Our 1988 Expedition to the Caribbean landed us at Ocho Rios, Jamaica, part of the St. Mary Parish, to dive a regin called “The Trenches”. This is an area of coral that has grown to form numerous vertical towers. Each tower spreads out on the top to form a mushroom shape. These coral heads have grown close enough together to form a cavern like area underneath which can allow divers to swim through, in single file, with fair maneuverability. On the other hand they are far enough apart to allow natural sunlight to filter in creating spectacular images of light and dark.
Upon our arrival to “Couples” resort, our home base for the trip, we were greeted with glasses of champagne and a group of local musicians playing acoustic reggae and calypso music. We spent the rest of the first day getting our bearings and relaxing from our flight. I took a couple of pictures, out in the water, of the reef with my weathermatic camera. (15 foot max depth). Later in the evening, we joined some Jamaican dancers in some bamboo dancing and watched a group of entertainers demonstrate fire limbo techniques.
The next morning after an early breakfast we walked down the beach to the local dive shop. There we chatted with Divemaster / Instructor Richard Baddal to work out the logistics etc. of a dive to the Trenches. The charters for the day were already booked, but he informed us the next day would be “No Problem”. Instead Sherrie and I caught a bus to the famous “Dunns River Falls”. As we rode we found the Jamaican roads to be very winding and narrow. Locals drive on the left side and in many places passing each other within inches. Once there and in our swimsuits we joined many other people for a hike, in the water, up the front of the falls. We waded through several catch pools and natural water slides, stopping here and there for pictures. It was beautiful. After leaving the falls we walked through a small village of locals, each inviting us in for a “Red Stripe” beer or to look at some hand made wares.
The following day we again showed up early at the dive shop. We were instructed to carry our gear to the beach and waited for the charter. After a short time we were notified there was a problem with the boats engine, and after a couple of hours wait in a lawn chair under some palm trees, the boat finally showed and we all helped load up.
Once at the dive site we received a very informative dive briefing while the captain positioned and anchored the boat. Soon, all geared up, we all back rolled into the water. We followed Richard in a small group and at the edge of the trenches one by one, we followed him in. It was fantastic! The light from above danced everywhere, lighting up the sea life both above and below the coral heads. Fish of many colors swam in and out of the darker areas. A small stingray moved slightly and reburied itself in the sand. Nudibranches, starfish and sea cucumbers were plentiful. Though it seemed like hours as we glided effortlessly through this maze, finding a new and astonishing view around each corner, too soon our tanks were low and we had to head back to the boat.
Out of the water on the way back to the shop we sipped orange juice and agreed we would have to come back again. We did, though it took us 5 years and on the second trip, I brought an underwater camera.