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2011 - Bahamas
Paradise Next Door
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Paradise Next Door
Bahamas Cruise
2011
Thunderball Grotto
~ Thunderball Grotto ~
Thunderball, Exuma
It was Neat
Being the sole author for our website, I often prodded Don for his input so that I might write more complete, well rounded articles that included both of our accounts. Typically, I believed we had similarities in the way we perceived our shared exploits, but it was just that kind of inquiry that made me question that belief.

"I'm inspired to write a blog about the time we snorkeled Thunderball. What stands out in your mind about that experience?" I inquired.

After a moment of reminiscence and some deep introspection, Don collected his thoughts and replied "It was neat."

It was neat. With that helpful, albeit succinct description in mind, I'd proceed to craft my own detailed account, including the usual descriptive prose and informative data, and attempt to capture the essence of the captain's perspective.

Diana Dives Into a Spotlight
~ Diana Dives Into a Spotlight ~
Holes in the Landscape
Let me set the stage by imparting a little bit of what I'd learned about the geology of the Exuma's. This chain of islands was built up from the skeletons of coral reefs and shells on the foundation of an ancient limestone plateau. Salt spray, wind, and rain eroded these very soluble minerals, resulting in peculiarly pockmarked landscapes of craters, chasms, and caves – such as those we'd seen on Warderick Wells.

Between Big Majors Spot, where we were anchored, and just off the coast of Staniel Cay lies a few, very small islets that appear to be of little consequence – save for one. Thunderball, named after its 30 seconds of fame in the James Bond movie of the same title, took the unique geology of the Exuma Islands to a whole new level – below sea level that is.

Snorkeling Thunderball Grotto
Caught between the strong currents that flow over the shallow Exuma Bank and down into the unfathomable depths of Exuma Sound, the core of Thunderball Cay had been carved out over the millennium, resulting in a partially submerged cavern with various portals punched through the rock.

Following local advice, we waited for the mid-afternoon slack low tide, then loaded our snorkel gear into the tender and headed over to the celebrity cay. Once secured to the mooring ball, mask and fins were donned, and we rolled into the warm, shallow bank.

In the crystalline waters, an opening at the base of the island was clearly visible, arching a few feet above the surface of the ebb tide water, allowing us to easily glide into the unknown. We quickly emerged into an ethereal grotto that crowned a wondrous aquarium teaming with life.

Don Dives Through a Portal
~ Don Dives Through a Portal ~

Natural skylights pierced the cathedral vault allowing dramatic beams of sunlight to penetrate the gloom, illuminating the dome of smooth, dimpled rock, spikey stalagmites and dripping vines, as well as spotlighting the prismatic, coral encrusted pool below.

We dove into the dazzling shafts of light pouring through the maze of underwater catacombs while a myriad of queen angelfish, four-eye butterflyfish, and blue tangs schooled about. Ebony colored spiny sea urchins, ruby brittle stars, and rosy feather duster worms poked out of the thick tapestry of periwinkle vase sponges, fiery orange coral, and golden saucers covering the entire base of the island.

Amazing, Unforgettable, Spectacular
We explored the depth and breadth of that wondrous marvel of nature until the current told us the time to leave was nigh. The uniqueness of plunging into a shimmering lagoon vibrantly teaming with a kaleidoscope of aquatic life, and rising up under an exotically composed arcade aglow with the watercolors it enclosed made this experience…well…Don was right. It was neat.
Coral Carpet
~ Coral Carpet ~
Blue Tang
~ Blue Tang ~
Rosy Feather Dusters
~ Rosy Feather Dusters ~