26 May 2012 | Tobago Cays
Heidi/perfect sunshine and breeze
We've found paradise! I know it sounds cliche, and my writer friends would all groan, however it's simply true. The Tobago Cays in the Grenadine Islands (north of Grenada) consist of a multitude of lush, green, uninhabited islands, each with its pristine, palm fringed, white sand beaches, situated in the bluest of Caribbean waters. As you look across the water in every direction, you see a myriad of shades of this perfect bluest blue, aqua and turquoise, the colors dependant on the depth and makeup of the reef or sand below it. Interrupting this perfect blue are small tan specs which upon closer examination are the heads of green turtles (which by the way are vegetarian and thirve on the sea grasses here) some with shells as large as five feet. I like to think that this place is so peaceful because of all the vegetarians (at least that's what I thought before I saw the sharks. :) )
To get here we had to sail between islands with a navigable channel as narrow as about 150 feet. The depth of the channel on the chart is eight feet, which when Centime isn't loaded down with water, provisions and fuel means that there are two feet left between us and the bottom. It was so incredibly beautiful sailing through the channel that I got out my camera to create a video; it was so tricky to maneuver that I wasn't able to turn the camera on.
The Cays and it's water are all part of a protected national park. It is as beautiful below the water as it is above. Under the surface you can swim with dozens of turtles and watch them munching on the grass, floating under and over one another, lazily drifting along. You can study the patterns on their shells and heads which I found fascinating. We also found ourselves floating among schools of literally thousands of small clear fish so close to the surface that they reflected the bright sunlight, sparkling like diamonds.
At the end of our turtle swimming adventure I went to check to see if our anchor was secure in the sand. I held my breath as I saw a four foot long, majestic Spotted Eagle Ray. She was slowly and gracefully gliding at a depth of about eight to ten feet. Dennis and I were close enough to see the beautiful patterns of her spots, but far enough away as to not disturb all of her beauty as we watched her glide by.
The people we're meeting are wonderful too. Walter with his deep voice and broad smile, sells banana bread that his wife makes and he calls "the world's best." Perry was just a wonderful dive leader and in listening to him talk I suspect he is also an amazing cook. Sydney who was so charming and helpful I had to buy two t-shirts rather than one. Romeo sold us the "freshest grouper," made sure we knew his Mother's recipe for spicy, coconut fish sauce, and returned the next day to make sure we prepared it properly and it was totally delicious. And even the park ranger provided good tidbits on what to see and where to snokle. And, each local vendor has a colorful handmade and painted boat with names like "Free Spirit" and "Fabulous."
Today we dove in a place called Mayreau Gardens and it was the best dive of my life. The corals were so colorful: oranges, reds and lime green; giant brain corals and soft corals: sea plumes and deadmans fingers. There were sponges of bright yellow and lavender. There were spectacular bright blue tunicates which look a bit like sponges, shaped like a handful of slender champagne glasses, clustered together and measuring perhaps a foot or two across each colony.
The fish on our dive were equally colorful and even more plentiful, hundreds of different species and tens of thousands of individuals. One of my favorite was a large school of more then a hundred blue wrasses each measuring six to 10 inches and swimming all around us (see photo above). We also saw three nurse sharks, one about 6 or 7 feet long, an Eagle ray and two Southern Stingrays. One stingray measuring about four feet long and three across was grazing in the sand below us and it appeared like he was trying to bury his head in the sand. I read that stingrays pick out invertebrates and small fish from the sand. To watch him was the perfect end to a fabulous dive.
If you've ever earmarked a book "A thousand places to see before you die" as I have, or watched the movie "Bucket List" and started your own list, then be sure to include the Tobago Cays as part of your own voyaging. Come here on a sleek, classic sailboat or a very seaworthy kayak and discover all that you can above and below her waters.
It will be hard for me to leave this place. I know for certain however, as I watch the sun set over the islands, that we will return to this place I will call, paradise.
Photos c/o Michel from Nyctea - Thanks Michel!