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In my 24 years of leading kayaking trips into the Elkhorn Slough, I have never seen the magnitude of sea jellies that I have witnessed over the last few days. These epic events occur during a “perfect storm”, a combination of conditions including temperature, currents, nutrients and prey availability. Like many jellies, the sea nettles Chrysaora fuscescens, lay dormant in a polyp stage (like a tiny sea anemone) until ideal conditions are met. When such environmental conditions occur, these tiny flattened polyps stacked on top of each other like dinner plates, are released in mass as the floating medusa form of its life cycle.

IMG_4505With the recent full moon cycle generating high tides, the sea nettles as drifters were pushed into Moss Landing Harbor and into the Elkhorn Slough. While sea nettles can pulsate to move through the still water, they are considered zooplankton, an animal that drifts with currents. As the pigmentation is diminished, 4 whitish clumps are revealed through the bell of the sea nettles. These clumps are the reproductive organs, gonads that will release egg and sperm into the water column. Afterwards the adult medusa stage then dies.

There is always something incredible to experience as we explore the Elkhorn Slough from the quiet perspective of a sea kayak. Hope you will join us at www.bluewaterventures.org

My mind keeps wandering back to a mere 30 second whale encoutner that leaves me with a sense of profound gratitude and wonder.

We dipped into what seemed like a deep blue silence. Hovering at the surface, we were 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 deep in their chest or felt through their bones.

The lone male humpback whale had just dove and was singing below us. Then suddenly, the whale appeared perhaps 100 feet from us. With a mulititude of directions to choose from, the singer swam slowly towards us and continued to sing. However, he seemed to turn down the volume as he glided just a few feet by us, as if to protect us from the deafening sound of his melodious song.

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!

IMG_4024Over a 34 year career of teaching coral reef ecology to groups, Tonga 2019 will be remembered as a truly  unforgettable underwater exploration.

Each day, we observed new reef  behaviors as well as a  kaleidoscope of colors exploding below us.

I was thrilled to offer dawn snorkels before our full day whale swims. As the  sun set across the South Pacific, we then snorkeled again as the crepuscular  feeders began to emerge. Thrilling!

While our  whales encounters were again so profound, I was absolutely rejuvenated by the beauty of Tonga’s coral reefs and the curious discoveries of my group. They were truly keen observers.

Please join us below the water at www.bluewaterventures.org.

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As I reflect upon our recent expediton to the South Pacific Kingdom of Tonga, I am grateful for not only the whales and reefs but for the rich cultural interfacing that has become such an intrigal part of our program. We danced, visited schools and a weaver’s  home. We drank Kava and shared our songs as well as enjoyed the songs of the  local  people. We  shared our personal insights each night as we felt embraced by the beautiful people of Tonga.

Cn3DBQ4OT5SF9QR6iBI7ig_thumb_feba The Tongans  takes great pride in their Polyneisan heritage and this is expressed daily through their language, dress, food and culture. The whales and coral reefs are marvelous, but our Tongan friends remain  close to our hearts. We are so grateful for the deep connections we are making. IMG_4235

Thanks to all of our wonderful hosts~Matafonua Lodge (Ha’apai), The Hideaway (Eua Island),  Mala Island Resort (Vava’u),  Kiko’s Whale Swims (Eua island) The crew of the Ashlee G and Llena (Vava’u).

http://www.bluewaterventures.org

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!

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!

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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…..