For this trip we were located for the first week at Mango Bay (All inclusive) and second week at Merlin Bay Villas (Hibiscus). The sea during these two weeks was calm, warm and crystal clear, with no swells that can sometimes occur producing large waves and poor visibility at other times of the year.
The first week I snorkeled two or three times a day at the reef just to the left of Mango Bay. It wasn't very far to swim as the beach had grown considerably since last year! It wasn't long before I bumped into Marvin Sobers (Marvelous 1, glass bottom boat) paddling out to his fishing boat) and I arranged a trip for the second week.
This man made reef continues to amaze me. The fish diversity is incredible for such a relatively small reef. Large shoals of small fish ensured the larger predators (large shoals of Jacks & Trevally) visited to feed. The corals look healthy and continue to grow in size. Lobsters can be seen in the rocks and crevices. Turtles are usually around and Rays are frequently seen inside the reef sometimes in shallow water. One extremely large ray (around 8 feet from nose to tail) was spotted inside the reef. This fish started me as it appeared underneath me from behind. It appears the best time for Ray spotting is around 4:30pm inside the reef.
One note of concern is the number of large catamarans anchoring here to swim with the Turtles. Some of the larger overcrowded Cats had 40 plus persons in the water, I wonder how long it will be before the Turtles move on as in the case of other Turtle hot spots. I do wish people would not stand on the reef, damage to the corals is inevitable.
Walking along the concrete pathway between Zaccios and the Beach House after sunset, large Tarpon (around 6 feet long) and Rays can be very close to shore in the lighting here.
We moved onto Hibiscus (in The Garden area, close to Weston) for the second week. Where the beach at Mango Bay had grown, the beach at Merlin Bay had lost around two feet (depth) of sand exposing rocks where usually a lovely sandy bottomed swimming area was located. It did not spoil the snorkeling on the reef here but made entry into the sea (and getting out) more difficult than usual. This shallow reef that extends over 100 yards from the shore has good fish diversity and the corals improve the further out you go. There were also squid around here, no Turtles seen which is unusual and no Rays. Turtles however were nesting on the beach as fresh tracks could be seen to their nesting sites every morning whilst walking along the beach here.
The trip out with Sheldon (on Marvin's boat) was exceptional, The snorkeling was fantastic (all alone with no other boats). One encounter with a large Hawks-bill Turtle, who swum with us for ages. The grandchildren who are now excellent snorkelers in their full face masks were enthralled, we have some great photos both on the surface and underwater. We ended up just off shore of 1 Sandy Lane where the kids (and big kids) were jumping off the boat from the top deck. I was going to snorkel on the adjacent reef but I decided to watch the kids having a great time!