|Bobo, our boat driver,
picks a careful route through the waves and reefs which ring Friendship Bay. On route to
Pigeon Island the boat passes Petit Nevis where one of the last whaling stations in the
Caribbean remains. These islands, to the south of Bequia, have stark cliff faces punching
up through the sea, topped by thick unruly coverings of scrub.
A quick dash across the open sea between Petit Nevis and Pigeon Island has us in calm water. As the dive boat manoeuvres to take the buoy, we see in the cliff above us a deep gaping hole, like a mouth, where the cliff has been undercut by erosion, and realise perhaps why the site is called Fish Mouth. On the stark slopes above the cliff face, century plants make the island look as though the gods have been using it for archery practice.
More impressive than the visual effect of the faceted rock face above the water is the spectacular scenery below. The site has a 50-foot vertical wall, massive boulders and a coral strewn slope. It seems that the fish find it as attractive as divers do; several large schools of fish, including one consisting of a dozen barracuda, swarm about us throughout the dive.
Click on image for larger map
The dive boat buoy is in 45 feet of water above an area of coral, rubble and sand. Immediately as we drop down we see a school of Creole wrasse. We then notice that the school is surrounded by a horde of chromis and tiny silvery specks of silversides.
Initially, we swim toward the wall that is the continuation of the cliff above. A deep fissure scars the wall face, covered in vase sponges and encrusting corals. We could spend the dive just examining the minutiae of marine life
here. But our dive guide leads us to deeper water where the slope peters out into sand and huge monolithic boulders sit like ancient monuments to long-forgotten gods.
The first and deepest boulder we explore is dressed in sea fans and soft corals. The top is at 60 feet, and at 90 feet we find that this massive structure has a narrow hole at its base that passes right through it, irresistible to swim through. As though guarding this ancient monument, the school of barracuda describe a slow circumnavigation of the boulder. They appear to be watching us, but I suppose you could say they might be thinking the same thing.
Swimming around the boulder, we are accosted by the sight of more schools of fish. This time it is bluestriped grunts, distinguishable from French grunts by their black tail and dorsal fin. They bunch together so closely they appear to be touching, making them a difficult target for predators. Above them, cottonmouth jacks hover restlessly. Brown chromis swim in loose formation while tiny blue chromis dash around, as though they have lost something of great value. The sea around us becomes a swirling mass of activity.
As we swim south, the next giant boulder is attired quite differently. The rock is embossed with encrusting sponges and coral. Even rope sponges grow pressed against the surface like a giant network of veins. A careful scan of the surface of the boulder reveals cleaner shrimps and brittle stars. A slight movement at the edge of my vision rewards us with an oversized grouper, trying to creep away quietly before we spot it.
There are many black durgons. They seem such a tastefully coloured fish after the gaudy colours of many reef fish. Delicate white piping highlights their dorsal and anal fins against the dusky blue of their bodies, and the slightest hint of aquamarine eye shadow decorates their plump faces.
Depending upon the current, the dive operator may take you farther around the headland or they may follow the coastline south. When you complete the dive, you will find interesting scenery along the wall while you are making your safety stop. But for those for whom the fish offer the most attraction, just hang in the blue and watch the schools shimmy on by
Thanks to Tanya and Wayne at Bequia Beach Club.