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Saturday
Mar062010

Butterflies & Eagle Rays

Location: Grand Case, St. Martin

On Thursday, we checked out the butterfly farm over near Baie Orientale. I wasn't sure it would be worth the trip, but we were a bit crispy from days in a row in the sun, and decided to check it out. 

It took us a few tries to find it - it's not obviously marked from the road. It's slightly north of the edge of Quartier d'Orleans, on a gravel(ish) road that takes you to Baie Orientale. It's next to a place you can go horseback riding. When you think you can't possibly be in the right place, that's when you pull over and park, in front of the unassuming trailer-ish building. 

When you go to buy your ticket, the first thing you notice is the tchotchke factor is high. For all that, it turned out to be pretty cool. Once you enter the screened-in garden, your breath is taken away by the beautiful butterflies fluttering all around you. They land on you. They buzz by your head, happily flapping around in their predator-free environment, enjoying their brief lives. One thing you notice is that there is a whole lot of butterfly mating activity, which, if you've only got two days, makes a fair amount of sense. We tagged along on a tour, which was brief but relatively informative, and entertaining as the tourguide didn't hesitate to pick up enormous caterpillars or crysalis and transport them to better locations. It's not the kind of place you need to spend that much time, but it's actually quite pleasant to sit on a bench in the back corner, under the speckled sunlight, waiting for the butterflies to land on you. Pleasant until the other loud tourists arrive, anyway. 

On Friday, I went on my third dive with Octopus Diving. As always, it was exceptionally enjoyable and professional. These guys just take great care of you, you don't have to worry about a thing. It was only me and one other diver, plus the two divemasters, so we got to do a little more exploration than you normally would. We went back to Tintamarre to two other locations. The first one Aure knew well, and we saw a sleeping nurse shark, which was freaky - he just lay there tucked under a ledge - a cute little turtle, a couple eel, and several lobster. For the second dive, we went on a total exploration. Stu hadn't dived there before, but there was a theory that we would stumble upon some caves, and sure enough we did. We found a small cave early on, then toward the end of the dive, we found a much larger cave. Of course, after we went through it and turned around, Stu realized it was a cave they have dived many times before, we just "discovered" the backdoor. Beyond the caves, I like to call that dive the "big ass" dive, because we saw several enormous critters. The coolest by far was the eagle ray. Stu saw it off in the distance, and I had to haul ass to catch up to it, while it was just effortlessly gliding along. We also saw several huge grouper and enormous lobsters. 

I'm really enjoying being able to take photos when I dive. I recognize that at some point I should get an extra flash to get better depth of color, but I admit, right now I think I have enough equipment to worry about on a dive. 

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