Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas - Saipan Style!

This was the sight that greeted me Christmas morning as I rounded the far corner on the Ice Cream coral formation just outside of Saipan's lagoon. We went on a Christmas morning boat dive with Brad & Kathy, Brad & Jeong-ah and Angelo. That may seem like a pretty strange way to celebrate Christmas morning to some people, but to all of us, it was a magical way to celebrate it! When you're far away from family and home as most of us were, it's great to be able to hang out with some good friends and share some amazing experiences and memories. We took the Sunrider boat out to Ice Cream for our first dive. And by the way, just in case you're wondering, no my new camera didn't get here that fast, these were taken by Kelli with my first underwater camera. She is doing an amazing job with it, and I'm sure her pictures will be even more spectacular with her new camera that is on the way. But back to the dive, as soon as I rounded the backside of the Ice Cream formation, I saw this wall of white moving toward me. The wall of spotted eagle rays was higher in the water than I was, so I was looking up at their white bellies. I was just completely dumbfounded by the sheer number of these graceful and huge creatures. I had never seen so many in one place before. I started counting and got up to 45 before they started circling back on themselves. I know there were far more than 45 in that initial bunch of them, but that gives you a good idea of just how many of them there were in the water. These are not just some small fish, their wing span from tip to tip will be anywhere from 3-6' across, and I'm guessing their weight to be anwhere from 100-200 pounds. I tried to get everyones attention so they could see the same spectacle I was experiencing. Kelli saw them fairly quickly and started snapping away with her camera. You couldn't take your eyes off them, they were just so majestic! We all picked a spot to just hang out on the coral formation and let them swim back and forth over the top of us. They put on an amazing show for quite a while.
And just in case you think we only got to see them at a distance, they came in pretty close to check us out as well. No zoom was used in any of these pictures, that's just how close they were getting to us. They were so close you could see the detail of their eyes and watch as their gill slits rippled as they opened and closed. But believe it or not, they even got a little closer.
I was watching this one come right up to Kelli, but she was focusing on some others that were on the other side of her. As she turned around there it was right next to her face, so she snapped a few pictures. At one point she offered me the camera to take a few shots with. I decided to try capturing some video. I was shooting about 8 of them that were coming closer and closer. I finally locked in on one that seemed to be coming in for a collision course with me. He came right up to my face before veering away at the very last second. But as he swam away directly in front of me, his big whip tail came right for me and brushed against my throat as he swam away. I know firsthand just how much damage they can do with their whip tails. When I was a young boy I had a stingray use his tail like a sword and slash the backside of my swimsuit wide open, and that was after driving the barb on his tail all the way through my hand. We won't talk about how that happened right now, but I do believe it's in my book, so you'll have to read that if you want to hear the rest of the story. So as I felt his tail brushing against the skin of my throat, I realized that if I spooked him at all, and he gave his tail a flick, he could easily slit my throat from ear to ear. I was hoping that everybody else realized it too and just sat still and watched them. I just kept the video rolling, what else can you do? I'm sure there were scenes of the Crocodile Hunter's final moments with that stingray going through Kelli's head. She was right next to me watching. I'm not really sure how I always wind up in those situations, but somehow I seem to attract them. Here is a picture of Brad, Kathy and I at the shipwreck. You might notice that none of us have regulators in our mouths. We have evolved and learned to just suck the oxygen out of the water and therefore only carry the tanks as a back up plan, (don't we all wish!). I think everybody had an awesome time and were quite happy that they decided to spend their Christmas morning that way. Here I am just hanging out on the shipwreck on Christmas morning! If you want to hang with me, you'd better bring your gear and get ready for some serious bottom time. It really was a spectacular way to spend Christmas morning, and we all have Kathy to thank for it. It was all her idea to give a boat dive to Brad for his Christmas gift and she wanted to do it on Christmas morning. She didn't have to invite me twice to convince me, and I didn't really have to work very hard to convince Kelli either. Since both of our kids have abandoned us for Christmas this year, we just wanted to have a totally different Christmas, and we succeeded. After our dive we invited Angelo and Edz to join us for a Christmas brunch at the Hyatt, a great way to completely over indulge and spoil yourself rotten. Angelo said that they were going to be the new Josh & Sarah since our kids had abandoned us. I don't know if Angelo realizes that might be problematic considering I don't think he really considers Edz as a sister. Oh well, I'll let him figure that out. He has said he has dibs on Sarah's room now though, so I think he might be serious.

After brunch, we decided to go see a movie and watched Adam Sandler in Bedtime Stories. Certainly not a traditional Christmas by any stretch, but certainly a memorable one. I hope yours was as good!


The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

The Eagle Ray tail incident had me thinking about a ninja movie where the good guy slashes at the bad guy's throat in slow motion and only narrowly misses...oh wait, or is it the other way around?

Thanks for the invite on the dive. And thanks for letting me have Sarah's room!

Mandaragat said...

What a wonderful way to spend Christmas! Nice pix too!

Halo-halo Life said...

Does this mean I get a new roommate?