We pulled away from the dock and headed south along the coast of the Island of Cozumel, the sun still hanging low in the morning sky to our port (left). Today was Friday, so there weren’t as many divers overall, and the resort decided to consolidate us all into one boat.
Sitting next to me were two women – respiratory therapists from Edmonton, who had snuck away from work for this trip. One explained to me that their hospital is strongly discouraging travel, so the two of them just took the week off without telling anybody where they were going.
I didn’t have to sneak away from work, but many people at work ask me how I can travel safely. The Canadians and I clearly have some of these issues in common.
Although we had merged into one boat, for the dive we split back into groups following our previous dive masters, so Francisco was once again in charge. I followed him into the water and dove down, camera in hand.
Although I considered it, I ultimately decided not to bring my strobe on this dive, as I didn’t want to carry the extra weight if I wasn’t convinced it would work right. Instead I planned to use the onboard, underpowered flash, trying to focus on textures and colors, taking pictures like this one.
Then, we swam over a sandy rise only to be greeted by the extraordinary sight of a spotted eagle ray skimming across the bottom, digging its nose into the sand in search of crustaceans or shellfish on which to feed.
The group of us settled to the bottom, kneeling and taking it all in, enraptured. The glorious ray turned away, and then circled back toward us, its arms flapping languidly as it swam directly at me.
I didn’t quite know what to do and wondered briefly whether I should stand my ground. Ultimately I decided to get out of its way, so rose up and let the ray, with its 6-foot wingspan, pass below me. It was too close, and I had to wait a moment before taking this photo of its elaborately patterned dorsal surface. It was awesome.
We continued on our way, over and around filigree reefs, as I went back to focusing on well lit, macro photos.
I’m really happy with how some of them came out.
And every so often I found something unexpected, like this little brushworm who couldn’t hide from me.
Over another rise we found this spotted moray eel poking its head out from between some rocks. Francisco made sure I had ample opportunity for photos.
At the end of our first dive, we looked down and found one more ray taking its rest in the sand. It was perfect.
The next dive wasn’t nearly as remarkable (how could it be?), but I focused on trying to capture some of the small fishes that so often dart out of my frame.
Although many were poor quality, I managed to capture a few decent snaps.
Including this anemone, its gilded blue tendrils waving seductively.
Finally, about 50 minutes in, Francisco signaled time and we took our safety stops, ascending to the waiting boat above.
This was my last day of diving here in Cozumel, and it was extraordinary, by far the best of the week. Much of my time floating past the reefs here has been fun, but not exceptional. In one dive, that all changed.
Just thinking about that close encounter with the eagle ray makes me smile.
It really was the best way to wrap things up!