We were awakened twice during the night by loud, annoying music accidentally playing on the PA system. And since the staff sleeps on a lower deck, they didn't hear it, and let it keep playing for a while. So we were quite groggy for our 6am snorkel, but still wouldn't miss it for the world.
We seemed to have moved to a new reef overnight, and the water here was clearer than before. The pre-snorkel briefing set the visibility at 25 meters. Because of the early morning light, the colors were subtle, but we saw some huge fish, probably dogtooth tuna; tiny blue fish darting in and out of coral; lizardfish camouflaged in the coral and sand; rockfish lurking in the coral.
The daily schedule here is so well-tuned, it makes me think of the military. Snorkel at 6, breakfast at 7, snorkel at 8, move the boat at 9:15, snorkel at 11, lunch at 12, snorkel at 1, move the boat at 2:15, tea at 2:30, photo lesson at 3, snorkel at 4, dinner at 6, night dive at 7, presentation in the library at 9.
We saw more during our 8am snorkel, when we ventured over to where the scuba divers were, and played with some giant clams that clamped shut when we touched their dark purple flesh. We also saw huge schools of tiny fish, ever larger parrotfish, wrasses, Moorish Idols, butterflyfish, and angelfish. Sometimes the environment made me think of a home salt-water aquarium under very strong magnification.
After each snorkel, each person took turns rinsing self and stinger suit in the one tiny freshwater shower on the wet deck area, then we generally retired to the sun deck to dry off. We found a wooden bench on the starboard side of the boat that was partially shaded, and between our naps there, the meals, and the snorkeling, time passed quickly.
During the 1pm snorkel, we ventured into a very shallow area. I was trying to convince David to go to a deeper area to see bigger fish when the biggest two parrotfish I'd ever seen suddenly swam in front of us. I chased them a long way in an effort to swim up next to them to see if they were as big as I was, but I never quite caught them. As we returned to the boat, we passed through swarms of tiny jellyfish, and David got stung on his forehead despite his protective hood. Fortunately, these jellyfish are not harmful to humans.
Later, we took a short photography lesson on the boat and decided to rent a 3MP digital camera with waterproof casing for use on our next three snorkels. The boat's resident "video guy" gave us a simple formula for good underwater pictures: 1. Take pictures upward, to include water as well as coral and sand. 2. Take pictures of large subjects, like people, big fish, and coral heads. 3. Catch animals on the move, but don't photograph animals' rear ends.
The timing of our camera rental was perfect, because when the boat moved to a new site, the snorkeling was the best yet. Unfortunately, applying the three simple rules of good photography was not simple. A lot of the time, the LCD viewfinder wasn't visible in the afternoon light, and we had no idea how big the frame was, or what was in it. We were also always floating to the surface as we attempted to hold still for each shot. And the animals invariably fled when we got close enough for a good picture.
While the camera didn't capture much of interest, what we saw was fantastic. In a maze of coral bommies, we saw huge Maori wrasses, clownfish darting in and out of anemones, and spotted sting rays, in addition to the usual colorful menagerie. As we reluctantly returned to the boat, we swam right above a sea turtle, and couldn't help stopping to watch it for a while.
After a beautiful sunset, large swells made the boat rock so much it was hard to walk. At one point, David became airborne while sitting. The "video guy" showed us his impressive footage from the day's dives, and we reviewed our own pictures (in which we successfully captured the turtle at least). Thankfully, we managed not to fall out of bed.