Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Dive Safari - Fourth day

Woke up at 5am. The sky is lit but the sun is not up yet. I go to the back of the deck and find Avrahami and Dani argueing over some philosophical issue. I go down to make some coffee and climb to the roof to watch the dawn.

After awhile Avrahami joins me and we watch the sun go up over the mountains. During the sunrise I see the back of the turtle in the water between us and the sun. People slowly got up and around 6:30 we started getting ready to dive.
First dive: Instead of diving again at Gabr El Bint, Boaz said he will take us to an unknown site north of it that has a massive gathering of fan corals (gorgonias). The plan was to go down along a canyon to 30m then turn left and hit rows and rows of fans. Since Peit was not diving (unclear why) one group (Avi, Tzipi, Shmuel, Meir, and me) went down by ourselves. Boaz came with us on the zodiac to check that we are going in the right place. He pointed to a place, and we jumped off the zodiac and started to go down. I saw that fair early on Meir loses an integral weight. It goes down fast and hit the bottom below us. I let him know that I saw it falling, he was confused and didn't realize that he lost the weight, I pointed to the weight, and started going down to where it fell. As I got close I see Avi reach the weight and pick it up, and so I move aside not to hit him. He starts to go up. I see that Shmuel and Tzipi are a bit above me, and so I decide to spend the time taking pictures, I go down deeper to take a picture of the canyon mouth, and the see a fish in a nice position so take its picture as well. It then hits me that I am wasting bottom time (no nitrox, argh) and so I move back up to 14m next to Tzipi. After a while Avi and Meir join us and we go off. I take the lead and go down the canyon. Since it starts at 20m or so, the trip ends very fast at 30 and I turn left.
According to the plan we were supposed to hit an amazing bunch of gorgonias. Instead, we find a fairly barren slope. I continue and find another small canyon, and say, maybe that was the one we needed to come down to. But again, we see very little, except for few corals that look like pine needles. This continues as the slope is vertically scoured by small canyons every few meters. We slowly go up since the bottom time before decompression is starting to get down to single digits. A nice turtle swims in the other direction and passes us. It is always amazing to the see the slow graceful movements as they fly through the water. About 20min after we started going down the original canyon we cross a big canyon, and indeed on the opposite slope there are many gorgonais. At this stage we are limited to 20 meters depth, and so we see the top part of the gorgonias and see the rows continuing down beyond our sight.
The gorgonias are known to be the living environment of ניצן הגורגוניות a shy fish that has camouflage to blend in with the lines of the fan. We starting searching for these and I find one and manage to get some pictures of it. We find several of those among the amazing forests of fans. In Eilat there are two or three of these.
In previous dives I was impressed to more, but here the amounts are just amazing. At this stage my computer shows 1 minute to decompression limit so I am starting to up. We slowly go up along the slope, I am making sure that we go up slowly spending more than a minute per meter rise. At ~15 meter we get to a reef wall and start going up parallel to it. As usual in sinai, the wall is an impressive view. We see schools of fish below the water surface. Avi raises a marker ballon, and we start approaching the water surface. Soon enough the zodiac reaches and we start climbing aboard. After we board, we see the second group, who started more than 10 minutes after us also reach the water surface, and so we collect them as well.
Stats: 15L 200bar to 50bar. At 7:52am for 58min, max depth 30.8, avg 15.9.
We eat breakfast, and disengage from mooring rope, and start going north toward Dahab. The sea in this area is not that quiet, and so we start going up and down. I decide to give up on writing the journal, and move to the tip of the boat where there is a small balcony that overhangs over the water. Several of us sit there watching the blue sea and going up and down with every big wave (with an occasional water spray on our feet). After a while we start noticing flying fish. They jump out of the water fly as though their fins are wing over the water. I knew about these types of fishes, but never saw them in action. The amazing part was the length of their jumps, which was much more than I would have imagine, spanning what seemed like tens of meters. We pass Dahab lagoon that is dotted with wind-surfers, and the various beaches of the town. The sinai-old-timers complained how much the area has developed and beaches that contained only sand and camels are now covered with resorts. About 40 minutes after Dahab we reach the blue hole.
Second dive: The plan for this dive is to perform a classic short dive that starts north of the hole, goes down in a chute to 30m and then along the reef wall next to structures that are called "the bells" (since they form concave areas in the reef) all the way up to top entrance to the "hole" at 7m. To get off the boat we jump while it is in open water as it doesn't have a mooring point next to the site.
The chute is not so narrow, and going down headfirst is fun. I try to wait before I go down so to see the chute rather than just the bubbles of the one going down before me. In the middle of the chute there is a closed section with "windows" looking out to the open sea. In one of them there is a fan coral growing like bars on a prison window.
I got out of the chute, and I am floating in the middle of a bottomless blue sea with the reef wall on my right. We start going along the wall climbing very slowly. We see schools of open water fish, corals growing off the wall, and large shield like corals that cover part of the wall.
At some point we see a stream of bubbles coming from the deep below us. Turns out later that these were the bubble of technical divers that went down through the hole (we saw them later on during their decompression stops). As we "climb" up Shmuel spots an impressively large scorpionfish and we stop to photograph it.
Closer to the sea level the coral is more colorful and richer. We get to 7m where there is a saddle point that leads into the hole. In the middle of the saddle there is another scorpionfish that has greenish color.
I take its pictures when it suddenly opens its mouth letting me take a rare picture (for me). We go to hole, where the visibility is not great and look around. Peit and Meir go down to see how it looks from deeper levels, I stay at 12-13m. Peit returns with a lobster in his hand and signals "yummy". Tzipi is all upset and signals "you will take it out over my dead body". Peit comes closer to her and shows her the lobster and then cracks it open in a dramatic gesture. Turns out that this was just a molted shell.... We come out of the hole and continue to climb slowly and then resurface. The boat is waiting for us and we swim toward it and catch a dangling rope that brings us in.
Stats: 15L 200bar to 50bar. At 12:55pm for 54min, max depth 30.5, avg 13.7.
We continue north toward Ras Abu Galom, moor there and have lunch.
Ras Abu Galom is a natural lagoon that is reachable by camels from Dahab. The edge of the lagoon is a reef that falls into the depth of 30-40m. On the shore there is a small bedioum village. The sea is very clear and from the boat we can see the bottom and various fishes.
Third dive: Avi, Tizipi, Shmuel and me go as a group.

We head toward the reef wall and go down to 15m. We turn right and start following the wall. There are various outcrops with different corals. Large green "cabbage" corals and very large "balls" of coral whose name I don't know.
At the end of the reef wall where it meets the shore there is a massive land slide as though part of the mountain collapsed and rambled down into the sea.
There are various shallow caves in the wall.
On the roof of one of these I see several corals, sponges, and two lionfishes floating upside down. The picture I took looks normal enough except that the light on the background is from the wrong direction.
We return a bit and find an opening toward the lagoon.
The lagoon itself is very shallow with a maze of corals going through it. There is a lot of junk thrown into it and not many fishes. apparently the locals are diving frequently in the lagoon.
Stats: 15L 210bar to 50bar. At 4:11pm for 73min, max depth 17.1, avg 8.2.
We return to the ship. Avrahami who went snorkling reports that he saw a large octopus. This raises hope of finding one in the night dive.
Fourth dive: Avi and I go for a night dive. We reconstruct the route of the earlier dive in the afternoon. Avi finds a lobster hiding in the rock and I manage to take a picture of its head.
I see many different kinds of shrimps, but efforts to photograph them fail pretty miserably. We see many חבצלות of different color schemes,
including one that looks like an Indian chief's head attire.
We then move into the lagoon, where we hoped to find crabs and lobsters and other animals. We find very little there. Avi spots a cuttlefish and a morena, and I spot a crab.
At some point it get a bit cold and we decide to head back.
Stats: 15L 200bar to 80bar. At 7:47pm for 77min, max depth 9.1, avg 4.0.
On the ship we find two of the crew busy fishing for calamari's. Turns out that they are close to the water level all around the ship. I am considering jumping back into the water, but decide that I am too tired. We have a large dinner, chat a bit, and then I go to sleep on the deck again.

No comments: