[dropcap]Y[/dropcap]es, we are in the dog days of summer, the humidity is high, the temperature is not far behind, afternoon thunderstorms bring liquid sunshine and we continually monitor the tropics for storms as we approach the height of hurricane season. But we are happy to report great diving conditions with warm, calm seas, excellent visibility – and zero storms, so far. Both air and water temperatures peak this month, with air temperature averaging 88°F and water temperature between 84-86°F.
Although the official end of summer is Wednesday, September 23, Abaco is already experiencing a slowdown in tourism. The beginning of school has taken a lot of visitors back home, so the boat has fewer divers and snorkelers on board. The off season has begun.
Diving conditions are near perfect. Winds are generally light, less than 10 knots, out of the southeast. Visibility remains outstanding with no evidence of algae bloom, caused by higher water temperatures and climate change. Most days, the sea is flat calm and current is non-existent along the world’s third longest barrier reef. The reef runs the length of the eastern side of the barrier islands – or Cays, as they are referred to. A couple of the most well-known protected reefs in this area are the Fowl Cay National Underwater Park and the Sandy Cay National Land and Sea Park. It is unlawful to remove anything from these areas. As for other areas, it is illegal to spear fish, including crawfish, while on SCUBA or within 200 yards of any shoreline in the Out Islands – or to remove anything from the ocean floor while on SCUBA within the Islands of the Bahamas.
Abaco offers a wide range of diving opportunities. Marine life is abundant. We continue to enjoy the presence of silversides and copper sweepers in the tunnels and swim throughs. Their sheer volume attracts a variety of predators, including grouper, snapper and jacks – and is an ideal opportunity for divers, especially if you are into underwater photography, to observe a lot of marine life in a localized area.
Abaco ambassadors and resident Nassau grouper, Gidget and Gulliver, have been faithful dive companions again this season. Blennies, gobies, wrasse and damsel fish hover around coral heads. An abundance of angel, butterfly, hog and parrot fish have been observed this year. It is mating season for the Caribbean reef sharks, so no shark dives. They seem to disappear around this time every year and don’t reappear until late October, but a few nurse sharks are hanging around, as are numerous hawksbill and loggerhead turtles and green and spotted moray eels.
With the exceptionally calm seas, we have had the opportunity to dive several wrecks. These sites are weather dependent because they are in shallow water and conditions can be affected by surge. One wreck of particular interest is the USS Adirondack, a United States Civil War Steamer, which hit a reef and went down on August 23, 1862. Although the wooden hull rotted away years ago, her cannons are still readily visible.
It is highly recommended to make reservations in advance. Many businesses close to allow their staff to take much needed vacations and for annual maintenance to prepare for the winter season, which starts in November. The hotels that are open are offering accommodations at reduced out of season rates.
The Full ‘Harvest’ Moon occurs on Sunday, September 27, 10:50 p.m., so be sure and look up. In the meantime, we’ll be on the lookout for you!