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Happy World Oceans Day!

We are grateful for such incredible ocean creatures as the Whale Shark and the opportunity to educate our clients about them through in water encounters. Throughout the world, some fisherman are hanging up their gill nets and turning to ecotoursim as an alternative. When properly managed, these shifts save millions of pounds of by catch yearly, turles, ceteceans, fish and benthic invertebrates that would otherwise die in horrible destructive gill nets.

Our women’s trip to swim among these giants in November, hotel based still has some availability as does our February “Glamping Adventure”. We’ve added an opportunity to swim among the whale sharks in February making it truly the ultimate Baja adventure from baby gray whale encounters to giant whale sharks! Check it out at: http://www.bluewaterventures.org/baja_000.htm

SNORKELING WITH WHALE SHARKS: Entering the water next to a shark which may exceed 30 feet in length is truly an unforgettable encounter!
30 footers are barely mature while adult pregant females may reach a length of 60 feet with a massive gerth, just imagine such an encounter!

As filter feeders, whale sharks are considered harmless to snorkelers who respect these majestic sea creatures. Sometimes whale sharks are feeding leisurely at the surface while other times they are gliding effortlessly at a high speed. Excellent viewing can be made from our support boat; always a Bluie Water Ad-Venture!

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Adventures

We have some really exciting trips coming up locally and international for women.  To review and register for all  local trips, please visit our  ONLINE CALENDAR

Belize Adventure for Women: Rain Forest, Reefs, Caves and Ruins

December 23rd: Extreme Tidepooling and Seafood Forage for Women More Info

February 10th: Women’s Valentine’s Day Kayak, Beach Walk, Sunset and Warm Soup   More Info(Half Moon Bay area) with special interpretaton regarding the love life of sea creatures in honor of Valentine’s Day!

March 16th: Private Whales and Wildlife Charter for Women Aboard Sanctuary Cruises More Info

March 17th: Baby Seals and Babt Sea Otters by Kayak for Women~Elkhorn Slough  More Info

International Adventures:

Warm Water Baja Adventure for Women

Hotel Based~In Search of Whale Sharks and Baby Sea Turtles

Springs and Manatees of Florida Snorkeling Adventure for Women
An Extraordinary Wildlife Encounter for Women

January  20th-26th 2019 (Sold out)

Belize Adventure for Women: Rain Forest, Reefs, Caves and Ruins

April  3rd-14th, 2019 (3-4 spaces)

Tonga Whale Swim Reefs, Beaches and Culture

an Adventure in the South Pacific

August 3rd-17th,2019

(sold out, but join our next trip roster).

Get a group of friends or co-workers together and book a Private Trip

  For all trip details, email Kim Powell at bluewaterventuressc@gmail.com 

 

Give the gift of adventure travel. Gift Certificates are available for local and international destinations.

 

The Octopus and the Pufferfish

During our recent expedition to Belize, we were able to observe Caribbean Reef Octopus nightly as we explored the intertidal near our water huts on the edge of Glover’s Atoll.
We watched in fascination as the octopus fished under coral rubble by elongating their arms  ladened with sensory suckers which can taste their food once captured. Their beak/mouth is positioned at the base of their 8 arms and as Erica Berg keenly observed, their mouth is in their armpits!
We noticed a small sharpnose pufferfish become momentarily trapped by a sucker then quickly released as the octopus likely detected the unfavorable catch. Puffers contain tetrodotoxin, a powerful neurotoxin which protects the puffer from predation. Bobbing to the surface, the tiny puffer inflated it’s body and wobbled away.
Our group of women were such keen observers! We learned from each other sharing our daily observations during our 12 day blue water adventure! Join a natuarlist-led adventure at http://www.bluewaterventures.org!

The Story of the Pipe Fish where males do the birthin!

http://www.bluewaterventures.org

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We watched an Eared Grebe wrestle a spindly pipe fish down the hatch in Elkhorn Slough yesterday. More to the Story!

Spring has arrived to the mudflats and eelgrass beds of Elkhorn Slough and the pheromones are floating! Male cormorants are flaring their feathers, female sea otters are sporting red noses and male pipefish are pregnant! One of our more liberated Ostecichthyes, the male bay pipefish carries the load of pregnancy.

A slightly bulbous brood pouch is located on the ventral side of the male, which receives a package of unfertilized eggs from the female pipefish. Like clockwork, sperm fertilizes the eggs. Once properly tucked into the male’s receptacle, skin flaps adhere over the eggs sealing them in for a 2-week journey with Dad at the helm.

As the tiny embryos develop, the male pipefish provides life’s essentials: nutrients, oxygen, water and shelter from the storms. Two weeks later the magic happens. With a few twists and turns, the male pipefish delivers a posy of youngster that split out of the brood pouch and are spitting images of their most liberated parents.

 

 

 

Snorkeling in Cuba with www.bluewaterventures.org

Before arriving  to Cuba, I had read about our forbidden neighbor’s  thriving coral reefs.  A country frozen in time, Cuba is a matrix of islands forming an archipelago, a mere 100 miles south of Key West.  Our  local marine biology professor,  Nicole Crane confirmed this hopeful news from her travels through Cuba.  As I dipped into the warm water  surrounding Punta Perdiz at Playa Giron, I felt like I was meeting the spry colleague of an elderly friend who had been terribly ill for many years.

In 1985, I began a career as a professional naturalist,  leading snorkeling trips to various destinations in the Caribbean. I first submerged into sparkling  crystal clear blue water as a junior in college in 1979.  Studying marine biology in Belize with a motley crew of college students would change my life. Coral reefs became a personal and professional passion.  After a month living  on a tiny Belizean Island,  my blood had turned blue and feathery gills replaced my lungs. I was deeply intrigued  by a mostly thriving coral reef  ecosystem. Sadly ,, by the late 80’s the integrity of  many Caribbean coral reefs had begun to decline.  The change has been rapid and heart wrenching. Corals are finicking and demanding creatures that sometimes respond more like a plant than animal. In fact, corals are fueled by the sun as the majority of their nutrients are obtained by zooxanthellae,  photosynthetic algae living within the coral  tissues.

Since reef building corals must photosynthesize  to flourish, they require clear, warm water that lacks sedimentation. As tropical forests and mangrove shorelines  are cleared for  development,  sediments pour into marine environments blocking sunlight and smothering corals. With increasing nutrients in the water, large fleshy algae thrive and out compete  corals.  As human populations grow and swell during tourist seasons, many Caribbean locations experience a high demand on local fisheries. Without proper fisheries management, the removal of  herbivores such as parrotfish  has devastating effects on a coral reef ecosystem. As grazers, these colorful reef fish keep a check on algae growth. Healthy populations of reef herbivores are critical to maintain a balanced and vibrant coral reef system. Cuba’s careful management of marine resources, organic farming practices, relatively slower tourism, controlled fisheries and slower coastal development are among the factors contributing to a thriving coral reef ecosystem just offshore at Punta Perdiz.

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As I swam over the coral reefs at  Punta Perdiz, I was  thrilled to see an abundance of healthy Elkhorn Coral, Acropora palmata.  Listed as Critically Endangered by the ICUN Red List of Threatened Species,   Elkhorn Coral in the Caribbean basin has declined by 80% over a 30 year span  and is  virtually gone in the nearby Florida Keys. Rapid coastal development, high nutrient loads,  intense hurricanes, poor fisheries management and disease has led to the demise of Elkhorn Coral. However, at Punta Perdiz this  delicate  form  of branching coral was flourishing. Vibrant schools of blue tangs and parrotfish, keystone herbivores darted among the corals. Yellow tube sponges, feathery gorgonian corals, brilliant christmas tree worms and reef urchins were thriving among the  predominantly live Elkhorn Coral  branches. Peering into a tidy hole  nestled within the  Elkhorn Coral polyps,  miniature  claws of an old friend, the Elkhorn Coral Crab, Domecia acanthophora appeared.  Living as a commensal species associated wth Elkhorn Coral, these minuscule crabs will also disappear as Elkhorn Coral declines. However, at Cuba’s Punta Perdiz, even the spry and spindling Elkhorn Corals are ready for some salsa dancing!

Kim Powell is owner, operator and head naturalist at Blue Water Ventures in Santa Cruz, CA. Offering naturalist-led field trips for students and adventurous vacations designed to be relaxing with an educational component for women. Kim has been organizing single and multiple day excursions to extraordinarily beautiful places since 1985. www.bluewaterventures.org

 

Song of a Humpback Whale

http://www.bluewaterventures.org

Dipping into what seems like a deep blue silence, I am greeted by the erie song of a humpback whale in the vast south pacific ocean surrounding Tonga. If you are near a singing whale, the sound comes from within as it pulsates through your fluid watery body. The tones literally flows through you and you can feel it reverberating through your core. Some people describe a sensation in their chest or felt in their bones. Off the islands of Vava’u I felt it seeping through my body, pulsating and tingling. I dove deep into the blue abyss alone but not, listening and in awe.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Only the male humpback whales sing an elaborate song and primarily during the breeding and calving season. While much is still unknown, its thought that air is pumped through sacs attached to the larynx region and then reverberates out through their massive throat. It is truly one of the greatest concerts on earth which was shared among an intrepid crew with www.bluewaterventures.org! Thank you whales…..

 

http://www.bluewaterventures.org

It was such an honor to share our humpback whale experience with Ash and Shona, our incredible guides with Tongan Expeditions. Ash is from the the village of Whangara on the east coast of New Zealand where the Whale Rider movie was filmed. His life has been spent observing whales from above and below. Ash is a full blooded Maori and Shona is 1/2 Maori, both so attune to whale energy. It was an incredible experience to watch them in the water respectfully interacting with a baby humpback whale. Though a little blurry, note that the young whale is guarded by both mama whale as well as an escort adult whale.

Humpback whale escorts are a true mystery of nature and so intriguing to observe from below. During our swims, we had several encounters with escorts. Several snorkelers received a clear message to keep a distance from baby whale when an escort posiitoned itself between mother/calf and humans. Though no physical touch or overt aggression, the escort would deliver a gentle reminder of their immense power as it established underwater boundaries. We are humbled and in awe…..www.bluewaterventures.org

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http://www.bluewaterventures.org

The Mola Mola Ocean Sunfish

Imagine an irregularly shaped disk with exaggerated fins, bulging eyes and a tiny mouth below a bulbous flat head flopping around at the surface of Monterey Bay and you have discovered the ocean sunfish, Mola mola!  As you approach this mystical creature, it suddenly dives out of sight undulating its dorsal and ventral fins as it disappear into the depths. The Mola mola is the heaviest   bony fish known to exist in the ocean realm.   It sustains itself on a diet of gelatinous creatures such as the egg yolk sea jelly among other planktonic jellies found in Monterey Bay. Beginning life as a tiny minuscule drifting egg, an ocean sunfish will begin to grow increasing its size by over 50 million times until it reaches the size of a minivan. To put this into perspective, imagine a fully-grown marine toad, Bufo marinus weighing over 120,000 pounds that began its journey though life as a tiny tadpole, weighing less than a gram. Mola mola are acknowledged in the Guinness Book of World Records as producing the largest number of eggs of any fish ever recorded. A single female ocean sunfish held 300 million eggs. The ocean sunfish thrives in temperate and tropical oceans including the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea and on rare occasions, the Bering Sea. While their preferred habitat is open ocean, they may sometimes wander into kelp forests and deep coral reefs.

Natural History Notes

Its is intriguing to note that adult ocean sunfish lack a swim bladder, the organ in fishes that gives them the ability to control their buoyancy.  Ichthyologist once assumed that ocean sunfish traveled at the whim of prevailing currents drifting along with other planktonic forms of life. However, studies have revealed that the Mola mola can reach speeds of over 3 kilometers per hour and cover over 25 kilometers per day. While often appearing lethargic and slow moving near the surface, they are quite capable of speed and swimming to depth.aaScreen Shot 2017-07-01 at 8.42.11 PM

 

However, since ocean sunfish are often drifting at a pelagic snail’s pace, they are subject to a high degree of parasitism. Seeking slow moving creatures such as sea turtles basking in the sun, whales in breeding lagoons and meandering ocean sunfishes, a variety of parasites will climb aboard for an easily obtained and predictable meal.

 

Another interesting story can be woven between Mola mola and Bufo marinus, the lethargic marine toads of Tropical America. Oozing from the paratoid glands of these impressively large toads is a milky substance which contains bufotoxin, a strong neurotoxin. The ocean sunfish is classified among the Tetraodontiformes, an order of marine fish which contain a powerful neurotoxin, tetrodotoxin. Unlike their cousin the pufferfish, ocean sunfish probably lack the deadly toxin.  However, the toxins derived from both the marine toad and the Mola’s cousin, a Caribbean pufferfish have been used in the Haitian traditional practice of zombism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.bluewaterventures.org

We were simply spellbound watching a reef squid feeding at night on our recent BVI Multi Sport Sailing Adventure! The video captures the pulsating chromatophore color cells and the lighter feeding tentacles waiting to strike. It happened so quickly that we missed capturing it on the video, but we’ will all remember the rapid strike and entanglement of a tiny fry fish, possibly a silverside.

The next morning, several of us encountered a school of over 60 reef squid watching us as we watched them! So many great moments in the Caribbean! Join us at www.bluewaterventures.org.

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Wildlife viewing is outstanding right now in Elkhorn Slough! Mother sea otters are extremely attentive to their pups who may remain with her for 6 to 8 months and longer if needed. Clearly this mother gives her pup ample time to accomplish the task of crawling back onto the beach but eventually comes to its rescue.

As she raises up on her hind legs, she resembles the movement of her terrestrial relatives, weasels, minks and badgers, all members of the family Mustelidaes.

Our next kayaking tour will combine baby sea otter viewing with fine culinary cuisine, an Elkhorn Slough tour on May 7th at http://www.bluewaterventures.org.