We had a surprisingly easy flight down to Provo. Maybe it was because we had to get up so early I slept most of the way down. The only real excitement was a flight scheduled to leave just as we got there had to abort due to a smoke alarm in the cockpit. They evacuated the plane and temporarily closed the airport. Very quickly everything was back to normal and flights were departing. The plane did not catch on fire and the passengers were provided a backup plane.
The dive shop is right out the front door of the hotel and very friendly. We got set up Saturday and then went out for an excellent dinner at Mango Reef. We started our dives on Sunday at 8:15 am. Well, we met then and rode a private bus to the marina. The crew was all setup with our equipment and ready to go when we arrived. The crew was knowledgeable and made it fun to be aboard. Our first dive was Northwest Point, the most northwest point on the island (pun intended). A very easy dive next to a wall dropping to near 6,000 feet. There were the usual selection of small fish along with a few lobster and barracuda. A very pleasant dive followed by a light lunch and surface interval on the boat. Dive two was “The Chimney.” Starting at about 40 feet the fissure drops down through the wall and out at about 80 feet. Here we saw sharks, more lobster, big grouper, hoards of blue parrotfish, and very pretty coral heads. Meanwhile, our snorkeler saw her first turtle ever. A milestone for her.
Monday we dove West Caicos. The winds were strong and the waves high on the north side so our boat had moved to the lee side of the islands. That meant our sites would have to be in the shelter of the island for comfort.
Tuesday’s dives started at the “Thunderdome.” The story we were told is that there was to be a game show where contestants freedove into the girder work dome and swam around looking for pearls. However, since they were breathholding they couldn’t stay down long so they could spend some of the pearls to by breaths of air from passing “mermaids” to let them stay down longer. But some of the mermaids were mean and wouldn’t give them air, even after they bought it with the pearls. Needless to say, that resulted in some free ascents as the contestants totally ran out of air. I don’t ever remember seeing that on TV but I don’t watch all that much so I might have missed it. The good thing was the island got a recompression chamber out of the project. Of course, they didn’t say if that was because there were problems or to prevent problems. Anyway, the Thunderdome had a lot of fish life in and around it, unfortunately including Lionfish. They are everywhere you go in the Caribbean now. Dive 2 for the day was at Shark Hotel. Guess why it got that name. Lots of sharks swimming around with turtles, rays, and eels.
Wednesday we dove Double D and Lobster Roll. Double D has two large mounds (hence the name) and a beautiful wall drift dive. Lobster Roll got its’ name as they used to be an old lobster trap there. Good reason for that, the lobsters were everywhere. In one hole we saw 4 really big lobster that had no fear of divers. On that same coral head were over a dozen lobster, none less than a pound and a half of tail.
Thursday was G Spot first. Right off the wall was a huge Eagle Ray swimming majestically along. At one point it paused to pose for pictures. It’s bad, but the dives were so good we got accustomed to seeing lots of fish and beautiful sights. We say rays and lobsters on almost every dive. French Connection was the second dive and a personally very interesting dive. First there were a number of large sharks but that wasn’t the highlight. As I swam along a Yellowtail Snapper joined me as my buddy for about 10 minutes. He traveled with me across the reefs and corals just swimming along by my side. Then it got even better. I stopped to look at a small coral head and Mary pointed out a Nurse Shark lying in the sand. I dropped down about 5~6 feet in front of it and started doing a fin pivot. The shark slowly swam forward toward me until he was resting with his head underneath mine! I was looking directly down from less than a foot away at a shark resting comfortably beneath me. The tip of his nose was about even with my upper chest. I bobbed gently and he sat patiently until finally I rose up and swam off. Awesome!
Friday we dove Elephant Ears and Boat Cove. We started with a deep dive for Mary and me. We wanted to practice some techniques and preferred to do it in warm water. We immediately drew a trio of sharks cruising around us to see what we were doing. One of which was a Tiger Shark. Then we rounded a corner and saw a large turtle feeding of hard corals. He would bite down hard and try to break off a piece with limited success. But he was persistent and finally got his lunch. As we moved to shallower (50 feet) depths we saw an extremely large porcupine fish, often called a porcupine puffer. Her didn’t hang around long before heading off into the reef. Our snorkeler saw a nurse shark, barracuda, and eight (8) rays in a group. At Boat Cove we went to an area that looked like a sand waterfall. Again we saw a turtle and sharks and lots of rays. During the briefing the dive master said there was a Grouper that might let you pet him if he felt like it. Well he felt like it. I dropped down next to him and gently started stroking his side. He promptly rolled upright and turned to make it easier for me to reach and pet him. It seemed like I was petting him for a really long time. I started to leave and he swam out next to me and offered up his side again to be petted. He reminded me of the Manatees in Florida. He wanted the contact and the stroking. In fact, he followed the group for the rest of the dive until we moved back into shallow waters to return to the boat.
All in all Provo was great. The food was excellent everywhere we went. Except Hey Jose Take Away which became a story in itself. Stop by the store if you want the story. The hotel was very nice and the staff was extremely friendly and helpful. The location was about 50 feet from the dive shop and therefore very convenient. The junior suites were big enough to stretch out and spread out.
We toured a couple of days to see the sights. We went to The Hole which was advertised heavily. It’s a hole. It’s about 40 feet across and 80 feet deep. They implied you could climb down and snorkel in it. When we got there no way down to the bottom was found. But even if we could get down the water did not look inviting. Plus we would have had to climb back out. Not gonna happen. We also went to the Conch Farm. That was an interesting place. We learned about the life cycle of the conch and how they are raised in a “farm” to create a sustainable source of food.
The dive shop was phenomenal. They were always cheerful no matter what the weather or the time of day. I don’t know how the other shops on the island compare but I don’t care. These are the ONLY people we’ll ever dive with on Provo. A HUGE pat on the back to Captain Bill. He was phenomenal. He was a great dive guide finding all the neat critters. He was a great captain. No matter how much of a pain the derriere we might have been he was always helpful, cheerful, and just a great guy. Thanks Bill for a great time!
Finally the group. It's always fun to go on a trip but it's exceptionally fun when you have as good a group as we did this time. I hope they had as good a time as they gave me. Thanks everyone.