Hi Everybody!!! Welcome back!!! We’ve just finished up our third week of double session Adventure, and as usual, we had a BLAST!!! When I arrived at the dock bright and early for the Tuesday morning session I could tell we had another great group and were going to have another fabulous week!!! The kids were [...]
Hi Everybody!!! Welcome back!!!
We’ve just finished up our third week of double session Adventure, and as usual, we had a BLAST!!! When I arrived at the dock bright and early for the Tuesday morning session I could tell we had another great group and were going to have another fabulous week!!! The kids were all there, early no less, excited and raring to go, smiling from ear to ear. And that’s just the way I love it!!! I hopped onto the dock to meet the parents and greet the kids, and the FUN began! As I walked, I looked down into the shallow water along the seawall and saw a 9 armed starfish burrowing out of the sand, variegated urchins along the wall, 2 octopus peeking out from their holes under the rocks, an eagle ray, 3 stingrays, a school of jacks and a striped burrfish swimming by. What a way to start the session!!! What a way to start any day!!! The morning group was already having FUN and we hadn’t even left the dock yet!!! And so was I!!!
We spent the week boating, exploring and having non-stop adventure, morning and afternoon!!! It didn’t make a difference what session you were in. It was FUN FUN FUN, all day long!!! We explored the Rock Garden, the Big Sandbar, the South Jetty, Little Munyon Island, Starfish Prairie and more. We even went a bit offshore on one totally calm, flat day looking for sea turtles. And not only did we see sea turtles, but we saw something MORE!!! MUCH MORE!!! One of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen, but your going to have to keep reading to find out WHAT!!! Of course, we also spent a day Fishing where it was non-stop action from start to finish!!!! And did we Ever LOVE IT!!! The whole week was a blast and each session seemed to end way to soon!!!
At the Rock Garden we saw the usual…. Hundreds of fish in every size, shape and color imaginable! From small barracudas to snook, seargent majors, porkfish, parrotfish, sheepsheads, grunts, snappers, angelfish, damselfish, butterflyfish, blennies and more. Every where you looked there was something else to be seen! There were fish in every direction!!! We didn’t know which way to look!!!
We spent hours searching under the shallow rocks and found all types of hermit crabs, box crabs, rock crabs, porcelain crabs, swimming crabs, stone crabs, pistol shrimp, popping shrimp, blennies and more!!! We had so much fun finding, chasing and catching swimming crabs, we almost couldn’t stop!!! What a fun day underwater!!!
There was a plethora of things to discover, and discover them we did! One day, while swimming along the shallow rocks of the Rock Garden, AdventureKatie looked into a crevasse between 2 rocks and came up with a giant Measled Cowrie. The shell was totally covered by its mantle and looked more like a slimy short-spined sea urchin than a beautiful shiny brown and white, polka-dotted shell that is was. It gave the art of mimicry a whole new meaning! Nice find Katie! Way to Go!
By the end of the week at the Rock Garden, we had found 4 different species of sea urchins, numerous species of brittle starfish and conchs, almost a dozen different species of corals and sponges, 8 different species of crabs and hundreds of different species of fish. The water was crystal clear all week, and everywhere you looked there was something to see and something new to discover!!! One of our favorite discoveries was a beautiful striped burrfish that we found hiding among seaweed along the bottom of the rocks. It was so darn cute, we just wanted to kiss it. That is, if it wasn’t so spiny and didn’t have a parrotlike beak that could nip you good!!!
We all spent a good bit of time taking turns checking him out and taking photos along the way. We loved the way it would puff itself up and become a short, stout, spiny pin-cushion. After we released the burrfish, it began to deflate, and then swam a few circles around AdventureLily as if to say, “goodby” before moseying on. They are always a great find and the kids love them! And so do I!!!
On the Big Sandbar we found hundreds of Florida and West Indian fighting conchs and noticed they were all laying eggs. Cool to watch! We found dozens of squat lobsters and netted olive shells, and quietly observed tube worms slowly filter sand to digest the algae off each grain. One morning we found a huge Scaly Mantis Shrimp totally out of his hole, lying still in a tiny pool of water. It was a great discovery, and only the second or third time I have ever witnessed it! What LUCK!!!
Mantis shrimp get their name for the way they resemble the preying mantis insect with their large, stalked eyes and long spiked foreclaws which, when not in use, fold back into a claw slot in the leg. These powerful claws can easily slice a finger as well as capture prey! They are known as “thumb splitters’ by Caribbean fisherman. Bet you’ll never guess how I found that out, when, long ago, I wriggled my finger in one of their holes! OUCH!!!
We found numerous box crabs and juvenile blue crabs and a couple of small chocolate chip sea cucumbers along the way. The kids had fun trying to find as many, and as many different species of hermit crabs they could find! Most were living in the discarded shells of fighting conchs that made for a great home. AdventureAlex and Max sure loved finding this one that wasn’t a bit shy!
We found a variety of starfish everytime we visited the Big Sandbar, from Beaded Sea Stars to Cushion Sea Stars and sometimes even the unusual 9 armed starfish that is mainly nocturnal. Always a great find and a wonderful treat for the kids! Of course I would have to make the most of this opportunity and take a few photos of the group with a 9 armed starfish on their heads. I could tell AdventureJacob was having a good time wearing this one as a hat!
One afternoon we stopped to snorkle and explore a small vessel that had recently sunk just north of the Big Sandbar. It was already covered with barnacles and tunicates and loads of fish. There were dozens of juvenile blue crabs hiding underneath the boat and a few arrow crabs clinging towards the stern out of the current. It didn’t take AdventureMaxwell long before he caught one in his hand and held it up for us to see. Nice job Max!
From here we swam to another smaller sandbar and explored along the shallows to see what we could find. Before long we had found dozens of netted olive shells, plenty of mantis shrimp holes and even a few more starfish. One afternoon little Max found a really cool beaded starfish that was in the process of regenerating the tips on 3 of its arms. It was neat to see how a starfish could grow its arms back after some other creature decided to have one for lunch! How cool is that!!
Another morning while exploring the Big Sandbar we found an octopus that had been caught out of water by the falling tide and had died. We felt bad for it and wished we had come by sooner to have found it alive. We did love checking it out up close and personal, even when dead, and somehow this led to another photo opportunity to take some different photos of octopus that we hadn’t done before. That’s right! You guessed it! Dead octopus head photos!!! You just have to admit, AdventureBrett looks like he’s loving this! Well sort of ???
One morning when the ocean was totally flat calm we drove the boat around to the South Jetty and parked a few feet off the beach. The water was crystal clear and there seemed to be thousands of tropical fish all along the shallow rocks. It was absolutely Great!!! There were so many different species of fish you couldn’t keep count! As we swam thru them, they would swirl all around us, sometimes just inches from our nose! We all just loved that!!!
A bit further along the jetty we started seeing large numbers of short and long-spined burrfish swimming along in pairs. I found a nice big long-spined burrfish hiding in a crevasse between 2 rocks, seemingly uncorncerned that I was there. I carefully reached in and gently took hold around its midsection and pulled it out for the group to look at. A split second later it inflated itself like a ballon and became so full of long, sharp quills that I could hardly hold it. It poked me good a few times and I think the kids loved that too! One look at the photo and you can tell how it got its name and why it wasn’t too concerned I was there! I sure wasn’t going to try to eat it!!!
On the way back to the boat, AdventureKatie found a cool Hairy Clinging Crab clinging to a rock with all its might. She called me over and it took all I had to pull that crab off that rock! Not only was it hairy, it was thorny like all get out and could hang onto that rock like Arnold Swartzencrab!!! And Arnold Swartzencrab it was!!! I think we could have used that crab as an anchor if we could have could tied a rope around it and dropped it on a rock where it could hang on! It was about that strong!! Nice find Katie!!!
The most wonderful underwater encounter of all for this week occurred just as we got back to the boat!!! One unbelievably cute manatee had decided to take a rest right underneath the boat while we were gone swimming along the jetty. As we got closer to the boat, it swam right up to us and just about laid right in our arms!!! It swam and rolled around us like we were long lost friends and brushed up against us over and over! It would come up right beneath us and almost lift us to the surface. It was just GREAT!!! It was one of the most friendliest manatees I have ever seen, and unbelievably cute too!!! Did we EVER LOVE that!!!
Every now and then it would come right up to us and just lay there for us to scratch its back!!! It would gently roll back and forth underneath our hands while we scratched, like it just didn’t want us to ever quit! We spent a few moments appreciating every minute of that!! I could tell by all the happy squealing coming from the kids, this wondrously extra special manatee encounter would be something they would never forget!!! I know I won’t!!! What a GREAT DAY!!! It just doesn’t get any better than that!!! LOVE IT!!!
Thursday was our fishing day, and of course, its hard to match the fun and excitement of that if you love fishing! Always non-stop action from start to finish and everyone caught a mixed bag of snappers, tomtates, caesars grunts, sailor’s choice, margates, spot-tail pinfish, porkfish and more!!! All in all, I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “I NEED MORE BAIT!!!” over and over and OVER!!! The sound of that is still ringing in my ears!!! I could sure tell AdventureJulia sure loved catching this nice one!
On another day, we spent part of one morning and afternoon heading over to Little Munyon Island to do some seine netting in the shallow grass beds. The tide that day was extremely low and the shallow bar to the south was exposed for hundreds of yards. This extreme low tide gave us the very best opportunity to seine net in some areas that we never had before. It was neat to see and we all were excited to get started!!! The full moon sure made a difference for the tides this day.
AdventureLilly and Noelle were among the first group to go seining and before long, they were seine netting like pros! On the very fisrt pull of the net they caught sea grass filefish, pipefish, mojarras, juvenile snappers and grunts, a couple of tiny hogsnappers, pink shrimp, grass shrimp, small blue crabs and even a few small checkered puffers! What a great way to start your very first day of seine netting!!! Way to go girls!!! YOU Rock!!!
One of the neatest fish we got that day was a nice, big, striped burrfish that inflated on demand. It became a thorny ball with short, curved spines. They are common to Florida and generally inhabit sea grass beds and adjacent reefs. The stripes help them to camoflauge amongst the sea grass where they are difficult to see in brackish water. I know AdventureJack sure loved holding this one! We all did!
We spent rest of that morning at Little Munyon Island finding more large sea grass hermits than you could count, and short-spined sea urchins in every color you could imagine by the hundreds. Almost every urchin was covered and camouflaged by little shells held tightly to them by their tiny tube feet. They looked more like the bottom than urchins themselves. Neat to see them this way. Give them a few quick swishes in the water and the shells fall off, leaving you with a handful of urchins in a variety of colors. It didn’t take AdventureTrevor long to find his favorites!
We snorkeled almost the whole way around Little Munyon Island finding blue crabs, hermit crabs, juvenile stone crabs, some small beaded starfish, a few small 9 armed starfish, and a dozen or more West Indian Sea Eggs . We found just about every color combination of short spined or variegated sea urchins you could imagine. My favorites were the bright white ones with dark purple spines that are hard to find, and I wasn’t succesful on this day! AdventureLilly seemed to like every one she found. I don’t think she cared what color they were. She was having FUN either way!
When we came around the south end of the island I took the group over to a cluster of rocks hidden among the sea grass beds. I wanted to show them another species of sea urchin called a long-spined or diadema sea urchin. These are the big black ones with long needle sharp spines that can easily puncture the skin and break off in the flesh. They are most commonly found on the near shore reefs but this cluster of rocks seems to have one or two almost every time I look. They are best left alone but over the years I have learned how to handle them without getting stuck. My advice would be to don’t try this on your own!!!
On the way back to the boat AdventureJulia came up with another large 9 armed starfish that was just crawling out of the sand and moving towards deeper water. They are fairly uncommon thru-out the Caribbean and seem to inhabit shallow sand or sandy mud bottoms. Exactly what we have here. It was another nice find and she held it up for us to see. Way to go Julia!!!
We spent some time taking turns checking it out.We watched as hundreds of tiny tube feet would wriggle non-stop, as if trying to right itself up from the palms of our hands. The kids loved that and it was just great to watch them all smile when it came to their turn to hold this starfish. I could sure tell AdventureNoelle was having FUN when her turn came around!!! Love that smile too!!!
One morning ,when the ocean was flat calm, I decided to take the kids offshore for a little bit to see if we could find a loggerhead or green sea turtle floating on the surface, catching its breath. Little did I know then what a wonderful decision that would be!!! We motored around for a bit in about 120 feet of water, then shut off the engines and drifted quietly. I had just got done telling them that on days like this, when the ocean is flat calm, and shiny like a mirror, you can sometimes see hammerhead sharks swimming lazily on the surface. Not a minute or two later, the ocean erupted a hundred feet in front of us, and a tremendous hammerhead shark came thrashing to the surface with another large hammerhead shark in its jaws!!! What a sight to see!!! So much for swimming “lazily” !!!
For the first minute or so I could believe what we were seeing, and I didn’t think to take a picture! I started the engines and quickly motored to within 20 feet of this unbelievable sight, wanting to see what was actually taking place! The ocean seemed to have come alive and walls of water were being thrown 15 feet into the air! We observed, what I would estimate as about a 10 to 12 foot hammerhead shark, being attacked by another monstrous hammerhead shark that I thought was closer to about 18 feet!!! It was just INCREDIBLE!!! and one of the neatest things I HAVE EVER SEEN!!! MAY EVER SEE!!! All this action taking place at about 30 miles per hour!!! What a SIGHT!!! As we came closer, the monster shark let go this shark, and swam deeper down, and just kept circling around us, below.
This 10 to 12 foot hammerhead shark, that seconds earlier was in the jaws of the other, swam straight towards the boat as if looking for something to hide behind! For two to three minutes it never left the vicinity of our boat while the other, much LARGER shark kept circling below. This shark appeared totally exhausted and spent, probably trying to flee for its life, and at this time could hardly swim! I did not get a photo of that monster shark as it never came up close enough to the boat for me to take a decent picture. Shortly after I took this photo below, this shark swam away from the boat down a bit deeper, and I watched as that monster shark came racing in and grabbed this one again, thrashing him in its jaws and swimming deeper into the depths, until they disappeared from our view!!! JUST UNBELIEVABLE!!!
To witness what we saw was most unbelievable to say the very least!!! One of the most EXCITING and INCREDIBLE things I have ever seen or may ever see in my life!!! I will always wish I would have thought to start taking photos sooner, but I was so awestruck I couldn’t think to take a picture, as I looked on in amazement!!! WHAT A DAY!!! WHAT AN EXPERIENCE!!! WHAT AN ADVENTURE!!! WHAT MORE CAN YOU SAY!!! WISH YOU ALL COULD HAVE BEEN THERE!!! IT WAS JUST GREAT!!! The kids summed it up perfectly when I asked them how they felt after seeing THAT!!! Their response was, ” IT WAS AWESOME!!!!” I FEEL THE VERY SAME WAY!!! AWESOME!!!!! WHAT AN INCREDIBLE WEEK!!! IT JUST DOESN”T GET ANY BETTER THAN THIS!!! AND I CAN”T WAIT TO DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN, NEXT WEEK!!!!
See you soon!!!
Let’s Go Have Some Fun!!!
Summer Time FUN Begins!!! Hi Everybody, Welcome back!!! We’ve just finished up the first week of Fun and Adventure and as usual, it has started out with a great big BANG!!! Non-stop, fast action fun, pulling double duty sessions from dawn to dusk! Things just couldn’t have started out better! Two great goups of kids, [...]
Summer Time FUN Begins!!!
Hi Everybody, Welcome back!!! We’ve just finished up the first week of Fun and Adventure and as usual, it has started out with a great big BANG!!! Non-stop, fast action fun, pulling double duty sessions from dawn to dusk! Things just couldn’t have started out better! Two great goups of kids, perfect weather all week long and non stop fun and excitement like there was no tomorrow!!! From one group to the next, its been a Blast! As soon as I would drop off the first group, the second would arrive and off we’d go again looking for adventure around every twist and turn and bump of a wave! From sunrise to sunset, Fun Fun Fun, 4 days in a row!!! Just the way I love it!!!
In the beginning of the week for the morning session, the tides were high, the water crystal clear and fish were everywhere to be seen! We would start each morning session out snorkeling and end each afternoon session exploring the sandbars and shallow estuaries looking for treasures just waiting to be discovered. And discover them we would! From manatees and bottlenose dolphin to dwarf sea horses and octopus we seemed to find it all! Each group had a chance to find and discover something special that put a smile on all our faces!!! It left us looking forward to the very next day to do it all over again!!! Things just don’t get any better than that!!!
Through-out the week we explored the Big Sandbars around Peanut Island and found many wonderful and cool things. The tide seemed to be about as low as I could remember and the sandbar stretched for hundreds of yards in every direction. It didn’t take us long to find hermit crabs, box crabs and juvenile blue crabs by the dozens. As we were walking from one sandbar to the next we came upon a nice big Cushion Starfish and all took turns checking it out! It seemed to fit perfectly on AdventureNick’s chest!
Around the shallow edge of another sandbar the morning group found a handful of really nice beaded starfish that were just beginning to pop out of the sand and move to deeper water. We collected a few to take pictures and noticed that many were beginning to grow new tips on their arms where a seagull or crab had nipped them off. This gave us a chance to talk about how starfish can regenerate new arms if they happen to lose one or two to a predator. I think AdventureBrianna and Krissy just enjoyed finding them most of all!
Another afternoon we took a long walk around the west edge of the Big Sandbar and came upon hundreds of florida and west Indian fighting conchs in a shallow pool surrounded by the dry bar. Right in the very middle of them was a big horse conch with his “suction cup foot” wrapped around a fighting conch, sucking it right out of its shell, having it for lunch! Horse conchs are the largest shell found in north america and can grow to a length of 38 inches. They feed almost exclusively on other shells, and this one seemed to be right where he belonged! It was a cool find for us!
On the way back to the boat we found a few baby’s ear mollusks, a bunch of star eye hermit crabs with the most saphire blue eyes you could ever imagine and a couple of red banded hermit crabs too. Just as we were crossing from one bar to the next, AdventureAidan came upon another big bright red cushion starfish and of course we had to stop to take a few pics of this one too! I could sure tell she had fun finding this one too! We all did! Her smile was contagious!
While we were all busy checking out AdventureAidan’s cushion starfish, her big sister, AdventureRyenne, was busy finding some really cool beaded starfish that had some lovely bright orange “beadwork’ all around the very edges of the arms. These were much more spectacularly colored than most of the beaded starfish we find. This one here seemed to fit just perfectly right on the very bridge of Ryenne’s’ nose as if it belonged there all along! I could tell AdventureRyenne was having FUN too! Cool look also!
Just as we got to the boat we saw something pop out of the sand, crawl about for a bit, then sit still not moving an inch. We went over to investigate and found a really cool and unusual squat lobster rarely found around here. Good thing we came upon it first rather than a seagull, otherwise it would have been lunch! We checked it out up close and personal for a bit, then brought it to the edge of the bar and let it go. In a blink of an eye it buried under the sand and was gone from view.
Thursday of course was our fishing day, and as usual, we caught fish like there was no tomorrow!!! Sometimes you couldn’t count 3 seconds before having a fish on!!! We caught so many different species of fish I could hardly keep track!!! Good thing one of my very best friends, CaptainBill came to help out or I would have been stuck in the weeds taking fish off and baiting hooks. We must have caught and unhooked between 300 and 400 grunts, snappers, tomtates and sailors choice in 3 hours and I certainly couldn’t have done THAT without his help!!! Good Job Bill!!! It was non-stop action from start to finish!!! Just the way I LOVE IT!!!
For the afternoon group we went to one of my other secret fishing holes that doesn’t have as many fish or non-stop action, but does seem to have bigger fish and more lane snappers than most other spots we fish! Everybody caught a ton! Every now and then a few of our lucky anglers will hook into a nice porgy that not only fights like crazy, but tastes great pan fried too!!! They are one of my favorite fish to eat, and today, AdventureMax and Casey caught some nice big ones! I know AdventureRyenne loved that since she had been wanting and craving a fish dinner, and home for her dinner they went!!! Nice Job!!! Yumm…
A short time later AdventureRachel caught a nice big black and yellow porkfish that seemed to stand out nicely in front of her bright red shirt for a great photo op. These species of fish are hard to hook as they have small mouths and feed mainly on invertebrates but fight well once you get one on the line. There was no doubt in my mind she was loving every minute of that bringing it in on ultra lite tackle. Way to go Rachel!
Another day we stopped by Sea Urchin shoals to collect a few short spined and variegated sea urchins to check out. Within minutes we found a ton amongst the sea grass happily munching away. On this day, most of the ones we found were green with pink tips to the spines and a few whitish pink ones that would stick on to your hands with their tiny tube feet and just about never let go! It was obvious AdventureBrian was sure having fun pretending he had sea urchin eyeballs as he mosied about!
For the afternoon group we moved a bit further down the shoals to a rocky area where I hoped to find a few of the long-spined sea urchins that have become a bit uncommon ever since the world wide sea urchin blight that devasted this species in the early 90′s.This species has numerous long thin needle sharp spines that can easily puncture the skin and break off in the flesh. This species is best LEFT ALONE!!!, but sometimes can be carefully handled by me from underneath where their spines have been worn down and dull from crawling about. Do not attemp this on your own and be prepared to be spined on numerous occasions. While gently and carefully trying to place this on AdventureMatthews hands, I was stuck at least a half dozen times. Him not once! Its painful for a while but eventually goes away!
A bit later in the day while snorkeling in a new area, we found a few reef urchins that were much easier handled with less chance of getting stuck! I could tell AdventureCasey had no qualms picking up this one and holding it up for a picture or two. These are more commonly found on the offshore reefs but occasionally can be found inshore on a rocky bottom grazing on the algae growing on the rocks.
We spent a few hours everyday exploring the Rock Garden. There were fish everywhere and the water was crystal clear! We had so much fun observing and chasing fish, looking under rocks catching all sorts of different species of crabs, finding sea cucumbers, conchs and shrimp. You name it, we found it, and of course we tried to catch it just for FUN! Sometimes we were succesfull, sometimes we weren’t, but we had FUN trying none the less! It was just GREAT!
Another afternoon we spent snorkeling the lagoon on Peanut Island and spent about an hour swimming with a juvenile manatee that did his best to ignore us. It was a fabulous encounterand we all loved it!!! Along the way we found dozens of large variegated sea urchins grazing on algae covering the rocks. Each one had covered themselves with dozens of live hermit crabs in an attempt to camoflauge themselves from nearby predators. We thought that was cool too and spent a good bit of time searching to see who could find the largest one. AdventureMax found a nice one and we all checked it out up close and personal!
From here we snorkeled along the deeper edge of the lagoon and found dozens of live hawkwing conchs, juvenile queen conchs, a few large sea cucumbers and saw hundreds of parrotfish, snappers, grunts, juvenile barracudas and quite a few angelfish and reef butterflyfish. It was a beautiful area to snorkle and AdventureAidan found a fairly uncommon slate-pencil urchin that I thought made a fabulous photo opportunity when she stuck it on her head. To me, it looked just like it belonged there all along. Cool Find!!!
Just as we were about to call it a day and head back to the boat, AdventureRyenne spotted a large porcupinefish swimming along the wall. She asked if I could catch it so she could check it out. I slowly swam up behind so as to not spook it, and when it was within range of my hands I quickly reached out and carefully took hold. A second later it inflated itself with water, ballooned to twice its normal size and became a large thorny ball. Extreme caution must be taken when handling these as they are capable of inflicting a nasty bite. Keep your fingers and hands away from the mouth! AdventureRyenne sure had FUN checking this Big Burrfish out!!!
Another afternoon we stopped by the Big Sandbar at an extreme low tide and were able to walk the whole way to Peanut Island without even having to swim. A distance of about an 1/8 of a mile.I t was just unbelievable! The bar seemed to be exposed for ever and we found tons of cool things!! ! We walked the whole way to the Rock Garden for a quick snorkle and came upon a beautiful green sea turtle that swam right up to us, literally just about into our hands. It was just GREAT and we all loved that!!! Later, on the way back to the boat, AdventureNicholas picked up a good sized piece of granite that was lying on the beach. It had to weigh about 60lbs or more! I bet he and Max couldn’t carry it the whole way back to the boat, and just to prove me wrong, they did!!! Way to go!! You guys ROCK!!!
pardon the pun, of course…
The next morning the group wanted to go seine netting along the backside of Little Munyon and along the way we stopped at Starfish Prairie to check out a few of the large Cushion Starfish that are commonly found here. These are the largest species of starfish found in this area. We picked up a couple and placed them in a large bin of water to check out, then hurriedly took a few photos with the group and released them where we had found them. AdventureMatthew sure thought this was FUN!!! We all did!!!
From here we continued towards Little Munyon Island and along the way, we spotted a few manatees with calves feeding along the shallow sea grass beds. Every few seconds they would lift their heads out of water with a mouthful of sea grass and munch it down. We stopped, shut off the engines and drifted slowly by, observing them all the while. At one point they swam right up beside us as if to say hello, then later, went back to their feeding, seemingly oblivious that we were there. It was a fabulous encounter for us all!!! We just loved it!!!
Finally we made our way to the island and hopped out with the seine net to see what we could discover hidden amongst the shallow sea grass. This is always one of the kids favorite things to do. You never know what you may come up with. On the very first pull of the net we came up with some juvenile barracudas, lots of file fish, tiny yellowtail snappers, grunts, mojarras, a few hogfish, loads of sea grass shrimp and some big pink shrimp as well. It was a great way to start and we loved every second of it!!!
We began the afternoon session that same day doing a bit of seine netting as well. The tide was still extra low and there were plenty of areas we hadn’t been to in a while. On the first pull of the net we came up with a couple of big checkerboard puffers that seemed to inflate right on cue, and caught loads of other fish as well. Before long we had discovered dozens of different species of juvenile fish that make their home in the sea grass beds.
By the end of the day we had found 4 different species of puffers, 3 different species of grunts, numerous snappers, juvenile barracudas, mojarras, pinfish, pipefish, needlefish and one very small dwarf seahorse that was too small to even take a worthy photo of. It wasn’t even a half inch tall but we loved the discovery all the same! I think Ryennes favorite fish was this checkerboard puffer with its big puffy cheeks!
The most unusual fish we found is another species of pufferfish that I was not able to identify in any books I have. It is either an uncommon or rare species found here or an unusual color phase that I have not seen before. I believe it is another species as it had a rough texture to its skin under the belly and a mottled pattern on the top. It could also inflate almost perfectly round which we thought was just GREAT! I know AdventureJamie sure did! It was a nice find!!!
On one of our last visits to the sandbar for the week we found a piece of pvc pipe discarded in the shallows. I had just got done saying this would be a perfect home for an octopus, when low and behold, out crawled one right into AdventureMatthew’s hands. It was just great! We all absolutely loved finding this little guy and after a few seconds of checking him out, he slid off the pipe and into the water.
One of the neatest things about octopus is they have specialized cells called chromatophores that allow them to instantly change colors to match their backgrounds. They are able to change their colors, patterns and shapes to match just about any background they are on. Sometimes they seem to disappear right before your very eyes. We brought it near the beach so that we could check it a bit out more closely.
We all took turns gently handling the octopus, letting it reach out with its tentackles to explore our hands. It would stretch out one of its arms, grasp a nearby finger, stick on for a bit, then let go and reach out for another. We were all loving that “sticky” situation!!! After a short while we released the octopus back into the pipe and watched it disappear from view. I hoped next week that it still would be there.
The very last day we went back to the lagoon on Peanut Island and spent a good bit of time snorkeling around the edges checking out the hundreds of different species of fish and corals we could find. We also hoped to see that very same manatee we spent swimming with earlier in the week, but no luck this time. Maybe next week!!! I hope anyway!!! AdventureRyenne spent some time catching juvenile checkerboard puffers and came up with quite a few. She made a joke like she was going to eat one and I’ll bet this cute little puffer was mighty happy when she let it go instead!!! It made for a great and humorous photo!
Before we knew it the week had come to an end and not one of us was ready to call it quits!!! We had so much FUN we never wanted it to stop!!! Non stop, Fast Action FUN!!! What a way to start the Summer!!! What a way to end the Week!!! It just doesn’t get any better than THIS!!!Having all this Fun has left me looking forward to next week. And one things certain, I can’t wait to head out in the boat with the next group of kids and have fun doing it all over again! I know its going to be great! I can just feel it!!! Hope you’ll join us in the Adventure!!! Stay tuned, it will be here before you know it! Time Flies when your having FUN!!!! And we’re going to have it from start to finish!!! See you soon!
Let’s Go Have Some FUN!!!
Hi Everyone! Welcome Back!!! It seems like it has been forever since the last blog! Glad to be back!!! We’ve just finished up another wonderful week of Adventure, Excitement and Fun in the Sun. Having a non stop blast all Spring Break long!!! Wish you all could have joined us, we had so much FUN!!!. [...]
Hi Everyone! Welcome Back!!!
It seems like it has been forever since the last blog! Glad to be back!!! We’ve just finished up another wonderful week of Adventure, Excitement and Fun in the Sun. Having a non stop blast all Spring Break long!!! Wish you all could have joined us, we had so much FUN!!!. We had bottlenose dolphin sightings, saw nurse sharks and loggerhead sea turtles, caught giant porcupine burrfish by hand, found cute atlantic yellow rays, sea hares, starfish, sea urchins, chocolate chip sea-cucumbers and more!!! And if that wasn’t fun enough for a Spring Break Adventure, we caught fish like crazy, big ones too, on our fishing day!!! Now that’s what I call Having FUN!!!
Everyday we stopped by the Rock Garden to spend an hour or more snorkeling along the shallow rocks and bar. We saw so many fish! Dozens of different species! From juvenile barracudas to giant blue parrotfish, we saw them all, and by the hundreds! It was just GREAT! I think one of our more memorable moments at the Rock Garden occurred on the last day when we came around the edge of a rock and found a big spiny burrfish looking right back at us. We gently dipped him up from underneath with a small hand net, and low and behold, he puffed himself up like he was a giant spiny bowling ball. Did we ever LOVE THAT!!! I know AdventureNicholas sure did!!!
On another day here we found a couple of lovely atlantic yellow rays buried in the sand between a few shallow rocks. The group wanted me to catch one in my hand net so that they could check one out up close and personal. I very gingerly scooped one up and carefully removed the venemous barb with the tips of my fingers so that we could all hold one without fear of being stuck. Before doing this I made certain they understood never to do this themselves! This is certainly NOT what anyone else should try!!! EVER!!! The odds are very good that you can and will be stuck, painfully, and from personal experience, it is not something worth risking. That is of course, unless you are AdventureMike. I have spent my whole life in, around and under the water and have learned how to do this without too much worry. You certainly have to know the behavior of the subject matter involved! Best to just leave all rays alone! Once the barb was carefully removed and I had checked to make certain things were totally safe, we took turns holding the ray and checking him out. It was a wonderful experience to watch the gang gently hold the ray and check out the gills underneath, the sphericals on top of the head and the bony mouth plates within the mouth. I know AdventureMaxwell sure enjoyed this encounter. We all did!!!
Thursday was our fishing day, and as usual, we caught fish non stop!!! We started out fishing in one of my secret lane snapper holes and before long everyone had caught some really nice fish!!! As soon as the bait hit the bottom you would have something big eating it! It was just AWESOME!!! We caught dozens of big lane snappers, ceasars grunts, spanish hogfish, tomtates and more. Every now and then someone would hook something that we just couldn’t get in, but it sure was FUN watching that rod bend double and hearing the drag on the reel scream out! More often than not, those big fish would swim under a rock or simply break the line, but everyone caught some really NICE FISH all the same!!! Talk about having FUN, we were having a blast!
AdventureMax, Maxwell and Nicholas caught some really big porgies that put up one heck of a fight on light tackle!!! It was just GREAT to watch them struggle and fight a nice big fish all the way back to the boat and eventually boat them! I think Nicholas was the first to catch a big porgy that he released afterwards. Maxwell was the second to catch a nice big one worth keeping. He wanted to bring some fish home for dinner for his parents so we decided to keep that one to fillet later. A short time after that, AdventureMax, the other “Max” aboard, caught one nice BIG porgy himself and he decided to add that one to Maxwell’s first so that there would be enough fish for a nice meal. Nice Job Max! And nice porgy too!!!
A short while after this, AdventureMiriam, who was quietly catching lane snappers and other fish non stop like there was no tomorrow, hooked into something that screamed the line off her reel like it never was going to stop!!! It took quite some time for Miriam to get that fish near the boat and every time she did, that fish would take off, screaming the line back off the drag again! It was unbelievable and very exciting to watch!!! For a while there I really didn’t think Miriam would get that fish in on this ultra-lite tackle but of course she had to prove me wrong. It turned out to be a really BIG spanish mackeral that had some how hooked itself right between two big teeth and was unable to bite thru the line. Way to go Miriam! That’s one nice fish! HOLY MACKERAL!!! Pardon the pun of course
Each day we spent a bit of time exploring the Big Sandbar and found loads of beaded starfish, dozens of netted olives, fighting conchs, hermit crabs, cushion starfish, ctenophores and some really big Sea-Hares that are related to nudibranchs. When touched, these sea-hares would squirt out a rich purple dye just like an octopus. It had been years since I’ve seen this species around and they were quite prolific the whole week long. We all loved finding them and nick-named them “Ink fish” for the way they spewed out ink. One afternoon we stopped by Starfish Prairie and picked up a few large Cushion Starfish to take a couple of quick photo ops before releasing back where we had found them. All the kids love finding these. They are the largest species of starfish found here and we had a quick chance to take some of those infamous ‘starfish head” photos! I think AdventureJake found his to be a bit more heavy and spiny than he anticipated! Nice expression Jake!
One morning we took a quick boat ride down the beach and did a bit of trolling for blue runners. AdventureMaxwell caught one right quick and we decided to put it on a line to see if something big would eat it. We ran back up the intracoastal to a shallow grass flat and put him out on the line to leave overnight. The next morning when we came back to check the line, we could see the bouy line swimming around in a circle. I knew we had something and the group was excited to see what we had caught. We pulled up slowly and pulled in the line and found that a medium sized nurse shark had eaten the bait. Nurse sharks get their name from the “sucking” sound they make while feeding. One of their favorite foods is stingrays. I carefully pulled the nurse shark out of the water to unhook him and everyone had a chance to touch the rough sand-paper like skin covered with the tiny dentickles that gives the skin its rough texture. Afterwards we released the nurse shark and watched him swim away. It was a great experience for all, and we just loved it!
Later in the day we stopped back by the Rock Garden to snorkle, search for crabs and see if we could catch some small fish in our hand nets. We spent a good bit of time chasing juvenile spot-tail pinfish and some blennies, watched parrotfish munch on seaweed and went looking for all the different species of coral we could find. We found hundreds of ctenophores, a non stinging jellyfish like creature, washed up against the shallow rocks. For a while we collected them by the net-fulls then went off in search of more fish to chase with our nets. We had so much fun watching as hundreds of fish swim all around us, but didn’t have much luck catching them in our nets!
As we swam along the rocks we discovered dozens of Sea Hare Nudibranchs and had a ball watching as they released their ink. Along the way, AdventureNicholas found a nice big Chocolate Chip Sea Cucmber and we all took turns checking it out. Sea Cucumbers are one of those creatures that slowly moves about using tiny tube feet like a starfish, and filters sand thru its mouth, digesting the algae growing on it. They basically act as the oceans vacuum sweepers. I believe almost every grain of sand on the outer reefs has been thru the belly of a sea cucumber at one time or another. This species is one of my favorites and is always a nice find! Way to go Nicholas!
On the way back to our boat we swam over the remnants of a sunken vessel lying upside down in shallow water. It looked like it had been submerged for years. A few big long-spined porcupinefish had made this boat their home and were peeking out at us from a hole in the hull. As we swam around and checked them out, a very small juvenile nurse shark came swimming lazily out from underneath the vessel. This was the very first one I have ever seen here. As she swam slowly passed me I very carefully caught her in my hands and held her out to show the kids. This is something no-one else should EVER attempt!!! I am a trained professional in handling sharks and have handled nurse sharks and dozens of other species of sharks for years while working at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota county and working for the National Marine Fisheries tagging sharks. Nurse sharks are totally a non aggresive species of shark that possess tiny serrated teeth, but when hassled or held by a swimmer can bite on and never let go! DO NOT DO THIS ON YOUR OWN!!! Trust me when I say I have seen nurse sharks hang on to something for hours, and you don’t want it to be your hand or your thigh. When handling or working with potentially harmful creatures, especially around others, you absolutely must know what they’re potential behavior is, not threaten them and respect what they are capable of doing. Needless to say, all sharks are best left alone and appreciated just swimming by. After gently holding the juvenile nurse shark for a few seconds for all to see, I placed her back underneath the hull where she belonged. It was a wonderful experience for all, and we were glad and excited to have this opportunity! It just doesn’t get any better than this!
Needless to say, this Spring Break week flew by faster than any of us wanted! We were having way too much FUN !!! We never wanted it to end! NEVER!!! Somehow it always seems to be this way, and I just LOVE IT!!! , We had a BLAST!!! We lived the Adventure!!! From the very start until the very end! FUN and ADVENTURE from here to there!!! Somehow each and every week always seems to be this way, and I just LOVE IT!!! Wish you all could have joined us! We loved the Adventure! We lived the Adventure! It was Just GREAT!!! Lucky for me, I get to do it all over again when my summer camp sessions start May 24th. I’m taking registrations now!!! Don’t post pone, We will fill up quickly!!! Some weeks are already filled!!! Its always a BLAST!!! Its going to be GREAT!!! Don’t be late… Hope to see you there!!!
Let’s Go Have Some Fun!!!
Hi Everyone! Welcome back!!! We’ve just finished up another week of FUN and Adventure and let me tell you it was one of the best! We had so much FUN I don’t even know where to begin!!! It does seem that every week just gets better and better or maybe we are just getting lucky, [...]
Hi Everyone! Welcome back!!!
We’ve just finished up another week of FUN and Adventure and let me tell you it was one of the best! We had so much FUN I don’t even know where to begin!!! It does seem that every week just gets better and better or maybe we are just getting lucky, but either way I LOVE IT!!! All week long we had the coolest encounters with all kinds of sea creatures both big and small! No matter where we went or under which rock we looked, we found something COOL! I think AdventureMandy summed this week up best when I asked the group at the end of the day, ‘Well, Did you have Fun?” And her response was, “This was AWESOME!!! This is the BEST camp I’ve ever been too!!! ” My thoughts exactly Mandy!!! I couldn’t have said it better!!!
We began the first day stopping by the Big Sandbar. The tide was dead low and we all wanted to jump out and explore the bar to see what we could find. We hadn’t been out of the boat for more than a minute before we found something we liked or were fascinated with! Wherever we walked we found blue crabs scurrying by, or baby’s ear mollusks burrowing in the sand. As we walked we would occasionally stop to check out the Mantis shrimp and tube worm tunnels or pick up a handful of fighting conchs to watch for a bit. We kept our eyes open for starfish and before long we found a few. We came up with two beaded starfish, one big Cushion Starfish and shortly after that, we found a nice, medium sized 9 armed starfish that we loved! Some of the legs were shorter than others and we could see it was in the process of regenerating and growing new legs which we all found to be really neat! I know Mandy, Mac and Jack had a good time finding this one!
As we loaded up in the boat to head over to the Rock Garden to snorkel, we noticed a thin wispy water spout coming out of the very edge of beautiful cloud bank a ways offshore. We stopped and watched it develop a bit bigger than disappear in a blink of an eye as the cloud bank moved to the south. We thought that was just great too! No trouble for us! The minute we got in the water we were seeing fish by the thousands. Every where we looked there were FISH, FISH, FISH!!! And did we ever love that! While watching a school of parrotfish swim by one of the kids found a big slimy sea cucumber which we all took turns checking out. And did we ever enjoy that too! I know AdventureMandy sure did!!!
As we snorkeled along the edge of the Rock Garden we saw dozens of short-nosed puffers and quite a few checkerboard pufferfish. As usual, we all wanted to try and catch one to watch it “blow up” with air or water to more than twice its normal size. Chasing after and catching pufferfish has to be one of the most favorite things the kids love to do! We don’t always get them, but we sure LOVE trying! Sometimes it takes a combined effort to be successful. I know AdventureBobby was sure happy when it came his turn to get one in the net! We all were! Nice job!
As some of the kids chased puffers or watched the thousands of fish swim by, others would search or turn over small rocks looking for crabs, shrimp, brittle starfish or anything else they could find. Every now and then someone would come up with a few small stone crabs or porcelain crabs or a nice big queen conch or two. But the prize they were after was a nice big swimming crab! Every now and then I would hear a squeal of glee and turn around just in time to see some big crab dart about scurrying from rock to rock or underneath a nearby foot. You have to be quick of foot and hand to get a big one in your net. All the while not getting pinched! Check out the impressive pincers on this one that AdventureJack was lucky to catch!
Another day we went to Little Munyon Island to search along Sea Urchin Shoals to see how many different color variations of short-spined urchins we could find. The ones most commonly found are the dark green varieties, but my favorite color phase is the bright white ones with rich dark purple spines. We found sea urchins in every size and color! There were so many urchins you could collect them by the armfuls. And by the armfuls we did! It looked like it had rained urchins all night long! On this day they literally covered the bottom and we picked them up one after another checking each one out! We loved when they would stick to our hands using their tiny little tube feet, and we would all share when a smaller one or new color variety was found.
The latter part of the day we spent seine netting the shallow grass flat to the east. The tide had gone out and the flats were exposed like never before. This gave us a rare opportunity to seine in areas that were normally too deep. Here the sea grass was thick and luxuriant. The perfect home for fish! With the very first pull of the net we brought in some wonderful “treasures” that we placed in our tank of sea water to check out a bit later. They came in all sizes. You name it and I think we found it! The group loved to sort through the net the minute it reached the beach! And me too of course!
The second pull of the net thru the grass flats brought in the typical assortment of juvenile fish ranging from tiny barracudas to filefish, mojarras, striped grunts, ceasars grunts, lane snappers, yellowtail snappers, pinfish, sea grass shrimp, pink shrimp and lucky for us, some striped burrfish! This fish are in the blowfish family of fishes and are striped to match the sea grass and covered in short spines. They can be handled easily from underneath if you are careful to keep your hands and fingers out of the way of their mouths. AdventureJacob, Harper and William loved taking a close-up look at these!
It seemed with every pull of the net we would come up with something different. It is amazing how many species of fish and juvenile fish depend on the grass flats to provide food and shelter until they are big enough to live on the reef. Many species of fish will never leave the grass flats their entire lives. This is the perfect habitat for slow swimming pufferfish and on this day we were finding them by the dozens. And were we ever happy with that! AdventureMandy, Mac and Bobby sure had FUN checking out this checkerboard pufferfish up close and personal!
On the last pull of the net we came up with a juvenile long-spined porcupinefish and that was the very first one we have ever caught here. The minute the net came in to the beach this two inch long porcupinefish puffed up in all its glory and turned itself into a round little ball of quills. We absolutely loved that! This species of porcupinefish has the longest spines of any around, and even though it was tiny, we had to be very careful to hold it gingerly. All in all, we found 4 different species of blowfish or pufferfish in one pull of the net, and let me tell you that was just GREAT! AdventureHarper and Mandy loved the striped burrfish and long-spined porcupinefish best!
Of course, Thursday was our fishing day and it is mighty hard to beat the FUN and EXCITEMENT that we have on this day!!! Most days the kids will have a fish on within a few seconds of their bait hitting the bottom! On this day it was no different!!! We spent a little bit of time fishing the artificial reef and caught porkfish, grunts, snappers, tomtates, porgies, parrotfish and more! I took them to my secret snapper hole a bit later and we caught lane snappers non stop till we were almost too tired to bring any more in!!! And that’s just the way I love it!!!
It always seems on most trips the smallest person in the boat catches the biggest fish, and on this day it was no different. This was AdventureMandy’s first day of fishing and I think she stopped counting how many fish she caught once she reached about 40 or so. She seemed to be catching big fish one after another and sometimes I was wondering whether she would get them in or whether they would pull her out of the boat. She had quite a tussle with a few big fish but eventually got them in! I absolutely loved watching that! Great job Mandy! Nice big grunt too!
The last half hour of the day we went back to the Big Sandbar and romped around in the shallows. The boys dug trenches in the sand like they were building an irrigation project and the girls played in the warm pool of water we call the Hot Tub. As we headed back to the boat to call it a day we came upon a large Cushion starfish at the edge of the bar. We all had a chance to check the starfish out and take some cool photos along the way!
When we arrived back at the dock we were met with Icecream bars to celebrate AdventureJacobs birthday, and the cool thing about that was not only did we love that ice cream, but AdventureJacob and I celebrate the very same birthday! That’s July 8th, so Happy Birthday again Jacob! You ROCK! Nice sharing a birthday with another Adventurer!!!
We began the last day going back to the Rock Garden to enjoy the fabulous snorkeling and of course spent a good bit of time chasing and netting fish and crabs. We always love that!!! I noticed the ocean was absolutely flat calm so I decided to take the kids for a short jaunt offshore looking for some loggerhead and green sea turtles to show them. On the way out we passed over a nice sargassum seaweed line so we stopped to dip net a bit to see what we could find. With the very first scoop we caught a half dozen filefish, numerous shrimp and crabs and a lovely juvenile long spined porcupinefish that filled itself with air as if right on cue! Harper was the first to check it out and I could tell she loved it!!! We all did!
We all took turns checking out the porcupinefish and watched how cool it was to see it fill itself up with air to more than double its size. Being able to double its size and protrude hundreds of tiny sharp spines is a great way of preventing oneself from being eaten. Makes it also difficult to hold even if all you want to do just take a quick peek before leting it go! When fully grown this porcupinefishes spines can be over 2 inches long and needle sharp, making it almost impossible to be eaten or held! I know AdventureJason sure enjoyed checking it out when it came to his turn. Me too of course!
While all this FUN was going on a great big loggerhead sea turtle surfaced right by the boat and we all got a chance to see one right up close! And let me tell you, We Loved That Too!!! After this we went to the beach and anchored a few feet offshore. Most of us snorkeled while AdventureJoseph dug a huge hole in the sand to sit in. A second or two later I heard a yelp and watched as Joseph jumped up out of the hole with a huge Ghost Crab following closely behind! And “behind” is the key word! I think he even left a mark! How about it Joseph? I laughed so hard I could hardly take a picture! In a wink of an eye, Joseph quickly chased it down and held it up carefully for us to see. Nice Find Joseph!!! Well, I’m not really sure who found who, but it was great entertainment all the same! I loved it.
Just as we were getting ready to call it a day and slowly swimming back to the boat, a huge friendly manatee swam right up to us as if to say ,”hello” and gave us another BIG THRILL!!! He hung around for a little bit, then moseyed off down the beach. We loved that so much we had to get in the boat and go by and take one last look before heading home! I can tell you none of us wanted to go back that day!!! It was GREAT to have such a wonderful encounter! I wish a big friendly manatee would come by for a visit everyday!!!
On the way back we saw another big manatee swimming right down the beach in crystal clear, shallow water. And of course, we stopped to take a look at that one too. The amazing thing about what we saw that would have knocked our socks off if we were wearing any…. Following closely behind was a huge Manta Ray that swam right up to us looking like a Bomber coming in for a landing!!! Let me tell you, WE LOVED THAT TOO!!! So much so that I forgot to take a picture! Oh well… It was just unbelievable! What a way to end the week, any week!!!
We had Sea Creature Encounters, Big and Small, all week long!!! It just doesn’t get any better than that!!! How LUCKY we were!!! One things certain, I just can’t wait till next week to do it all over again!!! Hope you’ll join us and be a part of the ADVENTURE!!! I know its going to be GREAT!!! See you soon!!!
Let’s Go Have Some Fun!!!