Diveheart adaptive diving returns to Dive Paradise!

We’re excited to welcome Diveheart adaptive diving back to Cozumel next week!  Renee “Apple” Applegate, who ran Dive Paradise from 1994-2017, loved working with this organization, and we’re honored to continue supporting their inspiring mission to improve confidence and independence in children, adults, and veterans with disabilities through the scuba experience.

Did you know that diving offers the perfect buoyancy and balance to people who might struggle on land?  The effect of being neutrally buoyant can be so therapeutic that people often feel significant relief from chronic pain and limitations underwater.  In fact, according to founder Jim Elliot, studies at Hopkins University have shown that the body releases an extra output of serotonin below 66 feet, and they’ve seen spinal patients who report being free from pain after spending time at these depths!

Diving has been shown to help people with traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, chronic pain, PTSD, autism, and numerous other disabilities.  Those with limited mobility enjoy a liberating experience of moving more easily through beautiful underwater spaces.  The potential impact of sharing scuba diving with individuals with disabilities is enormous!

The warmth of Cozumel’s waters is particularly therapeutic.  If Diveheart’s mission and work inspires you, you are invited to participate in upcoming opportunities to dive with Diveheart at Dive Paradise, and/or to join this elite group of adaptive diving instructors and buddies via Diveheart Instructor/Buddy Training Courses.  Join us for some fun and meaningful adventures with these awesome human beings!  You can learn more by clicking here.

Please help spread the word –  Diving can be life-transforming, even life-saving in
many cases, through introducing people to a new sense of purpose and ability around a fun activity immersed in the beauty of nature.  Diveheart’s instructors and buddies have undergone rigorous adaptive diving instruction in order to be able to dive with and assist individuals with disabilities.  They can work with virtually any type of disability.  Their participants include individuals who have paraplegia, quadriplegia, amputation(s), vision and/or hearing impairment, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and many other types of physical and cognitive disabilities.  Diveheart focuses on abilities, not disabilities, to provide safe and inclusive activities for adaptive divers to enjoy the wonders of the aquatic world.

American Whitespotted Filefish in Cozumel Reefs

The American Whitespotted Filefish (Cantherhines Macrocerus) is one of several varieties of this species you will see on Cozumel’s reefs. You may also find them in Florida and throughout the northwest Caribbean.

They are noticeable for their prominent snouts and bright orange color, which can darken almost instantaneously to near black or lighten and be mottled by white spots depending on their surroundings, emotional state (being threatened), or to make themselves more attractive to a potential mate. Not all girls love flashy men . And they move seemingly effortlessly through the water – usually in pairs – in large part by undulations of their dorsal and pectoral fins.

Adult Whitespotted Filefish grow up to 18-inches long and are usually found in relatively shallow areas around reefs and sponges down to about 80-feet deep. They have scales, although very small, and feel like sandpaper – not dissimilar to a shark’s skin. This roughness is how the Filefish got its name. Reportedly their dried skin was once used to finish wooden boats. It isn’t known how long these fish live in the wild.

Every Filefish has a sharp spine on its head just above its eyes. It erects the spine when threatened as a defensive move. Its primary defense is to erect its dorsal and pectoral fins plus the spine to make it difficult for a predator to eat or to extract from its hiding place if back in a little cave. Juveniles are at risk of being eaten by tuna and dolphinfish. Adults may fall prey to larger fish, lizardfish, and seabirds. Plus they are popular as food or snacks for native Koreans and Chinese.

The Adult Whitespotted Filefish dines primarily on sponges, gorgonians, and algae but will also chow down on hydroids and stinging corals. It is difficult to differentiate between males and females. The male fish are said to have slightly larger appendages extending from their bodies at the base of their tails.

Filefish spawn on the sandy bottom at sites prepared and guarded by males. They breed in groups with one male mating with up to 5 females. Think “Sister Wives fish style. Females deposit their eggs in recessions where they are fertilized by the male. Both parents will guard their nests until the eggs hatch at which time the female takes over caring for her family. And when hatched, the juveniles are pelagic, meaning that they swim freely in open water.

The Great Barracuda swim with divers in Cozumel

If you’ve been diving in Cozumel, chances are good you’ve come across the Great Barracuda (sphraena barracuda). They are large fish – up to to 6-feet long and weighing up to 100 pounds, although it is more common for them to max out at half that weight. You can find them in tropical waters around the world (except in the eastern Pacific) at normal depths of 0 to 60-feet. The sphraena barracuda is one of about 20 barracuda species overall.

Although seen here in a small group, the Great Barracuda is normally a solitary animal except during mating season. Males mature sexually at the age of 3, and females are able to reproduce when they reach 4 years old. They are thought to breed April to September in warm, shallow waters. Sphraena barraducas are pelagic spawners, gathering in an area to release eggs and sperm, which are carried away by currents. Each female produces 5,000 to 30,000 eggs. The older the female, the more eggs she produces.

Upon hatching, juveniles traditionally live in sea grasses and mangroves where they are able to hide from predators until the age of two when they migrate to live among coral reefs. They are recognizable as barracudas at about 1/2-inch long and leave their safe haven when they grow to about 2-inches long. Their lifespan is approximately 14 years.

The Great Barracuda has a large mouth with a lot (to use a scientific term) of long, sharp teeth. Their underbite exposes the teeth on their lower jaw and gives them a perpetual evil smile. They are opportunistic predators who will hunt when hungry but won’t ignore an easy meal if suitable prey wanders into their territory. Sphraenas have excellent vision, lying in wait and striking quickly with short bursts of speed up to 27 mph. Any fish makes suitable dining. And this fish is near the top of the food chain with few predators large or fast enough to feed on an adult.

Because they are sight-oriented hunters, Great Barracudas have been known to accidentally attack humans. It is thought bright, metallic objects like jewelry look to them a lot like shiny fish scales, so it’s NOT a good idea to flash items like these trying to get their attention. Know though that barracudas are generally very inquisitive, so it’s not unusual to have one or two following you as your dive.

Spotted Drums / Ribbonfish make great photo subjects for divers

Our divemasters love to find and show off these beautiful Spotted Drums (Equetus Punctatus), which may also correctly be called Spotted Ribbonfish, Highhats, and a few other less common names. They are lovely to watch and make great photo subjects if you’re patient, because they swim in repetitive patterns and therefore are predictable. Their name “drum” comes from the drumming or croaking sounds the males make by beating their abdominal muscles against their swim bladders.

Spotted Drums are most commonly found in protected reef areas under ledges and in the mouths of small caves at depths from about 10-feet to 100-feet. This species is widespread throughout the warmer, tropical waters of the Atlantic Ocean from south Florida to Brazil, in the Gulf of Mexico, around the Bahamas, in Bermuda, and of course in the Caribbean.

Spotted Drums are normally secretive, solitary creatures who leave their protective environments to feed nocturnally on crabs, shrimps, and marine worms. Juveniles are known for their extremely long, slender dorsal fins, which become shorter as the fish matures. As they age, their bodies also thicken and they develop spots on their second dorsal fins and tails. Spotted Drums grow up to 9-1/2 inches long and are believed to live up to 5 years. They are preyed upon by larger carnivorous fish and prized and captured by sellers of saltwater aquarium fish.

Little is known about the reproductive cycles of Spotted Drums. But based on other members of their Sciaenidae family, the males make their drumming noises to attract females and release their sperm when the females release their eggs.