Do you know that divers encounter 65 different species of Caribbean reef fish on the average dive done in the Saba Marine Park? That’s a lot of fish— testimonial to both the health of our reefs but also to the observation skills of our guides.
In December of 2010, Sea Saba invited Lisa Mitchell back to Saba to specifically work with the Sea Saba Team to update their knowledge of Caribbean reef fish with REEF’s Fish Identification program. Fish Expert (or “geek” as she calls herself), Lisa, has lived and dived in the Caribbean for 20+ years. Her experience varies from dive shop owner (BVI) to Training Director at SSI to Executive Director of REEF, to dive magazine ad rep to boat captain training for Universal. Her enthusiasm for diving has never waned; in fact, the REEF program has inspired Lisa and others.
R.E.E.F. (“Reef Environmental Education Foundation”) REEF is making a worldwide difference with its fish monitoring programs and surveys. Their mission is to conserve marine ecosystems for their recreational, commercial, and intrinsic value by educating and enabling divers and marine enthusiasts to become active stewards. REEF links the diving community with scientists and conservationists through marine-life data collection and related activities. Through REEF’s efforts, marine citizen scientists impact an ethic of stewardship to current and future generations.
The program is separated into two categories based on experience level: Novice and Expert. The oceans of the world are divided in to species specific regions and each region has its own experience levels. Experience levels are determined by both the number of surveys completed and examination scores based on fish known. REEF has 5 levels of experience for fish watchers and all members of the Sea Saba dive crew were trained by Lisa to Advance Surveyor, Level 3. With over 500 species of Caribbean reef fish (269 of which have been sighted in Saba), Level 3 requires participants to know name and family of approximately 200 of the more commonly seen species. Students achieve Level 3 by passing the common Fishes Quiz with 80% and conducting 25 underwater surveys. The Sea Saba crew regularly participates in fish surveys and submits their data online through the REEF website. You can check out the statistics for specific dive sites and see the recent surveys from Saba at: http://www.reef.org/db/reports/geo/TWA/71040005. From surveys online, you can tell we’ve sighted the elusive Cherubfish (a less common member of the Angelfish family) on 5% of surveyed dives at one of our most popular sites, Tent Reef. Whereas, we’ve also sighted Foureye Butterfly fish and Sergeant Majors on 92% of dives at the same site. Come dive on Saba and conduct a survey yourself—we’re happy to help you see what you can find!
So what does this mean to you as a diver? For starters, you will see more! Sea Saba’s guides are dedicated to reef awareness and sharing their knowledge and experience with you. If we’re looking and noticing more, you will find it’s contagious. With a more enthusiastic dive team, you will want to dive with the guide to be sure you don’t miss something special.
Working with the REEF program is just one way our guides continue to improve their knowledge base. Whether your dive experience can be described as quite experienced with hundreds of dives in various oceans or a brand new diver, we’re making a concerted effort to ensure a great dive experience is had by all our visitors. Sure, you want to know that the suntanned, forever smiling, can that be real natural highlights-haired guy who is happy to receive half his pay in sunshine is actually capable of rescuing you…but are you more concerned that this instructor is a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer or is it more important to you that he/she is a great guide? We think our diving guests want our crew to actually know the reef; know where a certain critter can be found; know why it’s there at a certain time of year; and know why that orange fish appears to be flirting with the green fish.
Want an intense one-week course of fish id’g and surveying? Join in on the action, when REEF comes to Saba March 19-26 2011. There’s one spot left! Fish guru and Level 5 Surveyor, Heather George, will be the expert supervising the field surveys on the trip. For more information, go to: http://www.reef.org/node/4081.
Nov - 2010 Saba Bank work continues
Paul Hoetjes and a team of scientists arrived on Saba November 11, 2010 to conduct new work on The Saba Bank.
Hoetjes was a lead scientist when a Conservation International team surveyed this incredible area until recently only known as an area for tankers to anchor and fishermen to trap lobsters. The Saba Bank starts just 6 miles southwest from Saba and encompasses 2200 square kilometers or an 850-square mile area, making it the world’s 4th largest atoll.
The atoll is surrounded by deep water making most days less than pleasant to venture there by boat. Due to the weather, less than 20 marine Rapid Assessment Survey dives were conducted. The surveys were carried out for different taxonomic groups, including coral, algae, sponges and reef fishes. In those few dives the team was able to establish the incredible richness of the Bank’s marine life. The team of scientists discovered a new fish species as well as new species of algae and Gorgonian coral. The survey results were the cornerstone for the region’s protection as the findings show it is both a unique and complex system. The presence of large predatory fish is also a positive sign that parts of the reef system remain healthy and that an intact trophic network is in place.
As part of the CI work, the team used both in water divers and an ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle) to document the damage done to the corals by the large anchors of oil tankers. On a calm day, in less than 24 hours, one vessel produced a white path of freshly destroyed coral gardens measuring over 100 feet in length and 20 feet wide.
Hoetjes’ important work was the foundation for the recent declaration of the Saba Bank’s status as a “Particularly Sensitive Sea Area”. This designation in itself is a testimony to the tenacity of the Conservation International team as it normally takes 5 or more years to achieve this level designation. As a result, international maritime law now makes this area outside the insured area for tankers to cast anchors. What will the tankers do? Moorings adequate to hold large ships have been installed on the island of Statia, home to the oil terminal. Fees can be collected by Statia and the fantastic Saba Bank can continue to flourish and recover--a win/win for both Saba and Statia.
Oct - 2010 Sea & Learn Experts Teach Us About... story by Sea Saba's David Pereira
Why does the Wells bay Beach come and go?
This was the question that Dr. Jenifer Rahn from Samford University in Birmingham Alabama, proposed to a full house audience at Brigadoon restaurant for Sea & Learn October program. Dr. Rahn has been researching for the past 5 years Saba coast line, namely Wells Bay and Tent Reef sandy shores which happen to be among the most restless of all marine environments.
"Sand shifts, so disruptions like storms, hurricanes, winds, and currents periodically modify the shore line and that’s why Saba’s beaches come and go", Dr. Rahn stated.She continued to explain that in the past years Saba sandy beaches reached 30 to 60 feet depth and that these shore fluctuations are strictly dependent of variables quoted above. The impact of the waves varies along the shoreline. Some areas are sheltered from the surf, others are fully exposed. Enclosed bays, for example, are usually protected from wave action, which is why they are used for harbors. It is not always so easy to predict which areas will be sheltered and which exposed.
When a wave enters shallow water it “feels” the bottom and slows down. Thus, the same wave will travel faster in deep than in shallow water. Waves almost never approach the shore straight on, but instead come in at an angle. As a result, one “end” of the wave reaches shallow water before the other. The end in shallow water slows down, but the end in deep water continues to travel at its original speed. As a result, the wave bends, just as a two-wheeled cart will turn to one side if the wheel on that side sticks. This bending of the wave, called refraction,causes the waves to become nearly parallel to the shore. They never quite get perfectly parallel, however.
Refraction can produce especially complicated wave patterns when the coast is not a straight line. In particular, wave action tends to focus at headlands. Bays, even if they are not physically sheltered from incoming waves, tend to get less wave energy.
Offshore bottom features can influence the effect of waves on the coast. Submarine canyons, for example, may cause wave refraction. Also, waves often break on reefs or sand bars and expend their energy before they reach the shore. The result of all this is that there is tremendous variation in the intensity of wave impact, or wave shock,from place to place along the shore.
Her model explains how the angle of repose and Saba’s cliffside undercut associated with the type of coarse sediments affect the coast line. Winter to Summer time climatic variations are linked with specific waves and wind patterns, not to mention hurricane’s disruptive force from which Saba’s Beaches are highly correlated with. Dr. Rahn involves the local community in her work by having school kids to measure beach length and collect other data important to estimate coast line variations. Also in her 3 years research project, she brings Samford University students to Saba to assist her research – Will we have a beach?
Another interesting feature in Dr. Rahn’s presentation was the slides dedicated to the space between sediment particles, in which is largely invisible to us, but it is an active and important part of the marine environment. This microscopic world, which extends from sandy beaches and estuaries to deep water, is inhabited by highly specialized interstitial organisms, often called the meiofauna. Some meiofauna glide freely among the sediment particles, whereas others attach to them.
Oct - 2010 Sea & Learn Experts Teach Us About
Sponges & Saba's Reefs story by Sea Saba's David Pereira
Sponges are animals that are best described as a complex association of sponge cells and diverse microbial communities. Heavy rain and strong wind gusts didn’t deter attendees from the Sea & Learn event. Nearly 80 people attended when Dr. Niels Lindquist, Professor and researcher at the University of North Carolina talked about the – “Past, Present and Future Roles of Sponges in Shaping Coral Reef Ecosystems”
photo courtesy Kerry Thompson
He is presently working as part of a multidisciplinary team funded by the National Science Foundation and NOAA to study coral reef sponges. Using newly development chemical sensors deployed from Aquarius Reef Base, the world’s only underwater laboratory provides long-term monitoring programs giving key insights into the dynamics of changing reef populations.
Using marine chemical ecology approaches, which focus on understanding the plethora of ecological roles of chemicals produced by marine organisms, Dr. Lindquist and his team are able to measure sponge filtering rates with the use of a fluorescent dye called fluorescein. Injected into the water next to the side of the sponge, the dye is quickly drawn in through thousands of tiny pores (ostia) that cover the outer surface and then expelled through the large exhalent opening (osculum). This process is filmed by Lindquist and with video analysis software the fluorescein-dyed excreted seawater flow rates can be calculated.
Sponges support several key ecological processes on biotic reefs. They filter large volumes of seawater and thereby influence the coupling of water-column and benthic processes. Sponge filtration can enhance water clarity and may indirectly affect coral and algal populations that are dependent on light availability. Sponges also serve as habitat to numerous reef organisms, are often the dominant competitors within the benthic community, and may harbor a diverse assemblage of bacteria that can take part in nitrification and carbon fixation.
In recent decades, biotic reef ecosystems have suffered degradation by almost 80% due to the influences of climate change, natural stressors, overfishing, eutrophication, and diseases. Many reefs have experienced dramatic reductions in coral cover since the 1980’s and some reefs have experienced increases of macro algae spurts. “In the Caribbean, the diversity and abundance of coral reef sponges exceeds that of reef-building corals” Dr. Lindquist stated. Further, population models indicate that populations will continue to increase. Large pulses of new recruits and high sponge survival were found to fuel the population growth. It may be that the decline of reef-building corals has provided more space on the reef for sponges to colonize. Sponges may also release high concentrations of dissolved inorganic nitrogen that could ‘fertilize’ the reef and promote the expansion of macroalgae, which compete with corals for space and light.
When nutrients are added, seaweeds may grow much faster and shade and choke out the slow-growing corals. This is a particular problem when, as is often the case, grazing fishes, like the Parrot fish, or other species like Hawksbill turtles and sea urchins, are removed by fishing or disease. They feed not only on seaweeds, but also on sponges and some of the flimsier attached invertebrates as well, uncovering new surfaces where other sessile organisms can settle.
Dr. Lindquist's presentation was one of many in the October 2010 Sea & Learn program. Adverse weather prevented more of Lindquist's field projects from occuring. However, a National Geographic course is a way to learn more about our sponges and their role on our reefs.
Sep - 2010 Program is Ready to Start! Sea & Learn What All the Noise is About!
Sea Saba is proud to be an Official Sponsor (as well as a Founding Sponsor) of the annual Sea & Learn on Saba program. This international award winning program will celebrate its 8th annual event starting October 1, 2010. Enhance your environmental awareness in a fun and enjoyable learning environment. Nature experts from around the globe provide night time presentations, hands on learning with marine and terrestrial field projects as well as working with our local school children. Check the Sea & Learn on Saba website for expert bios, a full calendar of events, news and more. Sea & Learn on Saba--it's fun; it's free; and it's for everyone!
Aug - "The Needle" Gift Prints Now On Sale
This image was chosen by Sport Diver magazine to represent "The World's 10 Best Dives" in their July 2009 issue.
Mauricio Handler shot the image while conducting one of his photographic work-shops with Sea Saba in '08. And now you can purchase the image for your collection and memories. See more of his work at handlerphoto.com.
Available exclusively through Sea Saba in either this poster format 19 x 27 or in full frame (no white border or text) 19 x 27. $40 per print at the Sea Saba shop or add $10 for shipping.
What better way to keep the Saba vibe going until your next trip? Email Lynn and we can discuss how to get the print to you in time for Christmas. So start your Christmas shopping now!
Don't be left off Santa's List!
Diving space for Christmas still available. Email Lynn to hold boat space and choose accommodations.
Jul - Saba Cloudforest Book To be unveiled on Opening Night of Sea & Learn 2010...
Tom van't Hof has just published a booklet on the cloud forest in Saba, entitled "Saba's Unique Cloud Forest". The cloud forest on the top of Mt. Scenery is unique because the Mountain mahogany is the "signature" tree in Saba's cloud forest, whereas it is uncommon or absent in other Caribbean cloud forests. In addition, the Saba Mountain mahoganies can reach a height of 50 ft, while canopy height in other cloud forests seldom exceeds 20 ft. However, very little research has been done to describe the characteristics of the Saba cloud forest.
The author, a biologist and conservationist who has lived on Saba since 1986, provides the reader with a compilation of available information on the cloud forest, combined with his own unique observations. In particular he describes how the climax state of this forest ended in 1998 following a series of major hurricanes and how it has evolved since. A fascinating tale, filled with information never published before, of natural impact on the environment and nature's resilience.
As van't Hof wrote in the introduction: "Since my obser-vations of the cloud forest represent about the only knowledge available of the history of the cloud forest during a period of intense hurricanes, I decided that I should put my knowledge in writing before it gets lost. The result of that decision lies here before you. "
The book is being shipped to Saba and will be officially launched at a book signing on the Opening Night, the price of the book and the full schedule of the
Tom van’t Hof is a biologist and conservationist who has lived on Saba since 1986. He was responsible for the development of the marine parks in Bonaire , Curacao and Saba . As a private consultant he was involved in numerous conservation projects around the world. Economics and financing of marine protected areas became his field of special interest.
Tom was co-founder of the Saba Conservation Foundation and functioned as its chairman for almost 10 years. He is the author of “The Nature of Saba” and of several marine park guidebooks. Together with his family he founded the Ecolodge Rendez-Vous in 2002. He retired in 2009, but he and his wife Heleen Cornet have no intention to move.
Making a trip to Saba to buy the book is a great idea but if it's just not possible, the book is also available on Amazon.com You can even link to the e-version.
Jun - Life List Suggestions To be unveiled on Opening Night of Sea & Learn 2010...
We don't normally write opinion editorial on this site but we were so effected by a recent Whale-shark trip that we felt we had to share this with others...
Most scuba divers either purposely or subconsciously develop a Life List of places they need to, must and most definitely will visit. Some take that task to extremes, as we did and often explain, by going on those Life List trips at an age where most are buying a house, saving for college tuitions...
Whatever level you prioritize or can afford to act on your Life List without the risk of personal bankruptcy or divorce, consider a few points. Besides the proverbial "you can't take it with you" another argument may be stronger than in the past. Environmental conditions as well as disasters may mean that oceans as we know them now may not only not be there for your grandchildren but may change far sooner than we dare consider. And yet another important reason to plan a great trip is that many of the creatures we admire as arm chair travelers are endangered not just from loss of habitat but from poaching, finning, political fights for use of recreational areas, etc
By supporting the businesses and the communities that operate sustainable tourism programs, you are contributing valuable dollars toward fighting an environmental cause.
Many of our return clients ask us for advice on travel decisions. After visiting my family in late June, we did a quick trip to Mexico on the way back. After researching the best time of year and best area for sightings and visibility, we chartered a boat out of Isla Mujeres (easy ferry ride from Cancun). Our expectations were low knowing that big animal sightings are not something you can count on not to mention weather, etc. Simply said, it was one of the best days of our lives! We were with 20-30 Whalesharks that were 15-30' in length for hours on both days. The visibility was far better the second day but even if none of the photos turned out, it was an amazing experience. In hind sight, chartering the boat was not even necessary. For $135/person, 10-12 boats leave daily from the main pier. The boat operators work together to make sure no snorkelers (no diving allowed) harass or interfere with these beautiful creatures who are naturally feeding on the plankton rich waters.
Another amazing and very affordable Life List experience is to snorkel with manatees in Crystal River, Florida. For less than $50 per person, you can swim with these endangered beasts whose closest relative is actually an elephant. Again, the operators do an excellent job to make sure no snorkelers are chasing (actually no forward or aggressive movement toward a manatee allowed) or interfering with the sea cows. Each year, okay, sometimes more than once per year, we travel to other destinations to experience and photograph rare or endangered species. John's photographic passion is normally the driving force behind the trips but they also serve the purpose of simply being a tourist and remembering what it's like to be on the other side of the reception desk, the bar or the dive platform. And like any job or place you live, going away is refreshing and coming home is the greatest reward of all.
Manatees were once found in many areas of the Caribbean including Saba and St. Maarten. We do occasionally see a Whaleshark on Saba but it's just not something we can guarantee. Saba offers many other reasons to visit this special place and be inspired to see what protecting nature can do. Thereofre, we want to take this space to thank our many customers who have put Saba on their Life List knowing they will be able to share it with their grandchildren one day. The support of the Saba Marine Park and Saba Conservation Found-ation has proven that the sustainable tourism practices on this small island have been a win/win/win for the island.
Next on our list, Argonauts...good thing dogs and cats don't need a university degree to survive or be happy!
May - Sea Bird Experts Include
Saba in Breeding Atlas
SABA—Katherine and David Lowrie returned to Saba this past week to continue their work on compiling a breeding atlas for the seabirds of the Lesser Antilles. The couple were last on Saba in February 2009.
Since then the intrepid pair have taken their wooden sailing yacht, “The Lista Light,” from Anguilla to Grenada and back again, as part of the mission of the St. Maarten non-governmental organization “Environmental Protection in the Caribbean or “EPIC” for short.
The Lowries spent interactive time with Saba school children to help them understand the importance of biodiversity, especially since 2010 has been declared the year of biodiversity, with last Saturday the day of biodiversity. Their research aims to put some economics behind the need for preservation, but this can only happen by establishing a baseline of breeding habits throughout the region. Research results will eventually be posted on the Internet.
In their public presentation Tuesday at the Saba Marine Park, the scientists identified several common seabirds found on Saba, but the most enthusiasm was for the Red Billed Tropic Bird and the Wedrego, or Audubon’s Shearwater, which is depicted on Saba’s Coat of Arms. Saba’s breeding colonies of these two birds appear to be well established and amongst the largest—if not the largest—in the Lesser Antilles.
With assistance from Saba Conservation Foundation staff members, night forays were undertaken to try to determine the number of Wedregos. This is very difficult since the bird only comes back to the island at night. The Sulphur Mine area was under study this time for the Wedrego and Old Booby Hill for the Red-Billed Tropic Bird. Fewer of this bird were noted when compared to 2009. This could only be a normal fluctuation and more data will need to be collected to determine the patterns at different times of year.
The Lowries proposed that Saba might consider declaring Green Island, for example, a bird sanctuary. The viewing of the island from the Sulphur Mine area is spectacular and could be promoted to develop niche tourism for avid bird watchers.
Mar - What's in a Bait Ball Marine life swarms Diamond Rock on Saba!
For weeks a "bait ball" could be enjoyed at Diamond Rock. Literally hundreds of fish of the same species school together to confuse and evade predators...or so is the theory. We often feel that the predator, like our divers, find the school as much an attraction so that larger predators seemingly invade the bait ball and take out the weak or is it just the unlucky?
Saba's recent bait ball was comprised of Big Eye Scad, not a common reef fish but more often seen offshore in blue water.
Is this aggregation part of the mating process or a protection phase of the species? Stay tuned, we are also trying to find out more!
Jan - Who's (not?) Talking
About Saba in 2010? The word spreads about the "Unspoiled Queen"
Jessica Marnor contacted us to arrange a vacation so that she could learn to dive and her boyfriend Taylor could refresh his diving skills and conduct a photography course. Upon arrival, we realized she worked for The Wall Street Journal... On December 30, 2009, we found out she not only published the on-line article about Saba and Sea Saba, but we were also in the paper the following day. What a way to celebrate Old Year's Night--as they say on Saba.
For the second time in five years, Saba has been awarded "Best Caribbean Island" by Travel + Leisure magazine. Saba edged out more known destinations Virgin Gorda, St. John, Cuba and St. Lucia according to the T&L website. To add to the validity of this honor, Saba has little to no marketing budget so the island did not receive this reward as a masked thank you for advertising.
Director of Tourism Glenn Holm and Commissioner of Tourism Chris Johnson traveled to New York to accept the award. Travel + Leisure Editor-in-Chief Nancy Novogrod and Travel + Leisure VP/Publisher J.P. Kyrillos presented the award at the World's Best Awards ceremony at Trump SoHo New York on July 21. Al Roker of NBC Today was the event emcee.
Places "To See" Many of our clients tell us they first heard of Saba in the1,000 Places to See Before You Die publication. The island of Saba is described but specific properties and businesses are highlighted as the "To See" places...
Queen's Gardens Resort, Swinging Doors bar and
(of course), for the third year in a row, diving or snorkeling with Sea Saba.
A great book for you or your travel companion to work on your "Bucket List".
Tallying up the most votes for "customer reaction" to Saba news stories, Joel Nash's May 31 article in the Chicago Tribune was cause for a chuckle from anyone who has been to Saba. "Little Saba delivers a mountain of delights, to be navigated with care" "But while the divers combed the sea floor, I bobbed in the water and made a turtle's acquaintance. At first I was quite pleased just to spot the thing, which was about 3 feet from head to tail. But then it kept rising and rising — almost as if coming for me."Click here to read the article in its entirety, but please, be sure to have a grain of salt nearby.
The island’s yearly Sea & Learn nature program is featured on a four- page spread of the October issue of the scuba magazine Sport Diver, the official pub-lication of the PADI Diving Society. Click here for the Sport Diver E-Link.
This publication tracks ex-pat South Africans living all over the planet. Caren Banks has lived the last 25+ years in of Los Angeles. She spent October 2009 on Saba as an event coordinator for the annual Sea & Learn program. Enjoy her entertaining piece "From LA to Saba to Experience an earthquake".
In early July, 2010, Vicky and Sarosh Georges Jacob stayed at The Cottage Club and dove with Sea Saba. Since their return they have posted an enchanting video and a blog-style commentary on his trip to The Unspoiled Queen. Hauteoc Traveler is an Orange County (California) based International Travel Blog and Destination Concierge specializing in luxury travel, business tourism and corporate entertainment services.
"Travel with a purpose" and "make your vacation last a lifetime" are the slogans of this off-center travel website that highlights sustainable tourism destinations around the globe. Saba's annual environmental awareness program Sea & Learn on Saba is showcased the second year in a row as an outstanding grass roots community event.