Sunday, 1 August 2010

Rocky and Zabargad Islands – Day 4

Entering and exiting the water

Divers enter the water a variety of ways. Rib Entry is one of the most exciting and is used when the dive site is some distance from the dive boat or it is at a place where the Captain prefers not to go. When the rib reaches the dive point, the divers are sitting on both sides of the rib fully

Sitting on a Rib

kitted up and ready to go underwater – there is usually an air of focused concentration and equipment checking. On command, you all simultaneously roll over backwards off the edge of the Rib and into the water. If you miss the command you have to wait until the immediate area is declared clear of divers and then try again (much ribald comment follows after the dive as it does for any diver who goes early).

You have no air in your jacket (this is called a “Negative Entry”) and therefore once in the water you descend fast. At about five metres depth, you locate your buddy, confirm all is ok then continue descending down to whatever depth and place you have agreed in the dive plan. The water is full of divers all going in different directions at this point and it resembles rush hour underwater.

Divers everywhere

Getting back into the rib is usually easier although less graceful. When you have decided to come up, you put up a Surface Marker Buoy (SMB) to show

SMB up

the rib driver where you are. He then motors over to you, and when you

Reception Party

have completed your safety stop time you ascend and wind up the SMB line. At the surface you take off all of your equipment whilst in the water (bar fins and mask), hand the equipment up into the boat and then you either pull yourself up or (as in my case) are hauled ignominiously back into the rib like a beached whale.

Sea Serpent and Breakfast

Once all the divers in the area have been retrieved, you head back to the boat and get ready for the next dive.

Dive 9 – Rocky Island

10 hours south of Daedulus is Rocky Island. This is well named since all

Rocky Island

it is is nothing but a chunk of rock out in the sea.

Rocky Island Dive Map

The current was flowing from the west so the dive plan was for a rib entry on the western end of the island just where the current is supposed to split to go around either side of the island and we would then go round the southern side back towards the boat. Theoretically at the dive entry point there would be a quiet current point although there was the risk of a downwards or upwards current pipe there as well (these grab hold of you and sweep you down or up so you have little control over your depth). So we were taught a new technique if that happened – essentially swim sideways out of the current since it would be tube shaped but not to fight it nor inflate / deflate our BCDs.

In the event, everyone was finding that no matter where the drop off point was, the current was roaring round the northern side of the island so we had an exciting fast ride with the current around the northern side until it got quieter. When the current is that strong, you cannot fight it you just go with it and adjust the dive plan accordingly. However there were no current tubes to make life more complicated.

Entering swim through

There were caves and swim throughs dotted along the reef wall (here we are going into a cave / swim through)

Coral 2

plus the usual arrangements of coral

Coral 1

and some purple broccoli coral (usually it is green)

Purple Broccoli

Amongst the fish (nothing special) were

Lion Fish

a Lion Fish

Moray Eel

a Moray Eel (apparently they have bad eyesight which is good news)

Titan Trigger Fish 2 Titan Trigger Fish

and my least favourite fish of the moment, the Titan Trigger Fish. This fish is known for having a nasty bite and will attack any fish or diver who comes close if it is nesting.

Dive 10 – the Russian Spy Ship – Zabargad Island

By unanimous demand and approval, this dive was on the 73 metre Russian Trawler (aka Spy ship) which went down off the coast of Zabargad Island rather than on one of the reefs in the area.

Zagareb Island

Immediately you leave the rib, the wreck is below you quite clearly laid out. Visibility is not the greatest and certainly by the time we

left, we had churned up the silt a bit. Never-the-less, it was a great wreck to explore with a number of safe swim throughs. The ship is much as it was left when it sank and is split into two and has holes everywhere. The deck machinery is still in place


with ropes lying on the deck

Rope on deck

much of the superstructure has suffered damage

Side of wreck 

The propeller is still recognisable


as is the bathroom sink!


At the stern, the anchor shows that they had attempted to anchor to the sea floor


The door behind me leads to the bridge

PH hanging around bridge

within which some of the control panels are still recognisable

Bridge Controls

It is a great wreck to explore and a good easy dive. A good analysis of the wreck can be found here

Dive 11 – Fury Shoal

5 hours further on lies Fury Shoal – a spot for an afternoon and then a night dive.

Satayah Dive Map

The dive plan is off the rear of the boat, head towards the bow, turn right and head for the coral pinnacles, and then the drop off, reverse at half a tank of air (100 bar) or 30minutes.

Grazing Fish 

The sea bed has a number of grazing fish, rooting around in the sand for anything to eat

Coral Pinnacle

numerous coral pinnacles surrounded by fish


Nemos living in anemones

Blue Spotted Ray 1 Blue Spotted Ray 2

Blue spotted rays - this is a pregnant female, the egg pouches show as bulges towards the rear near the fin

Two nesting Titans 

Titan Trigger Fish laying eggs

Masked Puffer Fish

A rather nice masked puffer fish


a large clam

Shoal of fish

and mixed shoals. Some nifty underwater navigation by Dive Buddy got us back to the boat on time.

Dive 12 – Night Dive

Diving at night demands a new set of rules since it is very dark down in the water, navigation is harder and some fish have a habit of creeping up underneath you.

We dive at night because you often see different fish and fish behaviour to that seen during the day and a reef at night is very different to the same reef during the day. Dive time is limited to 45 minutes, all divers must carry two torches (main plus backup) and there are different techniques used to summon help if you come to the surface away from the boat and to read you gauges etc.

Lion Fish at Night 1 

Above is a Lion Fish illuminated in a torch beam. Lion fish like torch beams because they have learnt that if they hover just outside of the beam, it will illuminate their food (other fish) and also blind them so they cannot easily escape. Lion Fish (poisonous spikes all around them) also like to hover underneath the unwary diver and hence you have to check that there is not one underneath you or your buddy as you change depth. If there is, the technique is to swim towards someone else with their torch on and turn yours off. The Lion Fish then moves over!

Lion Fish at Night 2

This Jelly Fish glows in the dark and also glows even more when it has been illuminated.

Jelly Fish at Night adjusted

Flash photography does not work as well at night

Coral at night

but coral usually shows up well.

Sea Serpent Bed

Being a Sea Serpent boat, when we get back to our cabins, the duvets have been crafted into the shape of a Sea Serpent – the cabin steward

Sea Serpent 2

seems to have a different shape ready for every night. The glasses on the serpent are a particularly nice touch.

After a four dive day (over 4 hours underwater) we are ready for bed.

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