Friday, October 24, 2014

A rainy day at Darwin

I wake up just before sunrise. Going up to deck I see the light on the horizon just below a thick cloud cover.

The sunrise is brief and then the sun disappears above the clouds. The day is gray with diffused light.

We get organized for the first dive of the day. Today my group is led by Jimmy, the second dive master. Unlike William who is active underwater, Jimmy is relaxed, maybe too relaxed, and just let things happen.

Dive #1: Darwin Arch

We take the panga to the base of the arch, and dive in. Jimmy moves us toward the edge of the rock platform and the current hits us strongly. We get settled in between the rocks on the edge and watch the sea life in the open.

The light is much dimmer than yesterday and consequently the visibility is poorer. We see hammerheads coming alone to check the fish. Some get a bit closer than we had before, and I get a chance for what I hope to be a proper photo.

After about 20min we see William’s group (who went in a bit after us) leave the ledge and go down into the blue. This seems to wake Jimmy up, and he signals for us to do the same. At this stage the two groups are almost intermingled and we all drift with the current. William’s group is further from the rocks while Jimmy keeps us closer to the cliff’s shoulder. 

At some point I hear William shaking hard his noise maker and see him point into the blue. His group takes off quickly after him. I look at Jimmy and he is impassive. I debate whether to join the other group and see what the fuss is about, but then decide to stick to the rules.

Tamar and Shmulik find a small turtle that just sits on the rock. Ilan snaps few pictures of it, and then I get my turn.

By now the other group disappeared, and Jimmy slowly takes into the blue. It is devoid of any life, and we slowly drift going up toward the safety stop. When we are about to be done with the safety, and some of us already at the surface, three dolphins do a quick pass by to check us out. I manage to snap a picture of one of them, but then they are gone. 

In case it is not clear, the 20min flat line, is us sitting on our butt

Returning to the boat we find William’s group already there. The big excitement was a whale shark that William spotted, and they got a chance to swim with it. 

Our group members are disappointed. As Tamar put it, it is not that the dive was bad, but the other group saw something we didn’t and we got to see them seeing it, which meant we had the potential to join. 

A curious booby

Dive #2: Darwin Arch

We set out in light rain. Once again we dropped off toward the ledge. There was strong current and the visibility was not much better. As I got down I saw William (whose group went first this time), perched on a rock with a eagle ray passing in front of him.

We sit on the rocks and look out. A big turtle passes by. Then three or four hammerheads make a close pass. After a while, a bigger school passes over head. 

As we know from the earlier dives here, after 20-25 min we take off into the blue. I see a turtle swimming with two tuna fish, and go down to photograph them.

I hear a load shaking noise from the guides, and look up to see a huge whale shark swimming above me. 

It swims along and I am keeping up with it for a minute or two, and then it dives down into the blue.

On the way out, we briefly see few dolphins again.

Before lunch I feel tired and go upstairs to nap. There is a light rain and most of the beds are wet. I doze off on one. I was waked by one of the crew members, lunch is served. 

Dive #3: Darwin Arch

By now we know the drill. We come down and settle on the balcony. The current is strong, but not as strong as we have seen it yesterday.

The usual “fish soup” is swimming across from us. We see turtles, travelies, and hammerheads.  Few of these come relatively close to where I am holding fast.

A school of hammerheads passes above and a bit further out. But then two of them move quickly toward us. It seems like an argument between the two. They twist and turn in the water and then disappear.

When we go out in the blue, we are in the midst of a school of the brownish fish. They swim in coordination around us, forming ever changing patterns in the water.

We go a bit higher and leave them below us. A pod of dolphins passes overhead.

Few minutes in the blue, and a dark shadow appears. Another whale shark. This one is smaller than the previous one we saw. It is moving relatively fast, and so it was a brief encounter.

We continue in the blue, and then we see a group of hammerheads swimming a bit below us toward the group. I am closest to them, and give chase. I am no match to the hammerhead, but managed to get a bit closer before they swam away.

I return to the group and we slowly ascend. I am half-way through my 3-minute safety stop, when another group of hammerhead approaches. Again, I try to get closer with some success.

Due to the multiple running around, I am one of the last to finish the safety stop. Ilan and me go up last, while the rest of the group is starting to board the panga. We are relatively close to the arch, and I try to take pictures of it from the water level.

Ilan, sans camera on this dive, enjoying the safety stop

Bobbies fly just above me, and one lands in the water.

Booby peaking underwater

The panga comes to the rescue

Dive #4: Darwin Arch

It is still raining, and so few of the divers decided that they had enough for the day. We go out five instead of eight.

The dive itself is similar to the previous ones. The smaller group, however, made the experience much nicer.

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