CacheCrazy.Com: June 2014

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

WHY NOT WEDNESDAY ~ Campfire Cologne

We at CacheCrazy.Com do not endorse, promote or advertise for profit. That's how it's always has been and that's how it always will be. BUT, every now and then a product, service, activity, event or "thing" relates so well to our crazy fun outlook on nature and the great outdoors, that you just can't help but promote it, unintentionally of course.

I love the concept 

AND they come in Ceder, Oak or Birch! 
Only $13.00 a box. Each box comes with a pack of matches and planks. Plus $5.95 for shipping for a total of $18.95 but, I hear this scent is a real chick magnet!

I strongly suggest you save your money and have a campfire tonight with your special someone. Make some smores, play a little guitar, stare at the stars while the fire dwindles to embers and contemplate the universe together. Tell them how you truly feel in your heart. You only get so many chances in life to do that. 
And, that my friends, is a real chick magnet! and it's free....
Live your life and be happy!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Benidorm Island - Under!

Welcome back to Benidorm Island!

So, the outing you joined me on yesterday (birding) was pretty intensive... what with the sun beating down, heat and stink in the caves, scrambling up and down the island on hands and knees... whew! I'm tired and sweaty just thinking about it! :p

Time for something a bit more refreshing, don't you think? ;o)

Let's see what's UNDER the island! Two weeks ago my sister and I hopped on a boat in Villajoyosa (yes, with a dive club, AliSub if you're ever in the neighbourhood, great club!) and jumped into the water at the southern point of Benidorm Island known as Punta Garbí (N.B.: all these underwater pics were taken by my sister Gabby -except for a couple I took but I don't remember exactly which ones- she also did all the editing in photoshop. If some look a bit fuzzy around the edges that's because some humidity in the casing caused the lens to fog up a bit due to the temperature difference. There was also a flash problem as she lost her flash diffuser a while back and apparently hasn't found anyplace to sell her just that little piece of plastic!)

Let's start by looking down in here:

a moray eel! O.k., I know, it's just a tail, but trust me on this one! I wouldn't put such a oops! shot in here, except that was the only moray we saw and since they're (usually) such a frequent visitor in Benidorm dives I couldn't illustrate this without one! :p

Ahhh, this fellah isn't too afraid to show himself! And not much later we saw 2 more of his cousins...

Methinks this is red coral... (but not sure) or a cousin.

Used to be abundant in the Mediterranean, but as it's been exploited since the Romans well.... not much is left!

This will give you an idea of the route we followed on this (50') dive:

We dove straight down to the seabed from the boat (~20m) and spent about 20' exploring down there among the algae and boulders, looking for octopi, morays etc.

Then we got closer to the wall (that goes on up to the platform around the island where people go snorkling)

and spent quite a bit of time examing little sections here and there, admiring starfish,


sponges, little fish nibbling on algae... you name it! No scorpionfish (Scorpaena scrofus) unfortunately this time (a Mediterranean delicacy, key ingredient to boullabaisse).

My! I love looking up at the surface:

Sometimes you can see the silhouette of a barracuda among the schooling fish, not this time, This was just a big school of one of the most abundant fish in the region:

the damselfish Chromis chromis (in Spanish = Castañuela, in French Castagnole). Want to know a little secret about this fellah? He changes colours!!! Well, at least from chocolate brown to chestnut brown, when scared or caught in a fishing net (not recommended, not good for food!). It's a defense mechanism. Say you're part of a damselfish school, and the guy next to you switches colour... you do quickly the same to pass along the danger message to the rest of of the school (think domino effect) and then everyone drops to the seabed to hide among the algae .

Here he is again in a little hollow among the rocks:

and he found some friends! Those red fish with the big eyes are Apogon imberbis, you'll only ever see them hiding in "grottos" like that. More coral on the bottom there. And if you look at the right hand side, in the middle you'll see a red tunicate. It's a barrel-shaped invertebrate with two tube-like siphons on its end to filter water.

Further along the wall we were lucky enough to catch a shot of this polychaete, a tube worm:

If you have good eyes you can spot quite a few of them while diving (but smaller). Only thing is they're very shy so if they sense a difference in the current (like you swimming next to them) they'll "swoosh" back into they're tube and the diver behind you will only see and empty tube sticking out.

I believe this guy is a Sargo, or white seabream (Diplodus sargus). One of the medium-to-large fish you see quite frequently around here.

And here's another anemone! I can't remember if it was truly black or if the colour is just the result of our flash problems.

Did you notice the empty polychaete tube in the upper left-hand corner? ;o)

Hmmm... our air supply seems to be nearing the reserve point! Time to go up a bit more, closer to the sunlight and play around on the platform a bit...

So up along this wall we go...

...stopping to admire the sea urchins

When we reach one part of the platform (about 7-10m) we're greeted by schools of salpas (Sarpa salpa), a fish we're more used to seeing around the seagrass beds since they're basically little underwater cows who spend their time munching on those plants! :p

Hmmm... my sister thinks this is a good spot to stop for a drink...

Oh my! That beer must have been "heavy" and gone to her head!

(no, I didn't turn the photo up-side down!)

Look at us, we're goofy (regular crazyness, not narcosis! lol!)!

Ok, time to head up further into the light.

Aha! A male wrasse (Spanish = doncella, French = girelle, Coris julis):

How can I tell it's a male (you usually can't with fish unless you dissect them)? Well in this photo below there are 2 females (ignore the green guy for now), can you see the difference?

Want another fishy story? Wrasses live in harems, and are hermaphrodites! If that male dies, one of "his" females will go hide in the sand for a few days, and when she comes out, SHE will be a HE! :p Who says sex-changes aren't Natural? (although to be honest these guys were born with both sets of equipment, the dominance of one over the other is all hormonal, they almost all start out at sexual maturity as females, and not all of them will get the chance to become males.)

Ok, remember that green guy above I told you to ignore? Well you can stop ignoring him now! He's a rainbow wrasse (fredi or doncella in Spanish, girelle paon in French;Thalassoma pavo). And he's a sign of global warming! Here's a female:

Global warming I said? Well these colourful guys are much more typical of the warmer waters along the north African Mediterreanean coast... and they've been slowly making their way north and starting to breed along Spanish and Italian coasts. Now fish are rather picky when it comes to temperature... so if they feel comfortable enough to breed around here it's because it's gotten warm enough.

Problem is... they've kind of been kicking out the regular wrasses (they share the same habitat) so we've been seeing some ecological shifts... Oh well, nothing much we can do to stop underwater "invaders" but at least they're pretty, right? :p

Hmmm... you know one thing I like about being in shallower waters? There's less absorption in the light spectrum and you can see my flaming red hair! lol!

Hope you enjoyed the visit and are feeling refreshed! I must say though, this isn't the nicest place on the island to dive. Los Arcos or La Llosa are MUCH better! But dive sites are often chosen based on the weather conditions... and it was a bit choppy out there (in fact they cancelled their afternoon dives) and it was deemed safer as close to the island as possible.

For those interested in dive specs, we went down to 21m max, spent a total of 50' in the water (yay!) just hitting the reserve of our 12l air tanks; were wearing 5mm wetsuits, seawater temperature was 27ºC at the surface, dropped to 24ºC around 17m. Visibility was ok, but you could tell the waters were a bit churned up as there was quite a bit of particulate matter floating around (visibility is much better here in winter).

Monday, June 23, 2014

Benidorm Island - Over...

Hey look! It's our good friend CrazyCris from Here and There and Everywhere and she's off to another adventure! Let's follow her and see what see's up to today! Let's go!

Time for a bit of local tourism!
So, we have this big UGLY town just up the coast north from Alicante. You've probably heard of it? Does the name Benidorm ring a bell? Well if not then you're lucky! My mom likes to say that when she was a girl the only town between Altea (where she was born, nicest town on the coast of course!) and Alicante was Villajoyosa, and that Benidorm was just a collection of fishermen's huts. Anyone who has sailed down the coast probably wishes it had stayed that way... :p It's just a massive grouping of skyrises. A collection of hotels and appartment buildings destined to inexpensive tourism (which is a good thing for the tourists I guess). A traffic nightmare... and doesn't feel at all like you're in Spain! If you walk around the streets or along the beach you'll see signs in English, German, Dutch... but not much Spanish! In many restaurants and bars you might actually have a hard time finding someone who can speak Spanish! Sadly there are quite a few places like this (like Playa de los Cristianos in southern Tenerife...) all around the Spanish coast) and they make me nervous and/or angry... Trust me, you haven't been to Spain if all you've been to is one of these places!

Ok, but let's veer away from the negative! The one good thing I REALLY like about Benidorm (other than a great traumatologist / chiropracter my Dad and I go see who can do miracles with our backs!) is the little island that sits peacefully in the bay in front of the city.

If you look back behind the town you might see an odd mountain top... one with a square hole in it!

Legend has it that an angry giant tried to squash an annoying hero up there, and ended up kicking a bit of the mountain into the sea, creating the island! Well geological studies have proven that the rocks are of the same age/material/origin on the island and the mountain... plus it's just the right shape so... who knows? ;o)

So you can hop on a ferry from Benidorm Harbour to go over there (it ain't cheap, but they will also take you around in a glass-bottom boat), if you do be sure to take snorkling mask/tube/fins and pack a picnic lunch (the one bar/restaurant charges insane prices). You can walk around the seagulls on top for a while (or look for other birds like cormorants or storm petrels in the caves if you're there during breeding months), or jump in the water and enjoy the damselfish, wrasses etc you'll see swimming and nibbling on the algae on the shelf.

More on the underwater aspect in the next post. I want to share a few secrets hidden within the Island first! ;o)

So, last June I was lucky enough to be able to participate as a volunteer to help with an ongoing (over 15 years) census of Storm Petrels (or paiños in the local lingo). These are small birds who travel far and wide spending most of their lives in the skies, dipping into the waves for food. But like all birds they have to come to land once in a while, basically to breed! There are just a few spots along the coast here where they have breeding colonies, and the Island of Benidorm is one of them!

We walked across and then around the back of the island until we had gone about 3/4 around from the landing platform. The beginning of the walk was easy as pie (there's even an area with a gravel path), still quite easy once we started cutting across the brush (avoiding seagulls and trying to ignore the scrapes of the sharp bushes on our calves).

But petrels nest in caves... so that required a lot of scrambling and using hands, knees and butts in some areas (so my hands were to busy to get pictures)! lol! Our first destination was a rather large cave with several hundred nests in it.

Those metal cages you see are to trap seagulls (they've done this in previous years to try and control the seagull population, apparently they've grown to such numbers they're considered pests, plus they kill the rare petrels so a threat). Can you spot the nest hidden in a crag in the roof of the cave? If you click for a bigger picture you just might make out the bird in the centre:

The tasks were to complete the petrel census (as much as possible) by going through each nest (they're numbered) where petrels hadn't been counted yet, see if there are chicks or eggs present, write down the ring number of the adults or if they're not tagged then ring them. Here's an egg that never hatched and was abandoned:

And here's a storm petrel carcass as we also had to count those to help determine mortality levels. Our guide was a bit worried because several of the carcasses we found had no heads, more a sign of death by rat than seagull... a rat here would be disastrous!

Speaking of our guide, Ana, she's done her PhD studying this colony and another in Mallorca, and although she's finished (and looking for a job like so many biologists) she's still devoted to this colony and these birds and came several times throughout the season to help the park rangers out! Want to see how devoted? Well she'll do what it takes to get at a nest and get the job done:

And here's our bird, the storm petrel:

As you can see, they're small birds (so easy prey for gulls). The other volunteer, Stephen, also studies petrels in England and Scotland, and came over just to help out for a couple of days (now there's a motivated person!). Among other things he was interested in measuring beak sizes:

If you're worried about these birds having their necks squeezed like that (I was!) don't be, apparently that's the proper way to immobilize them. Here one bird is getting ringed:

And here are a few more relaxing on their nests (easy to access for once!):

Want to see a chick? ;o)

aren't they adorable?!?!?!

Once you get past the smell (ugh!) this cave is quite impressive from the inside:

but even better is the view looking out towards La Sierra Gelada natural park:

Once we finished off in the big cave (several hours later), we made our way back across the island to the second, smaller cave. To give you an idea of how easy it WASN'T to get to these things... take a look, the cave's down at the bottom:

nearing the entrance:

look! a guardian watching over his buffet? (young seagull) :p

I was too tired to get any photos in this cave (and it wasn't as interesting as the first and stank more), but boy was it refreshing to be right on the water like this!

And voilà! You've had a glimpse into areas of the island that only park rangers and biologists usually get to see! Hope you enjoyed it.
Now, curious about what the island looks like UNDER those waves? It's only one of the most popular scuba diving spots along the coast... Come back tomorrow to find out! ;o)


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