Monday, December 29, 2008

Paradise Cove Tours

Ahhh... sweet sweet serenity.

Before arriving to the island, we pretty much had a mapped out itinerary to follow. We were going to go on a snorkeling tour through blue holes. Blue holes are large craters in the sea, which is the home to so many different tropical fish, and I knew this would be something not to miss. Unfortunately the tour was no longer operating Blue Holes, which was sad.

Instead of sitting around though, we figured we'd simply do another tour for the day we were going to do Blue Holes.
We were given a book of activities to do on the island from the customer service desk at our resort.

In it we found Paradise Cove Tours, which was an all day tour to Paradise Cove, which is located on the west end of the island.
For only $35, the tour included, lunch, free transportation, and of course snorkeling in what is called Deadman's Reef; which we were told was the islands best spot for snorkeling.
The tour was not quite as planned though, because the tour bus refused to come pick us up at our resort seeing that we were the only couple doing the tour. They said we were too far away, and that there were not enough people from our resort who booked the tour.
We had to take a $20 cab ride to the casino at Westin where the tour bus picked us up.
A good 20 minute drive or so, and we were finally at Paradise cove.
You walk up a narrow little walkway to a beach hut, where food is served. Here you can rent snorkel gear, lounge chairs, towels, and umbrellas for a very small price.
We rented a lawn chair. An employee at the beach shack set it up for us, and we were ready to go.
Paradise Cove is pristine and beautiful, with white sand beaches, crystal clear water, and a reef far out in the distance.
It took some time to swim out to the good snorkeling spots which are located very close to the small mountains of rock that rise up out of the water.Many say that only good swimmers should tour Paradise Cove, but at the beach hut you can rent out flotation belts in order to make the swim easier on you. If you take your time though, and just take in what you are seeing down below in the crytsal clear sea, you won't have an issue with becoming fatigue. I found that just drifting worked best.
The water is not scary deep, but it gets very deep when you are near the reefs.
Some areas in the water are so deep that it may even scare you, but if you relax, and just enjoy what you are seeing, you will adore the large craters and dips in the sea floor.
Far out you will be looking around 100 feet down, and it does not even seem that you are that deep until you look over at your partner and see just how far their body is from the surface. It's all pretty surreal.

The corals all seemed relatively dead at Paradise Cove, but the fish are there in an abundance, and sting rays seem to enjoy this area. One ray was around 10 feet long, and was literately 3 feet from shore. So be very, very careful when getting into the water- although they do not attack, their barbs are deadly, and odds are if you step on one, it will not hesitate to lash out on you. Try and scout it out before just flopping in!The thing I really loved about Paradise Cove is that while swimming out to the reef you will come across a huge landscape of green seaweed. In this seaweed you will notice large clumps... upon close inspection you will notice that these large hunks of seaweed are actually living sand dollars. They come to the weeds to collect them to their bodies for camouflage. If you don't look closely you could miss one amazing sea creature.
Now the coolest part is that the green sea bed ends onto a huge landscape of white sand. This sand is not barren though. Here you will find the shells of the former guests of sand dollars. I was able to find sand dollars here in bucket fulls... however they have been sitting down there for so long, that when you try to pick them up, they turn to dust.
I was able to find about 5 or 6 really good sized sand dollars that stood together. Some the size of my palm.I liked to call this area at Paradise Cove, Sand dollar Graveyard.
The waters here at Paradise Cove are pretty much filled with the same types of fish we saw at the resort, with the occasional sting ray, and a few odd balls that we didn't see in the waters at Fortuna Beach. We were looking primarily for sea turtles, but unfortunately it wasn't the right season.
The one thing we did see here in an abundance besides live sand dollars, and sand dollar shells were these odd blue fish that seemed to glow. I only wish I knew what they were called, but they had these spectacular blue dots on them that seemed to just light up. Like lightning bugs of the sea.
Out near the rocks, we came across about 4 or 5 Bahamian lobsters hiding in small pockets in the rocks. They have no claws!!!
The absolute best thing though that I spotted here were these gorgeous neon yellow and orange sea slugs. They were so easy to miss... but like I said, if you take your time you will see more than expected.
Not only were there neon yellow sea slugs, but I also came across some blue ones, and grey colored ones. They are so beautiful, and so graceful, just inching along pieces of coral.
Unfortunately my underwater camera had a hard time focusing in on the small sea slugs.

After swimming around for what felt like an eternity, we headed back in shore for some conch chips, and Bahamian lobster.

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