Author Topic: Private Island Paradise: Something Fishy's Anniversary Adventure  (Read 123353 times)

Offline Something Fishy

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Re: Private Island Paradise: Something Fishy's Anniversary Adventure
« Reply #160 on: September 19, 2017, 12:03:15 AM »
The second Barry left we had one goal: to get in the water as fast as humanly possible. So instead of taking pictures of the nice clean house, we exploded our possessions all over the place, looking for our swimming and snorkeling gear and hightailed it into the water. And as everyone knows, if you don't take pictures of your lodgings the instant you walk in all hope is lost: there will be stuff all over and you won't get a decent picture anymore.

So... Here's the part where you grab the tar and feathers and run me out of town: I don't have a single picture of the house to share. Not one.

But wait! There's hope. A guy named ‎Lucie Pineault was there shortly before me and has some decent pictures of the house, so I'll link to his Facebook pictures below when applicable. [EDIT 2/27/19: Lucie's pictures are now gone from Facebook, but DDFer @as2 just came back from the island has has an awesome walkthrough in his trip report - you can see it around halfways down this post.]

My first impression of the island was that it's larger than we expected. It's not large by any means, but there was a lot of space.

A drone shot is probably the best way to get the lay of the land:

On the bottom of the picture is the "front" of the island, and is where the main beach is. The part to the right of the dock was our favorite spot, with perfectly perfect sand, a gentle slope, and a great water entry. Towards the top of that beach, near the trees, is a large fire pit and a pile of kindling.

A little past the left of the dock you could see a stripe of debris along the high tide line. This is where the currents going around the island meet, so anything that leaves the island end up back there. Palm fronds, coconuts, and pine needles all pile up around here. While clearly visible from the air, the entire thing was pretty much hidden from view due to the steeper slope of the beach here, so we didn't really notice it at all.

Continuing clockwise, we get to the left tip of the island and a sandbar extending out someway. The island drops off here in a kind of bluff, around two or three feet high. You could kinda see that bluff in the picture: the smooth-looking sand is below the bluff and covered in water at high tide, while the island above the bluff seems rougher due to the animal tracks not getting erased by the waves (more about those guys later).

Rounding the tip to the back part of the island, the bluff becomes gentler and there's another wonderful ocean entry. Around halfway around the coastline turns rocky, continuing around to the other side and down to where the soft sand begins yet again. The shore here is a mix of rocks, shells, and bleached coral and makes for great souvenir hunting.

The interior of the island consists of a palm forest, with some pine and other tropical trees mixed in. The ground is all sand and liberally covered with fallen fronds and coconuts. We loved the fact that everything was left in its natural state, instead of being swept up and manicured. A big part of the island's charm is simply that it's so natural; you really feel like you're alone in the world there.

And then comes the house. As I've mentioned before, and as we'd expected, the house is very far from fancy. It's large, it's clean, and is perfectly adequate (mostly, at least ). But if you expect to be living in the lap of luxury, this is simply not the place for you.

As you can see in the picture, the house is really made up of two separate buildings. The long, narrow one on the left contains the master bedroom with one king bed, a second large bedroom with two queen beds, and a bathroom. The building on the right is itself divided in two sections. The right, squarish part is a very large living room and doubles as a third bedroom (there's a big pile of mattresses in the corner). The other part of the building consists of the main bathroom and shower, the kitchen, and a covered outdoor dining room.

The house is completely surrounded by a wooden deck, which extends between the two buildings as well. The deck is an important part of the house, as that was the place to be when you didn't want to be all sandy (a big basin of water at the foot of the stairs ensured that your feet wouldn't drag the beach into the house). The covered dining room is on the deck, along with a bunch of lounge chairs, access to the grill, and so on.

Considering that we were on an isolated island, there were a bunch of quirks in the house, primarily relating to plumbing and electricity.

You can't see it in the picture, but towards the back of the middle section is a large water tank on the roof. This powers the sinks, shower, and toilets. In order to flush, you need to turn on a pump on the outside of the house, which is accomplished with a simple switch. Just a minor hassle, but not the end of the world. A fact that did cause us some concern ahead of time is that there is no hot water on the island for showering. Googling around I discovered the existence of solar showers, and at under $10 a pop I figured these would be an ideal solution and bought two of them. As it turned out though, the water was never too cold, what with the tank sitting in the sun.

The house was powered by a number of solar panels on the roof. This provided enough power for the lights, two fridges, the toilet pump, and a surge protector hooked up to an inverter. This meant two things: all charging had to take place in the living room, and there was no A/C - or even a fan - in the entire place. Point number one worked out fine, even with my massive amounts of batteries: I found a routine of charging everything and worked off power packs when needed. It was the second thing with was a problem. I could understand no A/C; that needs massive amounts of power. But no fan? That was seriously annoying.

The rationale goes that by day you'd be outside and not need A/C, and at night the wind picks up and cools everything down. Indeed, the second and third nights were wonderful; two whole walls of the bedroom are essentially huge screened windows, and it was incredibly comfortable (we even needed blankets one night). But the first night there was not a hint of a breeze and it was swelteringly hot. Barry claims that such a night is exceedingly rare, but in my opinion not having some sort of fan (at least!) in the bedroom is a major oversight.

In the end, this and a cockroach we found one night were my only grievances with the place, so that's pretty good in my book. We will undoubtedly return, but I think I'll insist on Barry setting up some kind of fan first.


We had two qualifications for this trip: absolute privacy and incredible snorkeling. We had achieved number one, and now it was time for number two.

Barry left, we found our swimming gear, and ran into the water.

In this drone shot you could clearly see the huge reef surrounding the island. I've marked the two main entry points:

For our first snorkel today we opted for the entry on the bottom of the picture, as it was the shorter option. We slid down the little sand bluff, got our fins on, and just jumped in. The water was about three feet deep here, and quickly dropped to around ten at the narrow chokepoint. Beyond that the bottom continued to drop to twenty feet of so, before going way deeper once past the main part of the reef.

Before I continue, a quick note about the pictures: this was my first time doing real underwater photography. In the past my underwater work consisted of a GoPro, shooting blindly and in auto mode. This time I had brought along a serious underwater rig, consisting of an Ikelite housing, a huge 8" dome port, and a pair of underwater strobes, each mounted on two feet worth of articulating arms. My Sony a7R II, 28mm f/2 lens with the 16mm fisheye attachment went into that contraption. The thing was an absolute monstrosity, to say the least. It was incredibly heavy, but as designed, it was completely neutrally buoyant once underwater:

The problem with underwater photography is that it's incredibly difficult. Light works completely different than you're used to, focus is thoroughly weird (you're not focusing on your subject, rather on a projected image on your dome port), and changing settings in the housing is a nightmare.

Why am I saying all this? Simple: my initial attempts were pretty lousy, so please don't judge the first few pictures too harshly.

We had snorkeled twice in the past, in arguably the best spots in Hawaii: off the Big Island and Lanai. We had been blown away and fallen in love. But nothing - nothing! - could have prepared us for the diversity we saw the instant we put our faces in the water.

Not a terribly great picture, but this was our first view, looking toward the narrow opening and the deeper water beyond. There are over 30 fish here, including pufferfish, tangs, butterflyfish, sergeant majors, snapper, grunts, chubs, and a bunch of others:

The snorkeling here was absolutely out of the world. The water was calm, warm, and unbelievably clear. The reef spread as far as the eye can see, made up of all manner of interesting formations. There were huge tracts of hard lettuce coral covered only by a few inches of water, hundreds of little fish darting in and out of the folds. Isolated towers of rock covered in gigantic, swinging, purple fan coral came straight up from the ocean floor, angelfish and parrotfish swimming circles around them. Here and there, like huge boulders, sat bright yellow brain coral, perfectly round and symmetrical. Huge schools of blue tangs swam sedately hither and yon.

The stuff that dreams are made of:

A group of sergeant majors:

A great example of the coral diversity:

A stunningly beautiful stoplight parrotfish:

These parrotfish spend all day, every day chomping at the coral with their ultra-strong teeth. They extract whatever nutrients they can from the coral, and what's left is excreted as sand. An average parrotfish creates over 200 lbs. of sand a year. Next time you're on a Caribbean beach, remember to think about the fact that every grain of sand you see once passed through the digestive system of a parrotfish .

This giant brain coral was over four feet wide:

A bluehead wrasse hanging out in front of a lettuce coral. Still can't decide if the lighting is horrible or not:

You can see how close the lettuce coral was to the surface. In the above picture the tide was beginning to recede and the very tops of the coral actually poked out above the waterline.

A French grunt contemplating a school of juvenile bluehead wrasses. "Hmm, which one shall I eat today?":

Some more lettuce coral (challenge: spot the perfectly-camouflaged threespot damselfish):

By now we had been in the water for nearly two hours, and the sun was beginning to set. It was time to return to shore, but not before attempting to take a picture I had been itching to try for years. Between fighting against the current, attempting to keep the suddenly-heavy camera precisely half over and half under the water, and trying to strobe the dark coral to balance the bright sunset light, I was getting a major workout.

Probably one of the most difficult pictures I've ever pulled off, but I couldn't be happier with the results:

We rested for a bit, grilled a bunch of steaks for dinner, and made an early night. As mentioned above, this was the one very hot night and neither of us slept very well, so as soon as it got light it was out of bed and right back in the water.

This time I left the huge camera contraption behind and just took the GoPro, which of course meant that we had the clearest water and saw the most amazing things of the trip . Such is life .

if we thought the water was clear yesterday, that was nothing compared to today. We had 150 feet of visibility, easily. It was mind boggling.

We spent the bulk of our time frolicking with a school of over 200 blue tangs, following behind and even amidst them (although they always made sure to stay just beyond arm's reach). Like I said, I didn't have the real camera with me, so all I have is a semi-decent GoPro video and wonderful memories:

After a while, it was time for breakfast:

Absolutely delicious pan-fried yellowtail, salt and pepper rub, a bit of lime juice, and veggies:

(We actually got the fish - and the recipe - from a fisherman in Utila. But it was more fun setting up the picture of the washed-up fish and freaking my parents out .)

We were joined for breakfast by one of the resident dinosaurs iguanas:

The little weirdo took one taste of Pringles and spit it out, but he absolutely loved our carrots. My wife named him Larry ("Yer a lizard, Larry!"):

There were at least three of them living on the island, and we soon got to recognize them and learn their personalities. The guy above was absolutely fearless, and apparently made it his life's goal to bite a big chunk off my toes (spoiler alert: he failed). There was the darker, timid one, who would dive for safety under the deck if you as much glanced in his direction. And then there was the little guy, who'd swagger up to you all macho only to jump, terrified, two feet in the air once he got within arm's reach. But they all hated Pringles equally.

Our other hosts were the hermit crabs. There were literally hundreds of them, all over the sand and the deck (but never indoors). I spent hours watching them drag their houses across the sand, their little feet making intricate tracks in the sand. No two were the same, and most were exceedingly pretty. They ranged in size from maybe half an inch across to as large as apples, and it was amazing to see how each had found a shell that was precisely the correct size.

I found five lined up at one point, each with a unique look and color:

They'd be skittering around happily, but the as soon as you'd touch their shell - no matter how lightly - they disappear inside instantly, leaving only their main pincer exposed. After a few seconds an eye will cautiously appear, scan the area, and then suddenly the rest of him would pop out and he'd be off again:

I personally very much enjoyed the crabs, but my wife only tolerated them (at a certain point I got the message and stopped bringing over what I thought were particularly interesting specimens ). At night though they totally creeped her out, what with their claws and their skittering about.

Island living:

Can't stay out of that water for long... snorkeling again, this time from the longer, shallower entry from the front beach. As it turned out, we much preferred this entry. Being right off our favorite beach, it made for great lounging before and after the snorkel. And although it took a longer time to reach the "main" reef (maybe five minutes of swimming vs. 30 seconds), it offered a trip through an entirely different underwater world.

The water here was shallow, around two or three feet deep. The bottom consisted of a mixture of fine white sand and rocks covered in soft tan seaweed, so the going was nice and pleasant. The coral here was more dispersed and more individual than on the main reef, and the fish were larger and less skittish:

Schoolmaster snapper:

Striped parrotfish:

There were also a couple of dead spots in the shallows, with nothing but sand and rocks. Probably something to do with the currents or whatever:

The view returning to the beach - nice, soft, and easy slope:

As an aside, it was really cool how the fish living around the coral were all brightly colored, while the ones hanging around on the sand were silvery and difficult to spot, like the one above.

Dinner tonight was red snapper (also bought in Utila, not washed up on our beach ) while watching a lovely sunset.

Contrary to last night, as soon as the sun went down the wind began picking up. It got stronger and stronger, so much so that walking out on the dock was a challenge. But a million stars were twinkling above me, the Milky Way rising in all its grandeur. So off to the end of the dock I went, holding onto my tripod for dear life.

The view took my breath away:

While the wind was wild out on the beach, the little forest of palm trees sheltered the house and all we got indoors was a delicious breeze. It was nice and cool all night, thankfully.

My wife slept in while I woke as dawn was breaking. The ocean was lapping quietly against the sand; everything was calm and bathed in lovely pre-sunrise blue:

Sunrise was a pretty subdued affair, with only a hint of color in the sky:

The sun rose over Utila. I flew up to nearly 2000 feet here in order to capture the entirety of the island in the shot:

Some clouds rolled in, releasing a small squall maybe a mile away from our island. I turned around just in time to capture a tiny rainbow:

Our island under the threatening skies:

Luckily, as is typical in the tropics, the clouds passed through extremely quickly: I don't think they hung around more than two minutes all told. Once it cleared up, it was interesting to see the waters in front of the island and the ones behind taking completely different hues:

Beautiful morning light once more:

Abstract reef view:

By now my wife was up and it was time for our morning snorkel:

A number of years ago I was having a conversation with @AJK, during which he pointed out that there are three "worlds": Earth, space, and underwater. For most people, the underwater world is as alien as outer space. That's unfortunate, as with very little effort you can have access to this absolutely wonderful place. It's just so amazing, so different than what we're used to upside, and yet most people never get to see it or be in it.

I couldn't agree with him more. Even after multiple snorkeling trips, I continue to be blown away anew every single time. I had spent hours on the reef here in the last few days, and yet it never ceased to take my breath away:

Lovely blue tang:

Popping out for a moment, the mountains of the Honduran mainland are visible on the horizon, over 30 miles away:

My wife had gotten back to the beach a minute or two before me. As I was approaching I saw that she was gesticulating excitedly. "Did you see the stingray over there?! It's larger than me!" Needless to say, I turned right around and headed in the direction she was pointing to.

It wasn't long before I spotted a large cloudy area off to the side, which I knew indicated a stingray grazing and kicking up the sand. I swam up to the edge of the cloud, trying to determine where exactly it was so I can stay safe around it. All of a sudden the water cleared up a bit and to my horror I realized that I was nearly sitting on it!

It was an absolute monster, over five feet across and nearly seven feet long. And there was just about six inches of water between the soon-to-be-pissed-off stingray and my soon-to-be-stabbed bottom.

I hightailed it outta there as fast as I was able to frog-stroke it, and it never took notice of me. Once I was safe I fired off a few exposures. I wish there was a frame of reference here to show how enormous this guy was:

I checked that I got the shot and hauled out of the water.

Breakfast visitor:

Check out those claws:

He was in no mood to pose, instead trying his best to bite by index finger off:

One of the things that we were excited to try on this trip was fresh coconut water. It seemed that everyone was raving how delicious it was, and c'mon, how could you go to a tropical island and not have a coconut fresh off the tree? So we spent 20 bucks on a coconut opener and couldn't wait to try it out.

Man were we disappointed. That thing was disgusting. It was like drinking grass, and it was warm to boot. Oh well. Good thing that this was out only disappointment of the trip.

Giving up on coconut water, I figured I'd see if I can get inside a mature coconut for its meat. Of course I didn't have the right tools, but with my coconut tool, a large piece of coral, and some elbow grease, I was able to get inside. And whaddya know: it tasted - surprise! - like coconut:

The solar showers had been in the sun for a few hours and were boiling hot by now:

They each came with rope and a large S-hook for mounting, so it was fairly simple to hang from the nearest palm:

(The stuff in the background is the fire pit and kindling.)

The shower was great, but truth be told I really needn't have bothered; like I mentioned earlier, the house's shower, while not hot nor very pressurized, was perfectly adequate.

One last snorkel...

French Grunt (or, as my 5-year-old insists it's called, a corn-on-the-cob-fish):

Lettuce and elkhorn coral:

Rock beauty angelfish:

Yellowtail damselfish hiding out:

A small school of bar jacks with a bicolor damselfish in the background:

A pair of stoplight parrotfish: an adult in the foreground and a juvenile in the background:

Bermuda chubs:

This flat needlefish was nearly invisible, hanging out just beneath the surface and blending in perfectly:

A sea urchin hiding in the coral:

A lovely foureye butterflyfish (guess how it got that name ?):

Spotfin butterflyfish:

Something Fishy fish:

Time to leave the water...

One last drone flight, seeing our island in all its perfect isolation:

Bittersweet sunset from the dinner table, before an early night:

...And before we knew it, our alarm was going off, our suitcases were dragged outside, and we were in Barry's boat heading back to Utila and into a glorious sunrise:

« Last Edit: June 26, 2019, 12:34:24 PM by Something Fishy »
Check out my site for epic kosher adventures: Kosher Horizons

Offline as2

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Re: Private Island Paradise: Something Fishy's Anniversary Adventure
« Reply #161 on: September 19, 2017, 12:27:22 AM »
Love it. The pictures are unbelievable. I'm speechless.
Memories last forever, make them while you can.

Offline whYME

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Re: Private Island Paradise: Something Fishy's Anniversary Adventure
« Reply #162 on: September 19, 2017, 12:30:01 AM »

Offline tageed-lee

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Re: Private Island Paradise: Something Fishy's Anniversary Adventure
« Reply #163 on: September 19, 2017, 12:37:11 AM »
Jaw dropping gorgeous pics!!!!! Looks like you got the hang of it real quick...  ;)

The name Somethingfishy really does fit the bill....

Thanks for sharing!!! Sounds and looks like you guys really got to relax from your everyday lives...

Many more happy healthy anniversaries!

Offline Shua

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Re: Private Island Paradise: Something Fishy's Anniversary Adventure
« Reply #164 on: September 19, 2017, 12:41:04 AM »
Wow. Really incredible pictures.

Offline 12HRS

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Re: Private Island Paradise: Something Fishy's Anniversary Adventure
« Reply #165 on: September 19, 2017, 12:44:24 AM »
Absolutely amazing. I think my favorite shot might actually be the stars; ironic for a trip focused on the underwater world

Offline thaber

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Re: Private Island Paradise: Something Fishy's Anniversary Adventure
« Reply #166 on: September 19, 2017, 02:20:26 AM »
Absolutely amazing, and your writing is spectacular as well. As I'm going through this I'm thinking, ok, maybe I can get my wife to deal with no a/c, the plane, the boat, (fat chance on any of those), but all hope was lost when I got to this shot:

and then the hermit crabs were נחתם את הגזרה

but who knows? if there's mosquitoes don't tell me :)

Offline saw50st8

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Re: Private Island Paradise: Something Fishy's Anniversary Adventure
« Reply #167 on: September 19, 2017, 07:56:02 AM »
Incredible! Both the setting and your photography.

Offline Yaalili

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Re: Private Island Paradise: Something Fishy's Anniversary Adventure
« Reply #168 on: September 19, 2017, 08:09:57 AM »
Excellent pics and storyline!

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Re: Private Island Paradise: Something Fishy's Anniversary Adventure
« Reply #169 on: September 19, 2017, 10:01:50 AM »
Ok, sign me up. Unbelievable.
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Offline Yehuda57

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Offline yg1836

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Re: Private Island Paradise: Something Fishy's Anniversary Adventure
« Reply #171 on: September 19, 2017, 10:56:07 AM »
Unbelievable. So jealous. This is my favorite trip report. As most guys were saying probably will never get the wife on board with this one.  :'( :'(

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Private Island Paradise: Something Fishy's Anniversary Adventure
« Reply #172 on: September 19, 2017, 11:43:04 AM »
Wow! It certainly looks like you had a nice time!

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Re: Private Island Paradise: Something Fishy's Anniversary Adventure
« Reply #173 on: September 19, 2017, 11:47:02 AM »
Amazing! Thanks for the write up and pics!
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Offline @Yehuda

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Re: Private Island Paradise: Something Fishy's Anniversary Adventure
« Reply #174 on: September 19, 2017, 11:49:26 AM »
What a trip! Thanks for taking the time. Really enjoyed. You are a master storyteller and photographer.

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Re: Private Island Paradise: Something Fishy's Anniversary Adventure
« Reply #175 on: September 19, 2017, 01:09:31 PM »
When do we get this part?
...and this is all before we get into the discussion of the grill and the fish ;D.
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Re: Private Island Paradise: Something Fishy's Anniversary Adventure
« Reply #176 on: September 19, 2017, 01:19:44 PM »
Unbelievable. So jealous. This is my favorite trip report. As most guys were saying probably will never get the wife on board with this one.  :'( :'(
say that another million times. simply breathtaking; but with every paragraph i mumbled to myself that my wife would never do this...

Offline Work-for-ur-muny

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Re: Private Island Paradise: Something Fishy's Anniversary Adventure
« Reply #177 on: September 19, 2017, 07:37:10 PM »
W - O - W - ! - ! - !

Oh, and now we got a new longest Something Fishy on DDF. Sorry to see you lose the exclusive rights.  :'(

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Re: Private Island Paradise: Something Fishy's Anniversary Adventure
« Reply #178 on: September 19, 2017, 08:12:15 PM »
Pics are simply breathtaking...from the 
Milky Way to the hermit crabs from the stingrey to the drone pics..

Truly amazing.

And like mentioned above, my wife is out. Before we even start the discussion.

Also we all know what happens... I'll never see it like you @somethingfishy ...

Offline etech0

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Re: Private Island Paradise: Something Fishy's Anniversary Adventure
« Reply #179 on: September 19, 2017, 08:23:52 PM »
Workflowy. You won't know what you're missing until you try it.