Sunday, 31 May 2009

St John’s Caves and Dolphins – Day 5

As well as the general crew running the boat, there is also a team whose responsibilities are to assist us into the water and look after the diving side of life. This includes the gas mixer who is responsible for the Nitrox mix many of us use (air enriched with oxygen which has the effect of reducing the chance of decompression sickness if used correctly), those who assist us get dressed and into our dive jackets, boys on the deck itself fitting fins and managing our entry into the water (usually we jump off the rear of the boat) and then others manning the zodiacs used to moor the boat and also to pick us up if we surface some distance away from the boat. They are also there to act as rescue boats if something goes wrong and someone needs a quick return.

Dive 11 – St John’s Caves

The boat repositioned itself from last night by moving about 10 minutes around the corner of the shoal.

St John's Caves

We are allowed an extra 30 minutes in bed before the first dive of the day, the reason being that we are exploring a cave system and the lighter it is outside, the more light gets into the caves. On the dive plan above, the caves are the gaps between the coral blocks (often marked with a black side). This is going to be a relatively shallow dive and therefore air consumption and safety stop times are not likely to be important.

Cave 1

Cave 2

above is a short video of a dive through one of the caves at St Johns.

Ben finning through a cave

Ben fining through a cave

The coral is also very spectacular and beautiful.

Coral 1

Coral 2

Coral 3

There are also a couple of interesting muscles embedded in the coral

Muscle 1

Muscle 2 

A very good 61 minute dive with a welcome breakfast to follow.

Dive 12 - Shirnaka Island

Two hours north to Shirnaka Island which we have to ourselves for Dive 12 of the holiday. This is an island with a number of coral reefs around it.We decided not to go with the guide but to mosey around on our own and see what we could find.

SHirnaka Island Dive 12

Shirnaka Island reef

the actual dive site (note the mast in the picture and on the plan above)

Ben led an easy dive off the boat deck. We went through a number of swim throughs, saw lots of coral and coral fish and he had a great time taking pictures.

Coral 4

Coral 5

Coral 6

Fire Coral 8

Fire Coral which stings for a long time if you touch it

Paul Hanging in mid water

one of the most perfect dive moments is when you are exactly neutrally buoyant and just hang over the deep and can look at the coral and fish

Fish 1

Freckled Hawkfish resting in coral

After lunch, a three hour cruise almost directly north to the Fury Shoals. As soon as we moored at Sataya West (aka Dolphin House) we were told that the dolphins were still in the area and the question was “Does anyone want to go for a snorkel with Dolphins?” 19 people were instantly on the dive deck getting ready to snorkel.

The way this works is that you put on trunks, sun block, fins,mask and snorkel (no dive gear) and head out in a zodiac to try to get in front of the Dolphins. When in position, you slide gently and quietly into the water and pretend to be a Dolphin and wait for them to come and play with you. If they do not come, you haul yourself back into the rib and head off and try again in another position.

Third time lucky – six Dolphins came to investigate four of us in the water

Swimming with Dolphins_01

and swam around us for about 5 minutes showing off and doing dolphin things. They came so close that I could have touched them. You can hear them

underwater long before you can see them and they really are the most wonderful creatures who seemed genuinely pleased to be with us. For us both, this was the absolute highlight of the holiday.

Sataya West - Dive 13

Sataya West Dive Plan

The afternoon dive was in the general area of the boat, It was unremarkable other than a very large Napoleon but the coral was

Lion Fish

interesting and we saw a few Lion Fish, a species which have been scarce (thankfully since they are poisonous) this trip.

Nobody went on the offered night dive because we were all too tired after three long dives and a long snorkel. Into bed at 9, more diving at 6 am tomorrow!


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