After 8 days of nonstop lectures, identifications, diving, studying and exams, the class was in definite need of some time off. So, Thursday we left the marine lab for a field trip. Our first stop was a waterfall that we spent a couple hours climbing up and down. We had a lot of fun trying to make our way up and down though it was tourist packed and we had to climb the falls weaving in and out of tour groups.
Then we all dried off and changed and headed into Ocho Rios for an afternoon in town. There were 2 cruise ships in port, so the town was pretty busy. After a great lunch we spent the afternoon in the straw market shopping for local stuff then it was back to the marine lab and back to work that evening.
This morning we had some good weather so we went out on a fun dive to a spot called Rio Bueno. It was nice to be on a non-working dive for the morning since most of my dives for the past week have been spent identifying coral species, photographing them and measuring them with tape underwater. It took me a few dives to get a system down juggling a pencil, a clipboard with underwater paper, a measuring tape and camera with only 2 hands. Plus, of course, still monitoring your air, depth, location and navigation so you can make it back to the boat. Then, you are so focused on the small little area that you are working that you don’t even notice all the other cool things around you. When I told my family and friends back home that I was spending January in Jamaica for a class and doing some diving, everyone thought I was on some laid back dive trip, but working underwater is definitely a whole other experience. So, this morning’s dive to Rio Bueno with no extra equipment and no work to do was a nice change. I spent the much of the dive still identifying corals in my head anyhow since this site has far more coral cover than the sites we’ve been working at. Since we were free of work equipment, some of the divers had spear guns and were on the hunt for lionfish (Pterois volitans) . Since lionfish are invasive here, we try to catch them on each dive to help clear them off the reefs. The added bonus is that they make a great lunch! I think we caught 6 or 7 today.
We ended the dive over some Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) which is not very common here any longer since the reefs are pretty degraded.