It was time to see Anguilla from a different point of view – to go below the surface and see what lay beneath. We did just that this year with our scuba/snorkel trip with Shoal Bay Scuba.
My daughter always wanted to learn to scuba dive, so in the summer of 2012 before heading to the British Virgin Islands, we both took the certification course at our local dive shop, Underwater Connection. We both passed the written test, but I never got certified because I was unable to descend below 10 feet (two blown eardrums in my past). My daughter did get certified, but we had never arranged for a trip until this year. With my Anguilla Card in hand, I booked a trip with Shoal Bay Scuba. Even though we had only one diver, they were able to arrange a trip fun to both the diver and non-divers in our family.
Although the name of the company is Shoal Bay Scuba, they are now organized out of the Dive Shack, located at Roy’s Bayside Grill in Sandy Ground. Over the years, I remember them having a location on the beach at Shoal Bay and a location off the main road, but they seem to have the perfect location now at Sandy Ground. When you arrive, they’ll outfit you with the gear you need. My daughter and I brought our own snorkeling equipment, but my husband and son needed to be outfitted with snorkeling gear and my daughter needed dive gear.
They appointed a dive master to dive with my daughter, Pinky, and another guide, Pooky, accompanied us snorkeling. We were also accompanied by the owner, Matt Billington, who filled us in with information about the area. We set out in the “Lady Lou,” a twelve-passenger boat built by Anguilla’s own Rebel Marine.
Fortunately, when we arrived in Anguilla the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, we had just missed a week of storms. On our first night, folks at Garvey’s Sunshine Shack told us that it was the first nice day they had seen on their trip. Although we were glad to miss the storms, they churned up a lot of the ocean, decreasing visibility. Matt told us that they had to cancel a number of trips due to the visibility, and ours, the Friday after Thanksgiving, was the first time the conditions were good enough to venture out. So, in many of our pictures you will see stuff floating around, which the sun will highlight. The conditions were better than the photos might suggest, but unfortunately, our underwater photography suffered a bit.
I should mention that I had a new underwater camera for this trip. The GoPro we used in the BVI met its maker in Eleuthera. On our first snorkeling trip out on French Leave Beach in Eleuthera, the camera housing leaked and bricked the GoPro. I had been looking around for a replacement and in June of 2014, Olympus released its new camera in the Tough series, the Tough TG-3. It’s shockproof from a height of 7 feet, and waterproof to 50 feet. If you want to go deeper, you can buy a separate housing. The yellow floaty keeps the camera from sinking to the bottom of the ocean if you happen to drop it.
The TG-3 was an incredible improvement over the GoPro. Although the GoPro is smaller, the buttons are hard to use and the interface is not intuitive. The controls on the TG-3 are easy to see and use underwater. Plus, it had double locks on the battery and card compartments to avoid unexpected accidents. It also told you to check the doors if there was something in the way. It was easy to clean and although it only shoots JPEG’s (not RAW), the picture quality was nice. More on that in a later post!
Back to our trip, our first stop was a wreck on the north side of the island, not far from Sandy Ground. The ship was intentionally sunk, and the mast was cut off so as to not interfere with boat traffic. The mast was still visible to me, snorkeling on the surface. Even with the debris still in the water, I was able to see our daughter and the divemaster 60 feet below, exploring the wreck. Pooky, who seemed to be able to free dive forever, was kind enough to swim down to get these shots for me.
While they were down for about an hour, I was able to explore the area snorkeling, and saw my first turtle!
After the dive, we were off to Little Bay to snorkel around the area. There were people jumping off the rocks. The sign says, “Absolutely NO ANCHORING.” Nothing about jumping.
Not for me. I had way more fun exploring the coral and all the different fish below the surface.
My son was not up for snorkeling, but seemed to enjoy his view from the boat.
While we were snorkeling, Pinky spotted a lionfish and was able to spear it. Woo hoo! If you don’t know why lionfish are bad, read here.
Take a look around Little Bay:
After snorkeling, I had told Matt that I had not seen the island from the water before, so he treated us to a boat tour of the north side of the island. When you’re on Anguilla, everything seems pretty flat, with the exception of a few paths down to the shore areas, but from the water, you really see how far those paths descend. It was really beautiful from the water.
We took a spin around Sandy Island, before heading back to Sandy Ground.
I can’t tell you how thrilled our daughter was to dive, and what a great day we had with Shoal Bay Scuba. Thanks to Matt, Pinky, and Pooky for a wonderful afternoon!
And I saved 10% with my Anguilla Card!
Want to explore more of the island? Check out our Anguilla posts here, and be sure to come back as we post more of our adventures on the island.
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