PALETTE OF PASTELS
Palette rivals Begho Point and Kicha Magic as one of my lifetime favorites. Returning from Begho one morning I was riding the bow of Corey's ( Corey and Waelinah Howell own and operate the Wilderness Lodge) boat, soaking up the sun and reliving our dive. As we cut across the westernmost point of Male Male , I sat up straight and motioned for Corey to slow down. A massive point extended from the island out into the blue; the top appeared to range between 15 and 30 feet in depth. The bottom?? Was there one?? The next morning found us gauging the south running current and dropping in over the edge into one of the most colorful dives I have ever made. The 8 foot high fan corals in shades of pinks, white, black and magenta rivaled with the endless parade of jacks, barracudas, sleek unicorn tangs, rainbow runners- all shadowed by the ever present gray reef outriders. We lingered at around 100 ' for as long as we dared, and reluctantly left the show for shallower waters and headed out around the point. Here we found overhangs encrusted with snow white, peach and golden soft corals; the slope was glowing with yellow soft corals and golden damsels. Pink spiny lobsters, anemone fish of many colors, and coral heads full of infant "Dory's"- the brilliant blue tangs completed the impressionist canvas. It seems to be a stage for unusual marine events. One morning, a huge sea snake entertained us hunting for its breakfast; on another, we saw what appeared to be a nurse shark digging a hole in the reef. Inching closer, we realized she was scarfing the eggs of a titan trigger's nest, to the disgruntlement of the triggerfish parents. On yet another day, 2 volkswagen sized green turtles were engaged in a courtship ritual. What will we see next??
We were out exploring late one afternoon, found another point that looked interesting, and dropped in. And we struck gold ! A wall golden with brilliant soft corals dropped away beneath us into the blue covered; hundreds of golden damsels darted among the corals, while clouds of gold, white and black pyramid butterflies munched plankton in midwater. Tearing our eyes from the inshore spectacle, we savored the parade of tangs, jacks, barracudas, rainbow runners and sharks providing a dark contrast to the glow inshore. Chattering excitedly on the way home, we resolved to dive it at dawn, as it catches the first rays of the morning sun.
Situated off our favorite picnic spot, picnic offers up a smorgasbord of varied terrain and marine life; lovely canyons break the wall, wide enough to shelter branching coral gardens, which in turn shelter rare animals like the turquoise and orange longnose file fish, the Solomon Islands' endemic bonnet anemone fish, the giant bumphead parrot fish, infant Nemos; the only green leaf scorpion fish I have found was sitting in its own little patch of green oatmeal algae. Usually very calm and current free.