Got up and joined the family for breakfast – Joy, Simon and their daughter Jo. Managed to convince the hotel owner to make us coconut roti for breakfast which was served with not only jam but also an onion compote spicy chutney concoction – it was weirdly nice!! Waited for our TukTuk from the dive centre to turn up and we were bumping along the sand tracks towards neoprene!! Arrived after the family so waited outside the storage container whilst they got kitted up with snorkelling gear and entertained ourselves by playing with the cutest puppy ever. Turned out we weren’t on the same boat so as they waited for another person to turn up, Jayne and I jumped into our speed boat and headed into the blue. Took about 30 minutes before we arrived at the first dive site and I watched as Jayne and Kristina rolled backwards off the boat into the water. Followed their bubbles for a while as they did their first dive…
(Jayne – dive 1). The dive site was brilliant. A mix of giant boulders, gullies, cracks in the rock sea bed and pure white sand all around. It was reminiscent of dive sites off Ireland, but a hell of a lot warmer and pretty awesome viz. Sea whips stood up in current, and we negotiated them and stuck our head under overhangs and outcrops looking for those elusive and camouflaged fish. We came across three massive scorpionfish, some lion fish, shy emperor angelfish and a host of colourful parrotfish, triggerfish, and surgeonfish. Kristina was amazed at the length of the dive and by how much we saw, usually seeing loads of schooling fish, but poor visibility or vice-versa – we had both thumbs up today. We finished the dive with a massive moray eel hiding in the crevice waiting for a passing dinner and the lump head napoleon wrasses keeping a watchful eye on us for our ascent. We surfaced and we were miles out to sea, all alone.
Back on the surface, the skipper was in training and clearly getting in some boat practise whilst the two were underwater. Not entirely sure what happened, but he suddenly couldn’t start the engine. As we drifted further and further away from the buoy the two locals seemed to get more and more desperate – taking the engine apart whilst balancing precariously on the edge of the boat, one guy holding on to the others underwear to stop him falling into the water. Had visions of having to dust off some of my rusty lifesaving skills if one of them (or God forbid, both!) fell into the water. After about 30 minutes, they admitted defeat and called for back up. The second boat (for the family and other diver) turned up – empty – which then made me worry about everyone else as we were towed back to where Jayne and Kristina were frantically waving at us, and Jayne blowing a whistle. Continued being towed with Jayne in the other boat and me alone in the broken boat to the open water diver – still not able to see Joy, Simon or Jo!! Slightly worried after joking about being left in the water last night that it had actually happened! Turned out, they had been dropped off at a huge moored catamaran to do snorkelling whilst we were being rescued. All got onto the super posh boat and waited whilst our boat got towed back to shore. I jumped in the water whilst the others chatted on the boat but there wasn’t much to see at that reef. When the boat got back, we all piled onto it and went to a shallow reef for the open water student to do their second dive and the rest of us to do some snorkelling. Much nicer reef with loads of fish and coral. Climbed back onboard and headed back to shore to drop off everyone. A slightly James Bond beach landing, driving the boat straight onto the sand. Emptied the boat and then Jayne, Kristina and I got back in (after a very ungrateful miss of the boat from me, requiring me to swim out and climb back onto the boat) and headed off for dive site number two.
(Jayne – dive 2). Heading back out to the same reef, but exploring a different part of it, Kristina was equally excited about the dive, having now learned that I wasn’t a newly qualified diver, but an instructor. Without the detailed pre-dive briefing like I had on the previous dive, we were on ur way and much more at ease. She took the camera, while I continued taking short videos on the GoPro. This side of the reef was almost on two levels, with some of the rocks and gullies being much higher than the sandy sea bed on the lower side. I explored the nooks and crannies slightly deeper while she was photographing a playful dogface puffer face. We passed over three massive giant anemones with families of two species of clownfish darting in and out of the tentacles to examine the strange divers and cameras pointed at them. Banging on the tank soon afterwards, I was confused by the hand signal I was seeing. Surely not, and as I ascended up the rock face, I was still confused until I was pointed down between the gullies to a cleaning station where the turtle was quite content being preened and groomed. We were unobtrusive and she was happy to hang around till she was all blamed up and gracefully swam away in to the blue. More lionfish, shoals of fish and astonishing formations of coral later, I was at a loss of how to attract Kristina’s attention, so had to shout really loudly in to the regulator to get her attention for the stingray that was making its way over the sand to our rocky reef. We were having a fab dive and it would have quite going for much longer, as we both had the air for it, but sadly we had reached our no decompression limits for the dive and had to surface. One final moray eel in a hole grinning wickedly and we headed up.
The skipper was slightly worried about how long the two of them had been down there but once I explained that they were both instructors, he seemed less concerned. Pick up the two divers and headed back to shore. A quick dump of equipment, kit wash, shower and chat with the two dive centre people before we started walking down the beach back to the hotel. I had to ninja it up as we walked because I was burning so easily!! Got back to the hotel, had a quick dip in the sea before showering and watching the videos from Jayne’s dives. Chatted to Jo about scuba diving and her parents about where they have been in the world. Had a massive dinner before falling into bed, slightly sunburnt and completely shattered!!
Wednesday 10th February 2016