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Calm

Diving In Anguilla...
An Anguilla Dive Journal...
Dog Island Dive With Dougie

By: Kristin Bourne

Fresh off of my last Anguilla dive with Dougie at The Commerce and Kathlee H, I get the word that the conditions look good to dive at Dog Island.

I find myself very excited from the start... No anxiety at all! I'm just going to go and do it.

In addition to the dive itself, I would enjoy the boat ride out to Dog Island!

The amazingly perfect beach at Dog Island
Anguilla diving, Dog Island, Anguilla beach, divemaster, Douglas Carty

This would also be a new Anguilla off-island cay for me, as I had only been to Prickly Pear and Sandy Island at this point.

I knew I would at least see Dog Island since our dive takes place between the two pieces of land that make up Dog Island.

This dive seems to be done less often than other Anguilla dive sites. Why?

For one, the conditions need to be good. Such as the case with any dive, but this Anguilla dive is a "drift dive". Safety plays a role here.

It's also farther out than most of the other Anguilla dive sites and takes more time to reach. You could take the half-hour boat ride, get there and find it's not safe to dive.

What a disappointment that would be.

But, Dougie is on top of things and is good about knowing when it's a decent condition to head out in.

We had the "go" for Dog Island early on a Saturday morning.

Myself and several other divers met down at the Sandy Ground wharf the morning of our dive. Dougie and Pounkie were on Desha and ready to go!

The boat ride out was specatular. I love seeing Anguilla from the sea!

Note on Sargassum Seaweed: As we got closer to Dog Island, we started seeing some small clumps of Sargassum seaweed.

An example of heavy Sargassum seaweed
just after a Tropical Storm
Anguilla, Sargassum seaweed, tropical storm aftermath

During this particular year, many Caribbean islands that usually don't get an influx of sargassum did experience it.

Some authorities had noted that the more northern Caribbean islands and the Florida Keys are used to seeing Sargassum more regularly.

The year that I dove on Dog Island had proven an exception for Anguilla. There was unusual tropical storm activity in the Sargasso Sea.

It isn't anything that causes terrible trouble, just somewhat newsworthy since it is "out of the ordinary". I, for one, don't mind it.

It was on its way out by the end of Hurricane Season.

Dog Island Dive Arrival

Once we arrive at our first dive spot, the divers start preparing themselves with weights and fins.

I noticed we are sitting mostly in between two pieces of land.

We spent some time getting set at this spot due to the current.

Dougie and Pounkie remove themselves from the conversation for a few minutes and take care in making sure we are anchored properly and well.

My friend Steve sits patiently as Dougie stands
on the bow of "Desha" to check the current
Anguilla dive, Dog Island, current, Douglas Carty

I recall the wife of a diver, who goes out with Dougie on a regular basis when they visit Anguilla, saying that she'd only seen him check the current that thoroughly one other time.

It may have been trickier that day, I guess.

Dougie pointed out that the current was going from south to north.

He spent some time up on the bow of "Desha" until he was satisfied.

Once content with our location and current, the more experienced divers hit the back of the boat, did their backward rolls, and were off.

And when I say "off", I mean it!

Drifting Anguilla Dive

Let me elaborate, as this was all new to me!

My friend Steve, the one who had let me know about the opportunity to dive at Dog Island in the first place, went ahead of Dougie and I.

I had not seen the other divers go in.

I was nearby the back of "Desha" when Steve went in the water, just ahead of Dougie and I.

To my surprise, when Steve hit the water, it appeared as if he were carried away from "Desha" by the sea and to the north. The water took him, a strong, grown man, happily swept away.

It looked fun but I sure had not seen this sort of entry before! I realized that once I hit the water, Dougie may not be as close as he usually was simply due to current.

If Steve was "swept away", I was for certain to be "swept away".

Based on my knowledge of Dougie, I knew he would get to me. I gave the "ok" sign when I hit the water and I was off like a helium balloon being released in a breeze.

Before I could blink, Dougie was next to me holding my arm.

Grace and beauty along the dive route
anguilla dive

He made sure I was ok then his eyes were quickly scanning the underwater scene to lay eyes on all of the divers that had gone in just before us.

He made sure I was ok then his eyes were quickly scanning the underwater scene to lay eyes on all of the divers that had gone in just before us.

It seems he needed to take a look a little further ahead so he gestured to me to just stay as I was.

Note: Even though you can't talk under water it is quite amazing to me how well you can still understand people without dialogue. It's as though everyone's is at a heightened state of awareness and speechless communication takes over successfully.

I knew what Dougie needed to do and that he would be back for me.

Back to the Anguilla Dive

As I was drifting quickly down and away from the safety of the boat and towards the rewarding dive at Dog Island, I took this moment to look around and concentrate on clearing to keep my ears in check.

An exotic-looking flamingo tongue
Anguilla diving, Dog Island, flamingo tongue, divemaster, Douglas Carty

When I needed to ascend to clear my ears, a swift couple of kicks upward did the trick.

I had less trouble with my ears on this dive than any other. I'm curious as to why they were better this time but happy to accept it without knowing the reason!

As I was drifting down, I had to mind my legs more this time because there were various elevations of ledges with coral and sea life all around. Because of current, I had less control of my movements than any other time I've been diving.

It was incredible. The light was still shining in and bouncing beautifully off of the scenery.

Down below you could tell it would be getting darker and darker.

The Cave!

Dougie had told us when he went over the details of the dive that there would be a cave opportunity. He said if you were comfortable with it, to go ahead, and if not, no big deal.

Steve shared with us a story of when he first went through the cave. He was being mindful to move through it without touching the sides or disrupting anything. Despite his intention and efforts, a sleeping nurse shark awoke to a diving man in his quiet little cave and darted off quickly.

Steve said he wasn't sure who was the most startled, he or the shark!

As we reached the area with the cave, Dougie gestured to me and I took a look at the opening. Dougie had explained the layout was to enter laterally and the cave steers you up to exit. I saw the opening and nodded to him that I was up for checking it out!

He reached his hand out and once close, he kept a hand on me and guided me through the center of the cave. Dougie moved through the cave so close to the cave wall I thought he would touch it at any second. He was ensuring I was centered in the opening.

Once again, his talent as a diver was on display.

His default confidence alone makes a beginner diver like me feel relaxed. I'm happy to report that there was no sleepy startled shark in the cave this time. You don't need morning coffee if your name is Steve and you have that happen to you, do you? ;-)

Next to drift factor, the cave was the next highlight so far. Even better, the exit of the cave!

View from the boat at Dog Island
Anguilla dive, Dog Island, current, Douglas Carty

It's so strange to exit out the top of it. You have to make sure you swim up out of it and then over.

What was so bizarre about it to me, is I felt like we should have been near the surface, but we weren't.

Next we swam out and down over the side of the area where the cave was. We divers were soon at different depths gliding along the sea floor and keeping our eyes wide open since there was so much to see!

I felt so comfortable down there. I was loving this dive!

Then I heard Dougie tapping his tank to get everyone's attention.

I couldn't believe it but next he made the scuba dive sign for "shark".

The next seconds feel more like minutes when you are looking around as keenly and quickly as possible to find IT!

Then there over almost immediately left of me, around 8 to 9 "o'clock" I see it - a shark

Being new to diving, it is difficult to take pictures, take in the beauty, and stay focused on safe diving.
This photo is of a Nurse Shark at Dog Island, taken by Steve Donahue.
nurse shark anguilla Photo From: anguilla-diving.com

I had only seen smaller, sleeping nurse sharks while diving up until this point.

This shark was much bigger and it was swimming.

It was a dark figure against the deep blue and it was one of the most graceful things I had ever seen.

This was quite a sight for me to see and I was surprised that I felt no fear at all.

I felt a mix of curiosity and peace, a weird combination but I was just happy I didn't feel scared and that I was getting to see it!

As soon as we got a look it was gone, swimming in the opposite direction than what we were headed in.

This Dog Island, Anguilla dive just gets better and better!

Moving on along, I was getting more comfortable with more distance between Dougie and I.

I make it sound like he's attached to me for my dives ;-) he's really not, it's just that I know he keeps a close eye, sticks close enough and makes me feel like if I needed anything he would be right there in less than a second.

That said, maybe I should not get so distance happy because the next thing I know, Dougie was tapping his tank again get my attention this time.

A stylish looking jack knife fish :-)
Anguilla diving, Dog Island, jack knife fish, divemaster, Douglas Carty

I turned and he was behind me and lower than me.

He motioned for me to come to him.

I started to swim in his direction and found the current had me feeling like I was running on a treadmill.

How easily I forgot that we are in current and that requires much more effort and strength to swim against.

As I got closer to Dougie, he reached out and pulled me toward him and pointed down and under at the base of the ledge we had been diving along.

There sat the biggest sea turtle I have seen! He was massive and looked like he was 200 years old.

He was awake (see my Oosterdiep Anguilla dive with the sleeping turtle) and had found himself a nice nook to hang out in.

We had plenty of opportunities to get a good look at him because he wasn't going anywhere.

It was hard to imagine him moving anyway, since he was so big.

Ok, how many more highlights can one have in one dive?!

A Rest On Dog Island itself and then one more Anguilla Dive!

As our dive wrapped up, we resurfaced, and Pounkie was right there for us.

He had to move the boat from the original anchor spot to come and get us since we were "drifting".

Of course, we needed to have our surface rest before beginning another dive.

They drove "Desha" over to an incredible beach along the shore of Dog Island.

I was happy to set foot on Dog Island for the first time!

There were what seemed like millions of brown boobies off in the distance making so much noise. It was amazing to see.

Dog Island and Prickly Pear both are a great place to see these birds up close and personal.

I spent the time floating in the water along the beach and watching a brown booby sitting out on the point.

An adult brown booby resting with us at Dog Island
Anguilla diving, Dog Island, brown booby, divemaster, Douglas Carty

Time passed quickly and the next thing you know, it was time to do our second dive.

This one would be similar to the first but no cave this time.

I remember this dive less specifically for some reason, I think because it didn't include a cave, a shark, and a humongous turtle, plus the drift part was no longer brand-new to me ;-)

What I do recall is how much darker and eerier this dive felt. There was quite a wall.

I kept expecting to see something startling or creepy since I felt so small. It was intriguing to keep moving along the wall and just looking around.

I loved this dive too, in a very different way. There were tremendous amounts of such varieties of fish and the feel of this Anguilla dive was so different.

"Desha" resting at Dog Island...ahhhh
Anguilla diving, Dog Island, Special D Diving

It flew by and sadly it was soon all over.

I was so thankful for getting the opportunity to get to dive at Dog Island.

Back on the boat and heading back, everyone was discussing what they saw.

Of course, everyone was talking about the shark. The consensus was that is was "just a reef shark", as Dougie put it.

"Just a reef shark" was very much one of the highlights of the dive for me.

I would be excited to share with news with my family, much to my mom's dismay ;-)

My Uncle Andy is an avid diver having lived in Miami for so many years and having been on dives around the world.

His stories of diving in the Red Sea are movie-worthy and here I am, just starting my own underwater adventures.

I'm ready for more though!

When we reached Sandy Ground and parted ways, I rewarded myself with a nice early lunch at Sammy's BBQ.

Sammy's BBQ mouth-watering ribs and garlic bread
(Sammy is Dougie's big bro)
Anguilla diving, Sandy Ground, Sammy's BBQ, ribs, garlic bread

Diving makes me hungry and Sammy's has my favorite ribs and garlic bread!

Here it was mid-day and my day felt complete!

I'll never forget that dive and all of my preliminary fears along with the feel of drifting in the current.

It feels like flying and I loved it. It felt safe and it was as beautiful as can be.

I'm sure the next time anyone sneezes and it sounds like "Dog Island" I will whip my head around to make sure I'm not missing out.

Hopefully I can do it again in the near future!

Dog Island

  • north of Anguilla and toward the west
  • reef dive up to 90 feet deep (wall dive) (drift dive)
  • Expect to see tarpon, tuna, grunts, snapper, wide variety of sharks, turtles

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