September 19 – 23, 2013
We enjoyed snorkeling at the island by our anchorage, an easy swim from our boat. It didn’t look very exciting from above, but the water below the ledge was filled with interesting fish: many variations of blue damsels and probably hundreds of Picasso triggerfish ranging from inch-long babies to fairly large adults. They actually had burrows that they’d dart into if we got too close. We’re always excited to find even a single Picasso trigger; so seeing so many was pretty exciting, and we’ve never seen the burrow thing.
On one outing, we swam along the island to the small pass and made our way through to the other side. It wasn’t as prolific with the fish over there, but it was still worth a visit, especially when we spotted a trigger fish we’d never seen.
What did turn out to be really special was the large bombie we’d spotted from the dinghy on previous outings. This thing was huge, the size of a living room, and in contrast to the rocky sides of the islands, it was covered with an amazing array of corals. There were hard corals of all kinds, beautiful soft red corals, and sea fans. It had pinnacles and valleys that were right out of something Disney might create. As for fish, there seemed to be thousands of them, and they weren’t bothered by our presence.
We found the best way to enjoy the bombie was to drift over it, then swim back around it and drift over again. We did this a few times, and it was as good as any snorkeling we’d done to that point. We saw many fish we knew and a few we’d never seen before. I was kicking myself for not bringing the underwater camera, and unfortunately we didn’t get back there before we left. Hopefully we’ll go back someday and it will still be the same. (Sadly we’ve found cyclones can dramatically change coral reefs in shallow waters; something we saw firsthand when we returned to Tonga in 2014.)
These areas weren’t far from our boat, but we had some good snorkeling even closer, a bombie right near us. We first visited it to make sure it was deep enough that Legacy could drift over it safely even at low tide. It was, the top of it about 12 feet under water. What a surprise it was to dive down and find what looked like a simple rock from the surface was home to an impressive array of tropical fish, our own underwater aquarium! Up on the surface, it just looked like a rock again. Thus, I had good incentive to practice free diving and was much improved by the time we left.
At a glance, the Bay of Islands doesn’t look like it would be much for snorkeling as it lacks large areas of coral reef, but every snorkeling outing we made turned out to have things of interest. And of course the big bombie was world class! –Cyndi