Thursday, October 23, 2014

Wolf & Darwin

Early morning sunrise. We are moored in a circular bay surrounded by high cliffs. We are on the west side of the island, so we do not see the sunrise. But we do get to see the clouds on west color up on the horizon. 

The sky is full of sea birds circling the cliffs. 

The captain raises the anchor and we start getting ready for dive. It seems that everyone is looking forward as they get ready well before we reach our dive site on the other side of the island.

Dive #1: Shark Bay

We return to yesterday’s first dive site. This time there is current, and so we position ourselves on the rocks and wait. A large school of hammerheads (several dozens at least) is passing by in the blue slightly above us. They go back and forth and we get to see them several time. To our disappointment none of them come closer to investigate us. They move in slow graceful and lazy manner.

Between sights of the sharks, we also see a lone turtle going by, several travelies. There are also schools of smaller fish, with big trumpet fish moving among them. 

We see few galapagos sharks passing. After 20 minutes or so, we take off from the rocks and drift a bit with the current to a new view point. Again, we see the hammerheads passing above us.

Few minutes later William takes toward the blue. Here we see much more of the school. I try to get closer to them, and the current takes me away from the group. 

I swim toward the rocks to get hold of something. I am alone in the water, and actually enjoy the tranquility. Then I notice Shay few meters from me. I join him. We notice a large eagle ray swimming toward us.

By now the rest of the group appear one by one. My air is getting lower, I signal to Ilan that I am on the way up, and start ascending. William suddenly see something and points to it, and everyone rushes in his direction. I later learn that he spotted a pair of mating turtles. In the mean time I try to maintain my depth for safety stop. The huge school of hammerheads passes below me. 

Hammerheads from above
Close to the surface, various fish swim by and reflect in the sunlight. I try to catch some of them, and postpone surfacing as much as I can. Finally I give in and go up. The rest of the group surfaced about 30 meters from me and the panga is busy collecting them. I enjoy floating in the water looking at the birds above me.

We have breakfast and rest for a while.

Hezi and the birds

Dive #2 Shark Bay

We return to the same site. This time the current is even stronger, and we just sit on the “ledge” and watch the sea life. The shark school is still patrolling the area.

I try to position myself on a rock and put my hand to grab it, and it moves. I almost grabbed a large scorpion fish. It was cool about it and moved slightly aside to make sure I don’t try this again.

After few minutes I get bored of this, and decide to try the reef hook. The general idea is to have a rope with a hook on one end that can be attached to one of the D-rings on the other. You hook the edge of a rock and then let go and you float like a kite in the current. In preparation for the trip, Shay manufactured several hooks that he distributed to the various group members.

At first the hook was ok, and I managed to float a bit. But then the hook started to unravel, and eventually could not catch the rock. It seems that aluminum, no matter how thick, is not the right material for such hooks.

The rest of the dive was not eventful. 

We return to the boat, and after lunch, start sailing toward Darwin. As we got further from Wolf, our accompanying birds departed. Apparently they are well aware of where they are in relation to their “base”. 
Marcus posing with the birds

We get closer to the island, and can see the famous arch. Suddenly, I notice a dolphin jumping. And then another one, and another one. It seemed that dolphins were converging on the boat from multiple directions. Some of them were jumping so high that they seemed to be flying. Sadly, I didn’t manage to photograph these. 

As usual with dolphins, it was fun seeing their obvious joy at the boat’s presence. However, few minutes after they showed up we were called for a briefing for the next dive, and had to miss the rest of the party.

The dives in Darwin are in a single site, the Arch. This rock is sits on an underwater rock platform, at about 10-15m depth, and around it there are deeper water. This platform interferes with a strong current, which results in even a stronger current which is great for fish who want to catch food.

Dive #3 Darwin Arch

We roll of the boat, and go down. On the way in we see a small turtle cruising by. 

We settle on the rock edge and watch the current. Soon, large school of fish pass across from us and block out the sun.

Next to me a pair of fish swim by, a large trumpet fish and another large fish that I do not recognize. They seem to be sticking with each others which is unexpected.

The odd couple

Suddenly, the fish in front of us all swim frantically down. It takes me a minute to realize that they are being chased by dolphins. 

Dolphins on the hunt

The dolphin attack is over in a minute, and we go back to watching the fish. As in Wolf, the hammerheads appear and patrol the currents.

As we start going up for the safety stop, a large pod of dolphin pass above us. My camera settings are all off, so the picture is terrible, but at least it gives a sense of the numbers.

Dolphins (bad image quality)

We reach the surface much closer to the Arch.

We get back on board for some rest. New flocks of boobies are perched on the railing. 

We notice some shadows in the water next to the boat. 

Few silky sharks are patrolling the water around the boat. Apparently they learned that the boats are a source of easy food. They also clearly know where is the kitchen window.

Dive #4 Darwin Arch

We return to the Arch. This time the current is much stronger. It seems that even the fish are having hard time to keep up with the current.

The strong current brings large school of hammerheads passing above us.

Shay, heavily weighted, sitting on the ledge

Toward the end of the dive we go into the blue and ascend we see this “carpet” of hammerheads passing below us.

We return to the boat, and again, enjoy the jacuzzi with a bottle of beer to enjoy the end of the day.

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