Monday, September 6, 2010

Southern Egypt Safari - Third Day

After a very peaceful night, I woke up. I went down and met Itsik who slept on the middle deck. We sat on the deck and had coffee. Avi joined us soon after and we watch the sun go up on the horizon.

About an 1/2 hour later, the crew unmoored us, and we sailed back toward Elphinston. Today the sea was not as quiet and there were waves. 

Once again we went out with the Zodiac toward the north end. And again we ventured into the blue to look for large fish, but this time found none. We circled a bit more and started back along the eastern (outer) wall. 

On our way up, when I was already quite high we saw a large ball of yellow fish above the reef. The school flowed as I got closer creating patterns of light and color. 

Unlike the previous time, we made it around the reef all the way to the boat. In fact, Avi was low on air and I supplied some of mine until he moved to get some from Ayelet. 

When we were near the boat the Napoleon came again to check us out.

Dive #8: Elphinston,  200-30, 59:20min, max 39.6m, avg 12.2m.

After a short rest we went again on the Zodiac for our last outing on Elphiston. Just before we jumped off from the zodiac, Piet saw dolphins. This time I was hopeful that we will meet dolphins below water. However, they ignored us and continued on and two minutes later when we entered the water they were gone.

I realized that from above, the read shoulder looks like the mouth of a giant eel.

This time we went along the western (inward) wall. 

At some point the Napoleom fish came to check us out again. This time he spent quite a while close to me (I was a bit higher than most of the group to save air).

Unlike the previous dive, this time the air run out before we reached the boat. I surfaced and snorkeled back through the waves toward the boat.

Dive #9: Elphinston, 200-10, 55:00min, max 29.9m, avg 12.2m.

When we waited for the second group to come in, I took the camera out. Bob, the zodiac driver, saw me with the camera and decided to show off a bit.

At this stage we decided we had seen Elphiston sufficiently and continued. We moved a bit to the north to a bay with very shallow water. This bay was protected from sea by two reefs on both sides that formed a lagoon. According to Boaz the bay was home for a large number of green turtles and maybe dougong (a sea cow). 

Since the bay was shallow and protected we explored it on our own without guides. Avi and I led an expedition of the five of us (the other three, Ayelet, Inna, and Yair) from Piet's group. We started by following the reef inwards, and then cut toward the middle of the bay. 

According to the description we were supposed to find grassy area. Instead for a while all we saw was sand and few rocks. The water was warm and murky and felt like a soup. At about the time I was about to give up we, started to see small grass blades, and soon we were in a green pasture like area. However, no turtles in sight. Just as Avi started writing me a message, I noticed a small snake eel in the grass. It looked like a snake, and it made its way very quickly between the grass leafs. I tracked it while trying to photograph (most of the time going backward). 

After leaving the snake eel we wondered where we were. We clearly made it to very shallow water. We lifted our heads and saw the zodiac with Boaz, and they came over (thinking we need a pick up). We asked if they saw turtles, and they said that they saw quite a few coming up for air. 

We decided to make our way toward the direction of the boat with the hope of finding a turtle. We started going eastward to deeper water. At some point I noticed a patch of grass on our left (north) and we started to follow it. Just as I gave up, someone on the group noticed a turtle. It was very big, and had three very big ramora fish hanging on to it. The turtle more or less ignored us and went about its business of digging edible stuff to eat.  Quite suddenly it starting going up and quickly disappeared from view. We waved goodbye and went back in the boat's direction. 

After three minutes or so I saw a shadow behind us, and realized that its the turtle returning down. I gave an alarm and started following it. I saw with the corner of my eye that at least one person saw me and the turtle. The turtle glided over the grass looking for food, stopping here and there to take a nibble. I gave chase trying to swim next to it while taking pictures. In the end he wore me down, and I stopped the chase. 

I looked around and realized that I am alone. Not an emergency but still unpleasant. Since at this point I was deeper than 10m, I didn't go up immediately, but rather raised to 6m or so and started in the direction I guessed we were going. The visibility was pretty bad, and so it was a pleasant surprise that I found Avi directly ahead of me within two minutes. He was on his way up, and so I had to pull his fin to let him know I am not lost anymore. 

Later I found out that at the time I saw my turtle, Inna saw three turtles and started going toward them. So the group was torn in two opposite directions, and since I was the more experienced diver, they assumed I will be able to cope with separation. The rest of the trip toward the boat was eventless. At some point my air was low, so I went up and puddled on back toward the boat, which was a nice vigorous exercise. 

Dive #10: Turtle Bay ?, 200-20, 68:10min, max 17.7m, avg 8,8m.

Toward the evening Avi felt he had enough diving and stayed to chat on board we few of the group. Ayelet, Inna, Yair and me went down for a night dive. We stayed on the close reef. My flash cable gave me troubles and saw there were almost no successful photographs.

Dive #11: Turtle Bay, 200-?, 45:10min, max 16.5m, avg 11.3m. 

After we all climbed on deck, the captain unmoored us, and started going back up north toward Safaga. This was the end of the southern most part of our trip. I decided that even though we are sailing, I can sleep on the upper deck. Few times during the night I got sprayed by waves, but otherwise I wasn't too bothered by the movement of the boat.

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