I’d originally only booked two day dives and a night dive but pretty much as soon as we descended on our first dive at Long Rock I knew I was going to go again the following day. The viz was amazing, the coral was beautiful, with the water being a toasty 28°C I didn’t even need to bother with a wetsuit, it was a gorgeous dive and I really enjoyed it. We saw an absolute crap tonne of cool shit too but it was mostly small and I didn’t get many photos. My eyeholes were very fucking happy though.
One of the highlights were these little squid. Carl, our dive leader, had told us we might see some and they looked like fish at first glance. We weren’t down long before I spotted a couple of fish that looked kind of… off. You know when something isn’t quite right but you can’t place it? I stared really hard at them, willing them to stop being so fucking weird. Turned out they were squid so we bothered them for a while.
We saw yellowline arrow crabs which look enough like spindly spiders to make me feel uncomfortable on a molecular level. There were lobsters hiding out in holes which you would too if shit wanted to eat you. Apparently they’ll start trapping them soon so there’ll be way less of them knocking around. I’m glad I saw them before they ended up in someone’s facehole. We saw loads of tiny shrimp, a drumfish which refused to pose for photos and a lionfish. It was a brilliant 45 minute dive.
Our second dive was Stanley Reef which doesn’t get deeper than 12 metres so we knew we’d be able to squeeze a good hour out of it. It’s such a beautiful reef. You know what it reminds me of? Tastefully decorated Christmas trees. When I decorate a Christmas tree I’m like fuck it! Shiny rainbow! But when someone with a bit of class decorates a Christmas tree it’s still flamboyant as fuck but it’s colour coordinated. It was like that, all beiges and yellows, corals gently waving in the surge. It’s a whole other world down here and I love it.
We had fans and feathers, tubes and wiggly stick things which I’m 99% sure is the proper technical term for them. The usual fish chased each other out of their territory and I do love watching a fishy turf war, these tiny things squaring up against bigger creatures up to and including actual humans. Tiny fish gives no fucks about your opposable thumbs you dumb fuck hairy mammal, get off my coral!
A highlight of this dive was the massive stingray burying itself in the sand. Sean, one of the other divers, had swam around to the other side of it and I managed to get a diver-for-scale photo of the beast before it threw the sand into the… well not the air but you know what I mean, creating a cloak for itself. We watched it until it disappeared into its cloud then carried on. It was another amazing dive but not much else to report. We surfaced, sailed back to land and I went to hang out with Tarrant before my night dive.
I’m not going to lie, I was a bit nervous about this. I’ve only ever done one night dive before and that was over ten years ago at a dive site in Cyprus I knew backwards. Molly would be taking us out and she briefed us throughly on how to use the different torches, how hand signals differ at night, how to enjoy the wildlife without blinding the poor bugger and what we might actually see. Then she said we could, if we wanted, turn our lights off and watch the bioluminescence. I don’t think a single one of us would turn that down.
Off we fucked then back to Stanley Reef. We clipped onto the mooring line and just hung out on the until it got a bit darker. Thankfully it wasn’t too choppy. We backrolled in and descended into the gloom. It’s dark, obviously, but it wasn’t actually as dark as I thought it would be, probably on account of the five powerful torches sweeping the reef. No sooner were we down there Molly tapped on her tank to show us a fuck off big stingray. And then that was the theme, no sooner had we finished pointing our face at something there was more tapping because she’d found something else.
A turtle swam into our lights and we all did our best not to blind it. I don’t know if we confused it or what, it started to swim past us then turned around and swam right through us as we scrambled to give it space. I just love them so much! Octopuses were what we all wanted to see and we saw three of them. I’ve no idea how she sees them all tucked away in the grass. These guys are incredible, I don’t know how people can eat them. Yeah I know I know, any given vegan will ask how I can coo over a baby lamb one minute then slather mint sauce all over the carcass of its brethren the next but I guess I just prefer sea creatures and the more I dive the less I want to eat them. Apart from prawns. Fuck those delicious bottom feeding bastards.
We saw more rays, a big conch thing with some manner of animal sticking out of it, and sleeping rainbow parrot fish which apparently wrap themselves in a protective mucus bubble overnight. They can only make one a day so we had to be really careful not to wake them up. There were also hundreds of these tiny blue fish and I consistently forgot to ask what they were when we were back on land but they were swarming all over us, probably attracted to our lights. They were crashing into our hands and faces in the chaos. It would have been an anglerfish’s dream banquet.
Molly indicated that we should kneel in the sand and switch off our lights but kneeling underwater is something I’m so ridiculously bad at. I don’t know if I’m just too fucking buoyant or what. I’m a very buoyant human, my arse alone will do everything in its power to be at the surface, but even when correctly weighted with all of the air out of my BCD I just can’t get steady. No sooner had I got my balance Molly came and turned me around which set off the flailing again. She had told us she’d do this for us and to be fair the flailing triggered tiny pinpricks of light. I got comfortable and gazed into the blackness in awe. Strings of light were suspended in the water. There were more lights throughout the seagrass. Everywhere I looked more lights appeared. Molly took us for a guided swim one by one. When it was my turn, guys, I’ve never seen anything so incredible! She set me down and swam away, her fins sparkling with plankton as she went. She said afterwards we were probably watching the bioluminescence for about thirteen minutes. No videos of course, this one is for the eyeholes, but this was absolutely the most magical dive I’ve ever done.
I’ll be buzzing off that one for a while I reckon. I met Tarrant and a new mate we met on the beach, Zahava, at Café Tranquilo for some beers, chicken wings and a stab at the trivia night. Turns out Zahava is a movie and music genius and our three human team soared into second place which isn’t bad at all. Makes a change from our usual middle of the pack effort. The Crouching Nun Hidden Carrot quiz team legacy continues.
The following day I headed back to the dive shop. We’d be heading to a site south of the island called Yellowtail first off which had depths of up to 20 metres. It had more of that gorgeous reef I love so much and all manner of fish. We even saw a juvenile hawksbill turtle which was an absolute joy but for me the best dive was the second dive at White Holes. We’d snorkelled it the other day and seen several nurse sharks so I was pretty excited to dive it. It did not disappoint.
We saw flamingo tongues which are little snails with awesome shells. Tiny blennys sticking their little heads out of holes in the coral. Stingrays including one buried in the sand with just its eyes and tail sticking out. Jesse, the other diver, spotted a chunky sea cucumber making its way across the sea bed. And there were sharks. So many nurse sharks mostly just hanging out on the seabed minding their own business. A couple of them were swimming over the reef and I fought the urge to follow them. One of them was missing an entire dorsal fin, bless it.
Carl thought it might be a new loss, the poor thing wasn’t quite used to it and it was affecting how it swam. There was a lot of speculation as to how it lost its fin, it looked like a clean cut rather than a bite but if humans did it why did they only take one fin? It’s not a common practice in these waters and apparently nurse sharks aren’t known for long distance migration. No idea but I really felt for it.
I could quite happily do more diving here but there’s not much else for Tarrant to do and everything is a little bit more expensive than elsewhere which is what you’d expect on a remote island so far from the mainland. It’s a great place though. So chilled, everyone says hello, the water is perfect and the whole vibe just lures you in. We decided to stick to the original plan of five nights (which actually worked out well when we found out that the Thursday ferry back to Bluefields is way nicer than the vomit trap we’d have to catch on Sunday) and I’ll save the money for some more diving in Honduras and Belize.
Jump to “Useful shit to know…”
Little Corn Island, South Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region, Nicaragua
Stayed at: Three Brothers Hostel, Little Corn Island
Useful shit to know…
- There are several dive outfits on the island but I opted for Dolphin Dive.
- You can WhatsApp them in English on +50558019563.
- Prices below are in US dollars and are correct as of May 2023. You need to add US$10 to a package if one of your dives is a night dive.
- Dolphin Dive are brilliant. The briefings are thorough, the equipment is good and the staff are professional.
- Little Corn Island has power between 1pm and 6am only.
- There are grocery shops on the island but they’re obviously more expensive than elsewhere in Nicaragua.
- I had H+ on most of the island with Claro.
- Cafe Tranquilo has good WiFi.