This is a large reef marked by a small automatic lighthouse and we dived it at the end of the day. We were moored roughly to the third red dot from the right.
The plan was for a rib drop off at the northern side of the reef with a fairly fast negative entry to avoid the current which was flowing from the north and that we could find it quite swirly.
Our dive briefing told us to remember that the current was quite strong and when we reached the coral pillars (bottom right of the map) towards the end of the dive and we were near to the boat, we should keep close to the main part of the reef inside the pillars at around 10m depth and expect visibility to decrease because of sand in the water. If it started to get deeper (around 25m and on the outside of the pillars) then we were too far out from the reef and risked being swept out to sea.
My dive computer shows that I entered the water at 15:48 for a dive of 68 minutes – hence I was out of the water quite late at 16:54 around the time that dusk fell. The reason for these details will become apparent later on. On this dive, I chose to follow the guide because I was concerned about the current and ensuring that I remained shallow towards the end – we agreed that when we got back to the boat, if my buddy and I had sufficient air left, we would explore on our own in the general vicinity of the boat.
The drift around the reef was quite nice with
Blue Acropora Humilis
some pretty coral gardens and some amazingly large pipe coral at the end
of the dive but generally we felt that it was not the best hard coral gardens we had seen.
Fish sighted included a Crocodile fish sitting
on the bottom, numerous barracuda and a large moray but generally not a lot of fish.
Our pre-dive agreed exploration in the area around the boat showed a lot of damaged
coral, perhaps due to bad mooring by dive boats.
As dusk fell, it transpired that 2 of our number had not returned to the dive boat by the agreed time and were soon adjudged to be seriously over due. Leaving out some of the details, they had gone too far south outside of the reef pillars and been swept out to sea as they did their safety stop. This was an easy mistake to make because in the growing gloom and murky waters, it was hard to ensure that one remained close to the reef. Although they had put up their SMBs, and were fining hard to ensure that they did not drift further away from the reef, they did not have a torch with them because it was not a night dive and hence no one could see them in the growing gloom. Their BCD whistles were useless because of the general noise on the boat and from the ribs.
Luckily the dive guides guessed what might have happened and sent the ribs out in a wide search arc which found them just as the general alarm was about to be given when all the ribs from any boat in the area would have joined the search. That evening there was much discussion about the best strobe to have when diving and it was noticeable that everyone ensured that were carrying a dive torch with them on all future afternoon dives and also that the timing of the last dive each day was moved forwards to ensure that no dive finished at around dusk. Collectively we all felt we had been reminded of the need to ensure safety comes first and to plan for the unplanned.