Photos by Geri Murphy & Paul Tzimoulis

Geri Murphy is one of the most published underwater photo journalist's in the world. She is best identified with Skin Diver, which has showcased more than 150 cover photos from 1977 to 1999. During that period, she generated more than 850 travel features and product reports under the Skin Diver banner.

She has spent the past 25 years traveling the world and covering such unique activities as shark tagging contests, congregating Manta Rays, encounters with wild dolphins, live-aboard cruises to exotic locations, shipwreck search and discovery and shark feeding advenures. Murphy is also responsible for photographing and naming Stingray City in Grand Cayman - now one of the world's most famous diving attractions.

Day 6 - Club Viva Dominicus/Catalina & Saona Islands

Learning to sail at Club Viva Dominicus.
We arrived at the dive center early in the morning, anticipating our trip to Catalina Island and a dive site called The Wall.

We loaded the boat and headed out into a moderate breeze and small white caps. Despite the choppy sea, we skimmed across the surface at 30 mph in our high-speed skiff. Ocean spray came over the gunnel like a fire hose, but we hung on with grins on our faces. Around 45 minutes later, we pulled up to the lee side of a flat uninhabited island about a mile off the coast. I was immediately struck by the resemblance to Klein Bonaire. This island also has been designated a national park.

Geri dressed for a wild boat ride.
We anchored the dive boat in a sand chute, so as not to disturb or break any coral. Luca explained that we would follow the sand chute down the slope to the base of the reef at 120 feet. The Wall turned out to be a steep coral slope that runs from 15 feet to a sandy bottom at 130 feet. The entire slope was loaded with corals and sponges, the most prominent being large Orange Elephant Ear Sponges. Other growths included tall Purple Tube Sponges, colonies of Red Finger Sponges and large Azure Vase Sponges. Again, I was struck with the similarity of the reefs of Klein Bonaire--same species and formations.

Giant Orange Elephant Ear Sponges at The Wall.
Toward the end of our bottom time limit, we cruised up the slope and leveled off on top of the reef in 15 to 20 feet of water. Here we discovered tons of tropical fish, but the most striking feature was a giant cluster of Yellow Tube Sponges that must have been five feet tall. This was great stuff.

Pillar Corals at Parguera Reef.
Back at Club Dominicus, we grabbed a quick lunch and headed in the opposite direction toward Saona Island, another national park. The boat ride took 30 minutes. This time we found a much larger island, also uninhabited and filled with wildlife. Saona has a dozen different dive sites, and Luca picked one of the best--Parguera Reef. This site was a large coral reef bordered by white sand bottom and a few isolated coral patches. Diving depths ranged from 50 to 70 feet, deep enough to get away from the ocean surge.

Guests can have their picture taken with the resident parrot.
The reef profile consisted of magnificent Pillar Coral formations, large barrel sponges, huge seafans, more Elephant Ear Sponges and very nice clusters of Yellow Tube Sponges. The fish life is equally varied as we found little groups of Blackbar Soldierfish hiding under the seafans, lots of Trumpetfish and another large Porcupinefish. This spot is one of the nicest coral reefs we've dived so far.

Cast members of tonight's show--Grease.
With the diving done, we rushed back to the resort for an afternoon and evening of entertainment. This place is really hopping. A large circle of people were in waist-deep ocean doing aerobics. There was a dance class at the pool, learning the Salsa. Immediately after the class, there was a bingo session played with coffee beans. The stone paved paths between the guest rooms, pool and beach were filled with people walking from one place to another. Club Dominicus is like a vacation village. At the restaurant, staff dressed in 1960s rock-and-roll outfits were promoting the evening theater show--Grease. The fun never stops!

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