I saw a post over on Scuba Board by Errol Kalayci with TDS Divers about a DIR charter, with lots of people attending who I’ve chatted with quite a bit on forums, but never met in person; as well as several people who I’ve met before. Now, before reading the review, realize I’m by no means someone who enjoys ocean diving. I’ll do it from time to time with friends to be social, but I don’t exactly look forward to it like I do do when I find out about a new cave…but the diving was so great that hearing me talk about it, you’d think I was in love with it.
We arrived to the boat slightly late, my Garmin GPS doesn’t seem to know exactly where Jupiter Dive Center is for some reason. Their website notes that GPS’s don’t find it, and to use a different address…I’m thinking since my GPS has been updated that I should have used their correct address and not the one suggested. Anyways, we got there, and the boat was being loaded, and I got to meet and greet the guys we would be diving with. This was an excellent crew on the charter, and everyone diving was a pleasure to be around. Because of the DIR charter, everyone was using 32% nitrox, which meant we got to do a deeper ledge than I had been able to do in the past when diving out of Jupiter when the boat had divers using air.
On the first dive, the boat dropped us for a drift dive on Jupiter Ledge. Upon descending, we nearly immediately found a loggerhead turtle, my favorite reef animal. Matt, Cris and I followed at a safe distance to avoid harassing it, since it was swimming away from us. That made my dive, as it has been a few dive trips since I’ve been lucky enough to spot one! This site was the most “alive” Jupiter reef I had been on. A few minutes later, Cris found a shark, although I never saw it. Other highlights of the dive were the gorgeous coral, several “angelfish” and seeing a group of divers not touch the reef for once; something that happens all too often.
The next dive was the highlight of the trip for me. We dove a site called “Area 51“, which was a series of sunken cement pillars with several large Jewish and Lemon Sharks nearby. I’ve been to Jupiter a few times and never had this good of luck, there were over a dozen lemon’s, most of them more than 8ft long! At one point, you could see about a dozen of them swimming around together. As they floated with the current, they ran into a few nearby Jew Fish, which I thought would be an interesting conflict between the two species, but the Jew Fish swam directly through the middle of the Lemon Sharks , without either species paying attention to each other.
The boat ride back in was a real pleasure, Errol introduced me to Bill Mee, who had lots of stories from back when the WKPP was first starting. It was kind of interesting hearing stories of how the group introduced new technologies as needed, such as the RB80’s and PVC based scooters. These guys really laid the foundation for what we’re able to accomplish today. I have had a recent conversation with Bill Rennaker about how Sheck Exley frowned upon his “aggressive” teaching style, because he was doing training dives that took multiple dives to setup only a few years before he started teaching. It’s quite interesting to hear stories from the old timers, and other than a few Exley books, WKPP articles, and old copies of NSS/NACD magazines, this history is being lost each day.
Back to shore, we rushed to unload the tanks, grab lunch, then get to the hardware store to get some Gorilla tape for a leaky dry suit patch. I was really impressed with how quickly Jupiter Dive Center was able to fill all the tanks, and having lunch delivered was an excellent idea, as it kept everyone together.
The final dive would be about an hour long, on the “Zion Train“, a series of three wrecks. I’ve dove this before, but today was the best life I’ve seen on it, with tons of large barracuda, jew fish, angelfish, etc.
Photos below courtesy of Peter Rothschild.