Thursday, March 7, 2013

Diving and Dolphins

We are anchored off the island of Terre-de-Haut, part of the group of islands known as Isles des Saintes or simply Les Saintes.  These islands are part of Guadeloupe, which is in turn a department of France.

We love the French islands.  The atmosphere is a fun mix of laid-back Caribbean and Continental flair.  The Saints depend almost exclusively on tourism, but the competition for tourists' business doesn't ever seem pushy or obtrusive.  The one downside is that the restaurants are uniformly excellent, so we spend a lot of money eating out.  Neither of us knows very much French (Gretchen knows way more than David), but we get along with little difficulty.

With our new Scuba certifications, we arranged a dive with a local dive shop, Pisquettes.  It was fantastic!  The fish were incredible, both in number and variety.  We are a bit blas√© about seeing Sergeant Majors, but we have never seen schools as large as the ones here.  We saw trunkfish, triggerfish, angelfish, and some very large Atlantic spadefish.  Other treats included some good-sized barracuda, a spotted Moray and a huge lobster.  The array of corals and sponges was better than we have ever seen before.  A couple of the participants (including David) started the dive with slightly less than full tanks, so unfortunately the dive was a bit shorter than planned.

After the dive, as we were raving about the dive, the dive master asked if we would like to go swim with some dolphins?  Well, yes!

There are a couple of dolphins, a mother and a nearly grown calf, who swim most every day in the harbor.  The dive boat went in search of them, and we found them with little difficulty.  Everyone piled off the boat with snorkels and fins, but the dolphins disappeared.  We all got back on the boat, and sure enough they appeared again.  This time we cruised around slowly, waiting to see if they would stick around.  Eventually most of the divers (David but not Gretchen) got back in the water.

There were quite a few swimmers, some from boats moored nearby, some from the dive boat, some who had come over in dinghy's.  The dolphins seemed to enjoy the company.  They would slow down so that the swimmers could catch up, and then speed ahead or turn around and dive under us.  The pair swam straight toward David at one point, and turned aside when they were within arm's length.  Extremely beautiful, and a rare privilege.

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