Tag Archives: Malmok

Last Monday in Aruba

CowfishToday we took it easy, just one swim at Boca Catalina. Whenever we go in at Boca, we swim up to Malmok, because that’s where most of the reef is located. It was a pretty clear day, and nice clear water, for the most part. Sometimes close to shore it gets a bit churned up from the sand and waves.

Quillfin blenny - female Today we saw some nifty stuff, including several new fish. There was a quillfin blenny, which we had not see before. It’s kind of a large blenny, and rather strange looking. It’s a shy fish, and quick to take cover, so we’ve never been able to photograph it before. Two-toned blennyThere was another blenny, a two-toned blenny that we managed to get a shot of too… it’s another fish that won’t sit still for a shot, so we were lucky to nail her.

Queen angelWe saw a queen angelfish, which have been very few and far between. I think we’ve only seen her once before, and Pam was the only one who saw her. It’s a really colorful fish, bright blue and bright yellow/orange.

Yellowtail JackThere was a yellowtail jack – in a school of four or five. The look and act just like a barjack. The other fish get nervous when they cruise by. They come out of nowhere and blow by you in a hurry. You have to have your camera on and ready to take a pic in order to get a shot. We got lucky today!

Triggerfish I managed to get a shot of a queen triggerfish with her front trigger raised. The first time we’ve managed to do that I think. They use the trigger to lock themselves between rock, when they feel threatened (I know this because I read it in our fish book!)

We saw another turtle today, a hawksbill. She was quite a bit smaller than the one we saw yesterday, so that means there are least three turtles in this area! It’s been a treat each time we get to swim with them. They only use their front paddles to move, unless you startle them, then they kick with all four legs.

Rainbow runnerGuaguanaWe followed the turtle out quite a ways from shore. Then we saw this large school of fish we’d never seen before. They were quite large, about two and half feet up to about four feet. They moved quickly, darted around in a huge circle. We think it might be a rainbow runner, or a guaguanche, which are related to the barracuda class of fish. They are long and thin, and amazing swimmers.

Spanish hogfish There was a Spanish hogfish that I managed to get a pretty cool shot of… I dove down, and as I was coasting along the bottom, he popped up from behind a rock and I had my camera ready. I think it’s one of the best shots I’ve taken the whole trip!

This is one of Pam’s favorite fish, so I was glad to get this shot!  I guess it’s the color of them… they do stick out in the ocean! But I still can’t figure why this fish is called a hogfish. Maybe it has strange eating habits!

Fishscape I also got another pic today that I’m pretty happy with as well. I was diving down to get a shot of a scorpionfish, a fish we’ve taken enough shots of! I saw this great photoscape and just took it. It came out better than I dreamed! Really happy with this shot.

BalloonfishOn the way back, we saw a balloonfish. They are cute little guys, with weird psychedelic eyes. They have a green pattern, like some pattern you’d see on a disco light show! Usually they are under a rock, peering shyly out at you, but this guy was laying in a depression of the ocean floor. Maybe he thought he was hidden! Quite a cute little fish.

BalloonfishI’m going to add a second one, just because he’s cool. He’s about ten to twelve inches long. He has these little quills that he will stand on end, and he’ll puff up to be about two or three times his size, if he feels threatened.

All is well again!

BasseletThe ocean is back to being it’s lovely calm self here in Aruba… and we’re glad! The crazy high waves we’ve seen has made snorkeling less than stellar. But today (Thursday) all I can say is wow! We tried Boca Catalina first, it’s north of the visible wreck, but south of Arashi. It has lots of palapas to give you shade, and to store your gear while you head in. It has a nice sandy entrance, so it’s easy to get in the ocean.

DoctorfishThe first ten feet or so there are lots of fish, but there is some “junk” that has been stirred up by the storms. If you look at the doctorfish picture you can see what I mean. But once you got out past that, it was the old clear Caribbean sea we’ve been missing! The water was warm, and everywhere we looked there were tons of fish.

Scrawled filefish We saw a pair of scrawled filefish here, that were quite big, the larger was close to two feet long. They were not afraid of me, and I dove quite close to them, without them scampering off. So I turned on the movie and dove down to catch a closer look, and try to get them to move, so we could see what they look like swimming. I’ve converted the movie, but for some reason, the conversion is rather poor compared to other movies we’ve done so far. Not sure why that is. Anyway, it’s interesting, but I apologize for the grainy quality (the original is not!).

French AngelPam got hooked on the French Angelfish and took about 350 pictures of them! haha I only took about 150 of them… too funny. They are such a cool fish – quite large compared to lots of fish there, and they kind of stick out with their slow moving ways, and bright colors.

Triggerfish We saw a couple of triggerfish, but they are so shy, as soon as you point the camera at them, they take off. It’s tough to get a decent shot of them, but I managed to get a couple of ok ones.

Moray eelWe saw a couple of moray eels, a spotted moray and a green moray. Again, a shy type of fish, and they would quickly scamper under the nearest rock. We managed to get a couple good shots of the spotted moray.

Here is a short movie of the ubiquitous Sgt Major! These guys are probably the most curious, friendly fish in the Caribbean. They hang out with you in schools, and it seems everywhere you turn, there are a bunch of them! This one is especially for Mike!

Casibari rockIn the afternoon, we took a drive to the Casibari rock formations. We were looking for the Alto Vista chapel, but found these instead! They are strange rock formations, that dot the island, and were somehow important to the Arawok Indians, the original inhabitants of Aruba.

Casibari gardensYou can see that the island is quite lush this year. In years past, the island has been somewhat dried out. But with Hurricane Tomas passing so close to the island, it has given them a lot more rain than usual. There are tons of flowering plants in the gardens around people’s homes, so you can tell it’s been an unusual year.

Peacock flounder Then we headed over to Malmok Beach. It’s north of Boca Catalina, but still south of Arashi, surrounded by million dollar homes. All the beaches in Aruba are public, so this is usually a great snorkeling spot. The entrance to the water is a little tough, quite rocky, with only a very little sandy space. But once you get in! wow – the water was great, clear, and lots of fish. There were a number of snorkeling boats out, so you could tell people were happy to have the ocean back to normal!

TrunkfishWe saw a bunch of French Angels, another triggerfish, and another moray. We drifted for quite a ways, and only came out as the sun was starting to set. On the way back in to shore, we spotted a peacock flounder, stuck on the side of a rock, very well camouflaged. All in all, a great swim.

The Last Day Blues

Max at Surrey LakeFriday was our last full day here in Aruba. We fly out on Saturday at 4 pm local time. It’s always bittersweet, that last day. You try to pack in as much as you can, but you realize that it won’t make the vacation last longer! But it’s also nice to be thinking of being home, in your own bed, with Max eagerly waiting for us.

School of fish We decided to return to the Malmok area of Aruba, where the luxury homes are… we jumped in at Boca Catalina again, a place where we’ve had a couple of great dives. We were rewarded almost immediately with a big school of Caribbean Reef Squid. These ones were HUGE. Much bigger than any we’d seen before. It’s fun to watch them shift colors through the school as the communicate with each other. We even got to see a squid ink another fish!
Very small guy - 3 inchesWe saw a fish that looks like a stone, called a toadfish, we think. I’ve got a video of it, that you’ll need to watch really closely to see him. But that was cool too. There were tons of the usual suspects, with lots of French Angels. And Mike will be happy to know, we’ve discovered where all the Seargant Majors are! They’ve all moved to this part of Boca Catalina! AND we saw the biggest barracuda ever! WHOA! He was a monster.

After a couple of hours in ocean we’d had our fill. We did a little shopping, picked up a couple souvenirs, a few postcards, kept asking each other did we forget anything? We decided to make our last dinner here a memorable one, by going to an Argentine steak house called El Gauchos.
El Gauchos wall artIt is a great looking restaurant, with barreled roofed ceilings made of wood, with art over the walls made of inlaid leathers and cowhides. You sit at big sturdy wooden plank trestle tables, with huge comfy seats made of leather and cowhide. There are big wooden chargers at each place setting. The service is attentive, efficient, and professional.

The food was magnificent. If you’ve never had Argentine beef, you owe it to yourself to try it. One of my uncles was a cattle rancher, and I’m sorry to say, Alberta beef just doesn’t compare well to Argentine beef! We each had a big steak – I like it well done, and I apologize to the chef each time I ask for it, but these guys cooked it perfectly. There were no burnt sections, just perfectly grilled. They’ve added some new items to the menu since we were here in December, and we sampled a few of them! All good…

If you come to Aruba, do go to El Gauchos. Their deserts alone make the trip worthwhile! And try the margaritas! Best I have ever had!

The rental carHere is a picture of the rental car we had this week on Aruba. On Curacao, we were supposed to have a Toyota Yaris,  but it wouldn’t start, so they replaced it with a Suzuki Liana. It’s a nice car, actually. We had fun running around in it. Then when we got to Aruba, we were supposed to have a Suzuki Liana, and I was looking forward to that… But again, it was a non-starter! So they replaced it with this American car. It was ok, but it’s no Suzuki Liana!

It’s truly been a wonderful, memorable 2 weeks, but with all the talk of Air France 447, going home has suddenly become a slightly different event than in the past. I remember flying shortly after 9/11 and it didn’t bother me in the least. This does – terrorism is one thing. That’s part of life. But was this flight downed due to the failure of the plane? That’s worrisome. Even more worrisome is the news today that perhaps pilot error is now part of the problem. Either way, it just seems incredible to me that one of the “logical” responses of a flight computer is to crash the plane!