Monday, July 21, 2008

Dive Safari - third day

Woke at six. Prepared myself a cup of coffee and went up to the deck. Avrahami slept there all night and tried to tell me that this was the real Sinai experience. I am thinking of trying this later one. The views from the ship are serene with the early morning.
First dive: We board the zodiac and ride to the Thompson reef. We go down fairly fast parallel to the reef wall and see from a far a sand circle with a huge shape resting in the middle. Turns out later that this is a Potato Grouper.
We go down to 25m along the wall and reach the opening of a very narrow and deep canyon. The canyon is less than 2m wide at this point, and is very deep (I didn't see the bottom) with several arches on the top.
We go down below the first arch, and the group continues down to the second arch. I decided to stay level and go above that arch. We then start going up from the deep. I am very heavy and had to pump the inflator all the way down, and when going up for the first time in my history I get the feeling of going up uncontrolled. I release air and relax, but the computer is beeping and being "mad" with me. For the rest of the dive I keep an eye on the computer to regulate my ascent rate.
Peit points up and three large silver fishes go above us, a variant of a tuna.
We go along a vertical reef wall with a current taking us along. Peit takes us very very slowly up as we drift along the wall. The wall to our left is covered with soft corals, fan corals, and rock corals. There is a lot of small fishes, and schools of large ones in the open water to our right. Peit points us to a large locus getting cleaned below a coral. Its mouth was wide open and you could see all the way in.... I tried to take picture but my flash didn't work :- (
Turns out that the on/off switch is not working, and from that point onward I turned it on before each dive outside the water. We see several cleaning stations along the way.
After half an hour of drifting we reach the corner of the reef and go up to the waiting Zodiac.
Summary: 15L, no weightbelt, chicken vest, 200 bar to 95bar. At 7:34am for 48min, max depth 44.8m, avg 15.5.
We go back to the boat and have a nice breakfast feeling very happy. After breakfast we moved back to the Jackson, and enjoyed the view. There was a discussion whether to try see hammerheads again or see the eastern side which is supposed to be the nicer. In the end we split into two groups, I chose to go to the reef with Peit.
Second dive: We went down next to the southern wall of the Jackson, and positioned the wall to our left and went along it a nice pace. There was amazing richness of fishes and corals. We spotted several Blue Spotted מחבטן.

At one point one of the photographers up front started waving frantically and I saw him chasing a turtle. The turtle wasn't interested and went down along the wall. I gave up on it. But Peit started following it and we came down after him. I noticed a huge trumpet fish swimming alongside me, and used the opportunity to try a close up.
When I looked up I saw Peit and Avrahami watching the turtle eating soft coral. I came in slowly and the fellow didn't mind me, so I started taking pictures, getting closer and closer.

It was an amazing experience. After 7 minutes I decided that maybe the group is getting antsy, and returned going up slowly to the group sitting in the water waiting. At this stage the same trumpetfish came to investigate me, and I took several pictures of it in close up, which is something I wanted to do for a long while.

A bit later, we turned around and up and started returning. The reef there is amazing with its richness.
Statistics: 15L 200 bar to 60 bar. At 11:56am for 74min, max depth 27.1 avg 9.8.
After lunch, we started going back north, a ride that took quite a while through open sea. Some people felt real sick, while I slept on the middle deck. We were supposed to stop for a dive at a site call Ras Tantur. However, they either did not find the site, or there was a police station there with police people waving for us not to stop (I didn't understand).
We stopped at a place that looked promising as "uncharted" site, and after debating whether to dive or not, we decided to snorkel and see first whether it is worth the effort. I joined several people in snorkeling since it was a good time to get wet (it was very hot). After a nice swim toward the shore-reef, we scanned the wall and decided it is not promising. In the end we decided to returned to Gabl El Bint, where we already had a good dive.
Third dive: Since we knew this site Boaz, sent us to dive by ourselves. Avi, Tzipi and me joined with Shmuel (an "old fox" on the boat). We more or less repeated the same course as the first dive of the safari, going around the banana and returning through the sandy laguna. This time we took our time, and went slowly taking pictures as went along.

Relatively early on we run across a turtle that went by.
About the time we turned around Tzipi points a small school of tunas swimming in the blue depths of the open sea. They were too far to take a picture, but a very impressive sight as they were fading in to the color of the sea. Soon after Shmuel spotted an octopus, the first one we have seen so far. The octopus was very shy and went below the rock. Continuing on Avi spotted a nice עקרבנון that posed for us. Then Tzipi and I run into an egg-ribbon of a Spanish Dancer. The end of dive went well into the dimafternoon light and we started seeing חבצלות open up and start crawling across the reef. They move in slow fluid movements that I always find hypnotizing.
Statistics: 15L 190bar to 40 bar. At 5:55pm for 64min, max depth 23.2 avg 12.8.
After a short rest we decided that tonight we will go for two night dives. Most of the boat participants were reluctant to dive at night, so in the end only three of us (Avi, Tzipi and me) went diving, and in parallel Peit and the Zodiac driver went looking for lobster-like crabs.
Fourth dive: We more or less reconstructed the route of the previous dive, but were shallower and not going as far out. We started going without lights enjoying the silence and the flashes of lights from between the corals. After we turned around we turned on the light and each of us went looking for treasures among the corals. There were many fishes sleeping in various nooks and crannies.

When we started scanning the edge of the sandy lagoon floor, I found two very large slugs. One we hiding among the rocks, and so we only got a view of its back, which was very dark red. The second was one of the black-white ones we saw the night before. In the sandy area the water was full of worm like creatures that wiggled throughout the water. It felt like we are swimming in a noodle soup. At this stage Avi was ahead with Tizipi close to him, and I was moving by myself through the night, checking every few minutes that I can still see them in a reasonable distance.
Toward the end of the dive I heard Avi signaling with his horn and I rushed over to see him trying to photograph a large lobster-like animal. It had a tail like lobster, and two large antena (thicker than lobster's) but didn't have the big lobster claws. Avi had some flash problems, so I moved in an tried to take few pictures of the fellow.
Statistics 15L 210bar to 90bar. 8:19pm for 60min, max depth 14.3 avg 10.4.
Fifth dive: After dinner Avi and I decided to go for another night dive. Everyone else declined. We used 12L tanks, so I took weights with me.
This time we turned on the lights in the beginning of the dive and started photographing. I found a bunch of spider crabs on the rope the boat was tied too near its reef-side anchoring.
One of them jumped and started swimming in the water and I tried to catch that, when I noticed that on the rock behind it there was a beautiful flat worm that was black with white dots.
We continued on and Avi signaled he found something. I came along and saw something that looked like a slug. I started taking pictures and then it went "whoosh" and jumped in to crevice, and I realized it was a small cuttlefish.
Continuing on we saw fewer fish than before. Over all it was fun to "poke" with the lights in the holes looking for animals. I saw many large shrimps, easily recognizable by the orange glow of their eyes.
Statistics 12L 220bar to 70bar. At 10:42pm for 61min, max depth 9.5, avg 5.5.
We returned after an hour, not wanting to keep the crew up too late. After disembarking from the equipment and drying off, we went looking where everyone is. We found most of them sleeping on the coaches of the middle deck. The moon was up and there was a nice breeze. I saw Peit sitting on the deck. He asked me whether we saw big things in the water. Turns out that they saw two dark shapes between our lights and the boat. These were either large schools of sardines, or some interesting animals that we missed (I kept my eyes down).
I sat on the roof of the upper deck and watched the full moon light playing over the waves, and sipping a bit of whiskey. Went down to the cabin took my pillow and bedsheets, took a matress and slepts on the deck watching the full moon above me.

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