Sunday, February 5, 2017

Mabini Day 2

I had a dreadful night, jetlag playing havoc with me. When I finally was asleep the alarm clock woke me up. We had early breakfast and assembled for diving at 7am.

The boat took us across the bay to the island and anchored across from a steep rock wall.

Dive #4: Kirby’s rock

We dove in and started following a steep wall that continued underwater. Abbet took us down toward a spot where a lonely gorgonia fan was located next to the floor of a small canyon.
Abbet started waving at it looking for pigmy seahorse. He found one with great excitement. I could barely see that there was a small part of the fan that might have been slightly different, and photographed in half blind fashion.

By that time the rest of the group crowded in, and it was hard to navigate except for going slowly up and hoping not hit any one.
We continued by circling a large rock that with steep walls. The walls were crowded with small yellow animals, that are some type of sea cucumber. When we got back to the start, I moved in on the gorgonia which by now has been left to itself. Without help I did not manage to find the pigmy horse again.

We started to return along the wall we came from. I notice a large black frog fish sitting on the wall. Abbet immediately gathered everyone to see it.

Further up the wall Abbet finds a seasnake. The snake was slowly checking different crevices in the rocks, putting its head into each one. I assume it was search for prey. It totally ignored us and didn’t care that several cameras were flashing.

We end the dive and go up.

Initially we were supposed to go a small outcrop called sombrero, for its shape. But Abbet estimated that the currents are too strong and thus we returned toward the village and dove at a closer site.

Dive #5: Eagle point

We plunge from the boat into the water just few meters from the shore. There is a steep slope from the surface down to 20-40 meters, and we go along it. Most of the wall is covered with small corals and different life forms.
There are many subjects for macro photographs. I find different types of nudibranches.

I come to a large anemone, and notice something white among the tentacles. It is a porcelain crab sitting  in a nice protected position. It draws in plankton from the sea with two net-like appendices.

Ayelet, Boaz and me go slower than the rest of the group. At some point we see Abbet next to a mooring line, our exit point. He makes a signal of two capped hands that he opens and close. I am not sure what he is talking about, but then see a giant clam, maybe a meter across. Close to it there is another one. Photos are lacking since I was with a macro lens. At lunch Ofer explained that these giant clams were gone from this area, and only recently were reintroduced into marine reserves. The predetor of the clam are humans who find it to be a delicacy.

We return to resort. Noa and Iftach go with Abbet to the local market. They return after less than an hour we few fruits. We all share pineapple, which is tasty although not amazing (as we might expect in a tropical area).

After lunch we set out again. We sail out toward a small island further out than the rest. The name is self explanatory given the shape of the island.

Dive #6 – Sombrero

We moored on the further side of the island and went in at shallow area. The topography was of outcrops of rock with wide channels between them. The whole area was rich with life and color. 

There are many big sponges here. I notice that a particular fish likes to perch on the edge of the sponge. This provides a great picture opportunity.

I notice a mantis shrimp running between the coral. It is a big one and moving fast from one cover to the next. I managed to barely catch it before it disappears. Later in the dive I notice another one, but this one disappeared even faster.
Mantis shrimp running for cover

A sealily that nestling inside a sponge

At the lower part of the coral garden there is a stretch of sand with garden eels. They look a bit different than the one we are used to see in Eilat, and they are (a bit) less shy.

I am running low on air and so go up to the shallows. I don’t want to get out of the water. I practice meditation on various ascidians that cover the corals.

Finally I really have to get out. I get to the boat. I notice that there is a cloud of colorful fish hanging below the boat, using it as a shelter I guess.

We all come out of the dive with a “wow” feeling. We sail back to the resort. By the time we get there it is late afternoon. We are supposed to go out for a night dive in an hour or so.

Dive #7 – Matu

Only some of us decided to join the night dive. So we all fit on one boat. As dusk sets in, we sailed along the shore and anchored in a small bay formed by a large rock extending into the sea.
We roll in next to the wall. I immediately spot a pair of nudibranchs, their position seem to suggest they are trying to mate.

We follow Abbat down along the sandy slope. We see many colorful sea-urchins relative (more like pincushions).
Zoom in on some of the pins

I see a light flashing vigorously, signing a discovery. I follow it to find Abbat next to one of these pincushions. He points his stick to two shrimps that nestle between the “pins”.

We continue exploring the area. I find a small crab hiding on a sea-lily.

On another pincushion I find a highly ornamental crab.

We continue along slope and eventually reach the rock wall again. We encounter two relatively large squids.

As I photograph them, they keep coming toward the camera – maybe they saw their own reflection. I keep backing up to get them into the frame, and they keep chasing me. This goes on for several minutes.

Along the wall we encounter different types of sea-anemones and nudibranches.

Emanuel grabs me, and points me toward an area a bit above the ground. There is a small cube fish. These tiny buggers have transparent fins, and so they appear as a tiny dice bobbing to and fro. 

As I am concentrating on capturing this fellow in my focus, and suddenly a large green monster crosses between my target and me. A moray eel with bad temper.

By now we are at shallow water. There are small passages between the rocks, and we explore them. Omer and Ayelet find few specimens of a large nudibranch. It is a bit too big to capture properly with the macro lens given the lower visibility (lots of sand).

My air is almost out, and I reluctantly surface and find my way back to the boat.
pinkish hermit crab

We return to the resort, happy and tired. After dinner, Omer opens a bottle of whiskey he brought with him.


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