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by Casey Mahaney &
Astrid Witte Mahaney

Operating Blue Kirio Travel and Photography, this photographic team specializes in underwater photography and exotic dive travel and have co-authored 10 books on marine life identification and dive travel, along with a vast number of articles for periodicals. Through the years, they have developed a special interest in exploring marine life habitats and identifying and photographing unusual and uncommon species of fish and invertebrates. While spending several months every year traveling on various assignments, they also specialize in organizing and escorting a limited number of live-aboard dive tours to select remote and exotic destinations around the globe.

Day Three

With perfect diving conditions this morning, we decide to bag the inner lagoon dives and go for the visibility at Blue Corner and New Drop Off. These are some of the most frequently visited dive sites, and if it's action you seek, it doesn't get any better than this. Ethan gives us a rundown of how the currents and underwater topography work together to create these amazing dive sites. He also provides a recap of the most interesting critters, and reminds us not to ignore (as many divers do) the sheer wall leading to Blue Corner.

We drop into the water and are blown away, not by the current, but by the intense life held by the wall. It is studded with golden and crimson gorgonian seafans, as well as thousands of soft coral trees in all imaginable shades. Once we arrive at the corner, we are welcomed by a dense school of silvery jacks. Casey is shooting with the digital again, but quickly realizes the shots are way overexposed. He decides to bracket by using the plus and minus function, resulting in much better images. We wedge ourselves into the rocks at the Blue Corner's drop off, the best observation point to see at least a dozen Gray Reef Sharks plus a few Blacktips and Whitetips zooming through the deep blue water.

Casey is still manning the camera. Since there is a delay from when you release the shutter until the camera actually captures the images, you have to anticipate the movement of the sharks. But there are plenty of opportunities to shoot; this truly is shark action at its best. When we finally head for the shallows to off-gas, the show keeps on going. Friendly Napoleon Wrasses, an Eagle Ray, schooling Black Snappers...all in 100-plus feet of visibility! New Drop Off is equally stunning, with balled up anemones, schooling barracudas, sharks and splendid viz.

After all this open water action, we decide to balance things out with a good dose of inner lagoon diving. Just below Sams Tour's dive shop and dock is a great muck dive with lots of rubbish that is home to some of the most unusual creatures. There are several Harlequin Sweetlips in all sizes, Stonefish, crocodilefish, a multitude of juveniles including butterflyfish, triggers and angelfish. Other species you'll never see on the open reef include Jeweled Blennies, Tentacled Dragonets and Sphynx Gobies. We haven't worked out the kinks of the digital's macro set up yet, so the muck diving shots will have to wait for E6 development.

With tomorrow being our last day of diving, we are anxious to dive the seagrass beds and some of the WWII wreckage. It just keeps getting better!


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