me so the local beer was packed in my BCD pocket.

My dive buddy Mike decided to drop down to 100 feet for this final dive and I thought why not…and saw a nice sandy area.  So I took the beer from my pocket, took a couple photos.  I liked the light coming in from above and was happy with the shot.  The beer was the main one we drank on land and yacht called “I-ain-ga-lie” or I ain’t going to lie.

First beer picture at 100 feet

 

As I was putting the beer back in my pocket and preparing to swim back up to a higher depth, I looked up and saw a large shark coming towards me and grabbed the beer for one of the most fun beer pictures ever.  Guess I was in the right spot at the right time and Mr. Sharky wanted some beer too. So I really can’t take the tag line of this beer “I-AIN-GA-LIE that fish (or shark in this case) was as big as me”

 

 

Turks and Caicos local beer at 100 feet with unexpected shark that wanted a taste too!

I contacted the owner of the brewery (as we got to know him on the tour last week) and he was surprised at this shot and wanted it for his website.  So I was happy to share as it ended up being fun.

As we swam on further, I came across this large moray eel upside down in a save.  This is quite unusual so I went in for a closer look.  Not sure if he was stuck, or just digesting something big and on his back, but interesting.

 

 

 

spotted this large moray eel upside down…quite unusual

Maybe digesting something?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turks and Caicos Flag and local beer shot

Turks and Caicos local beer at 100 feet with unexpected shark that wanted a taste too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sadly…time to say goodbye for now

Rainbow over the island as I flew away…but hope to return

 

On the flight back from Dallas to Los Angeles, we were flying into the sunset which was nice.  As I got bumped up to First Class (benefit of covid travel) they were serving goblets of wine…so happy drinking flight.

Large goblet of wine…was about half a bottle

Flying from Dallas to Los Angeles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At one of the bars in town, they had a wall of clever signs…and I started taking photos of the ones I liked and didn’t realize it was 20.  So if you need a chuckle…enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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