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Snorkeling and Scuba Diving at Lea Lea's Leap (Coconut Walk)
The walk down to the waterline is a bit tedious, since you are climbing over rocks which are unsteady and perhaps 1' in diameter. But it's not a long way, so feel your way down the hill carefully. As you start out, the water will quickly become knee deep, then stay that way for a couple hundred feet. The bottom is "crunchy" and so not exactly pleasant walking. I do suggest putting your fins over you hands, because there are lots of sea urchins here. When the water depth gets to 4' or so, there are scattered coral heads which come up close to the surface. It's not hard to pick your way through these coral heads when the water is calm, but if the seas are rough and the froth is obscuring your view of the bottom it might be best to save this one for a calmer day. Personally, I prefer to head towards the Lea Lea's ball (the one on the right) first. My reason for doing this is that I like to dive Lea Lea's fairly deeply, whereas Coconut Walk is best done as a shallow dive. If you're going to stick to just one of the two sites, though, take your pick. They are equally easy to reach. Just head straight for the mooring ball of your choice. 1. Lea Lea's Leap Wow! Where do I start? There is just so much here. Following is a freehand sketch of the dive site which will have to serve as a basis for discussion purposes: As you approach the mooring pin from the bottom of this drawing, you will first note the two large sand pits on either side of the mooring pin anchor. These are worth checking out, so drop down as soon as you get to the south edge of these pits. Occasionally you will find a nurse shark in here. Hiding under a ledge at the bottom right of the right sand pit (the one on the east) there is often a very large Moray Eel. When I say "very large", this fellow is the biggest one I have ever seen--about 8' long and nearly a foot in diameter. Also, check out any sea fans you see broken off and lying in the sand. They often have Flamingo Tongues on the bottom side, so pick up the fan and turn it over. Recently I found one fan with 10 Flamingo Tongues on it. (By the way, these aren't nudibranchs; Flamingo Tongues are Class Gastropoda--snails.) After looking for the Moray on the right hand sand pit, go up and over the small stretch of hardpan separating it from the canyon on the right. You will drop down to about 50' at the southern end of that canyon, and the bottom slopes down from there. If you have a light, shine it on the canyon walls and expect to see a blaze of color. As you continue down the canyon (which is about 150' long), you will see an opening off to your right. We call this the "Meditation Chamber", since going in there can give you the calming sensation of being in a chapel. There is a very small opening at the top of it which admits some light, but you should not try to enter or exit through that opening. Again, shine a light around the sides and ceiling of the chamber and note the brilliant hues of purple, pink, red, yellow, etc. On the back wall, slightly off to the left and about 4' up from the floor, is the largest Green Tube Tunicate I have ever seen. This guy looks to be a foot long, though I actually measured it at 9". It is completely exposed, so you can study both the intake and the exhalant siphons. When you come out the bottom of the canyon, you're likely to be near 100'. I like to angle upwards gently at this point and slowly cruise to the west up to about 80'. If you're only going to explore Lea Lea's, you may want to head down the wall to the east for a ways and check out all the caves along the way. Going west, there are a couple of small canyons along the way and numerous deep overhangs. I've found lots of Green Tube Tunicates along here as well, though none so large as the one in the Meditation Chamber. After perhaps 200', you will see a second canyon cut into the hardpan. Just before you head in, stop to notice all the schooling fish hanging about. As you start in the west canyon, you should notice there is a large island off to your right, with reef tops at about 60'. Again, lots of Schoolmaster, Yellow Goatfish, Mahogany Snapper, etc., like to school here. As shown in the drawing, there is another canyon on the other side of this island. I like to cruise in the cut on the east side of the island, go up on top of the island, then cruise on out the cut on the west side of the island and head on down toward Coconut Walk. However, you may want to follow this west canyon all the way in, then come up on the hardpan and explore the coral heads on top of the hardpan. Just going out the east canyon, exploring the meditation chamber on the way, cruising the wall down to the west canyon, coming back in the west canyon, and then exploring the hardpan is plenty of excitement for a 45 minute dive. Or, if you have the air, you may want to head on west toward Coconut Walk... Coconut Walk is at least as complex a dive site as Lea Lea's, perhaps more so. This one is best done as a shallow dive, mostly at 50'. As you head west from Lea Lea's, start to come up towards 50'. Initially you will be on the sheer wall section of Bloody Bay, but before long you will see a ledge emerge at about 60'. This develops into the two tier drop-off system that prevails from here all the way around the western tip of the island. There is an inner drop-off at about 35'-40', then a ledge averaging about 60' deep, then the main drop-off. As you cruise west after the ledge starts, my suggestion is to try to stay right at the bottom of the inner drop-off. You will see numerous deep canyons below you which cut through the ledge and go out to the deep, and over each one of these canyons there are large schools of fish milling about. You will also notice some deep ledges cut into that wall coming down from the inner drop-off and then you will see lots of enticing swim-throughs running parallel to the inner drop-off. Explore to your heart's content. But don't ignore some of the peninsulas that stick out into the deep. The tops of those have much to explore as well. If you get the idea that you could have spent your whole dive exploring these canyons, ledges, caves, and swim-through's...you're right! As you cruise down, keep an eye out to your left for the giant pillar coral up on the hardpan. This is about 75' west of the Coconut Walk mooring pin, and it is something you don't want to miss. Unlike most corals, which feed at night, pillar coral feeds 24/7, so the polyps are always extended. This beauty is over 5' tall, with several offspring springing up nearby. Since pillar coral grows at about 1/4" per year, you can do the arithmetic and see that this treasure deserves your respect. Please do not touch, but instead take delight in the masses of juvenile Surgeonfish taking shelter among the coral shoots. This thing is teeming with life of many different sorts. When you're ready to head back, cruise the hardpan towards Lea Lea's, then cut inshore. You really don't even need to follow a compass beading here. You'll see grooves in the hardpan running gently uphill, and these grooves will take you in the right direction. To reach the entry point, start at the intersection of Spot Bay Road and North Coast Road. This is the road intersection just to the east of McCoy's Lodge at the "pizza man's house". From that intersection, go exactly 0.4 miles east on North Coast Road. At that point, there is a rocky drive going off to your left. Currently, there is a Coldwell Banker "for sale" sign just before the driveway, but there is no telling how long that sign will stay up. When you turn onto the driveway, have no fear of getting stuck. The bed here is coarse gravel, and you can drive right up to the point at which the ground drops away to the shoreline only 25' or so away. One of the really nice aspects of this shore entry is that you can come back and not have your feet covered with sand. That depends on how close to the drop-off you park, of course. There's even enough room to turn a car around here, so you can back right up to the edge. When you look out to sea, you will see one small mooring ball slightly to your left and a larger ball slightly to your right. The one on the left is the Coconut Walk ball, and the one on the right is Lea Lea's Leap.
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