Saturday, June 20, 2015

Fun diving Musandam with Bobbi, Molly Carter, Dan Miles, Bruce Ora, and David Muirhead

My logged dives #1371-1374

I had an open water course planned June 19-20 at Nomad Ocean Adventures Musandam for 5 students who postponed, so ended up diving with these guys

  1. Bruce Ora, PADI Instructor
  2. Vance Stevens, PADI instructor
  3. David Muirhead, PADI divemaster
  4. Dan Miles, PADI divemaster
  5. Bobbi Stevens, PADI rescue
  6. Molly Alice, o/w

Here’s the video:

Bobbi and Vance joined David Muirhead, Bruce Ora, Molly Alice Carter, and Dan Miles for a weekend of beating the June summer heat in UAE with the wet and wild of the waters off Musandam Oman. This video compilation exerpts dives on Lima Rock, Ras Morovi and Ras Sanut (Wonderwall). 

Missing from the video is an eagle ray that shot overhead and into the blue off Lima Rock. I was carrying two cameras and picked up the wrong one that was switched off (and those things are fast!). Another game you can play with the video is spot the blue snorkel (hint, it WAS hiding under a turtle; it is now in my possession by right of salvage :-). Enjoy

Some of the buddies posted on Facebook

Saturday, June 6, 2015

PADI Open Water Course in Musandam: Dives 1 & 2 for Alfredo, Jihaine, Rodrigo, and Roula

My logged dives #1369-1370

We got a call from AB at Nomad Ocean Adventure as we were leaving the house on Thursday to head down early and meet some dive students. He wanted to inform us of the developing weather situation. The north of Musandam was experiencing rough seas and boats were not putting out from Dibba harbor that day. Local weather sources were reporting as much but the usually trusty Windguru raised no alarms, as in this view from earlier that morning:


We were looking forward to the weekend, meeting 4 students there that night, and if worse came to worse we could do pool modules all day Friday. Nomad said the storm was due to diminish by mid-day and perhaps we could take a boat out then. I sent email to my divers and Bobbi and I hit the road for Dibba. We took the way from Shuweib to Madan to Dhaid, and except for wind blowing sand across the highway, blocking one lane for a long stretch and reducing visibility, we missed the traffic on the 311 Sharjah and reached Dibba through the scenic mountain pass from Masafi in 2:45 minutes from Al Ain, a comfortable drive.

Our students had rental car insurance hassles and didn't arrive till 10 pm. By then most divers had cancelled including all the fun divers in our party, except Daniel Sobrado who was coming with his Spanish friends Alfredo and Rodrigo, to whom he'd referred me as a dive instructor, along with Roula from Lebanon and Jihaine from Tunisia. These all worked together at the same bank and would be my students for the weekend. It didn't look like diving would happen next morning (Brad was going down at 5 a.m. to check with the coast guard, and when he got there he called the group from Dubai and told them to forget it). 

So our group met at 7:30 for breakfast and briefing. We would try to get three modules in by noon and see if we could go out in a boat then. That turned out to be impossible since the weather was still rough in the north by then, so we made a long day of it in the pool. We were finally in the water around 9:00. There was no rush, and with 4 divers at different ability levels, delays can be expected. With the extra time, we made sure everyone had plenty of space to accomplish the skills successfully. We finished module 2 in time for lunch, and what happens after lunch? Siesta :-) We were in no hurry. We knocked off module three that afternoon. The group was willing to continue but it was getting dark, and frankly, we were all tired. We decided to relax over dinner.

We met again at 7:30 next morning to see if we could do module 4 but only managed the underwater part, no time for the surface work before we had to get ready and go diving at 9:30. In the event we got off to an only slightly late start and cruised in fairly smooth seas all the way to Ras Morovi. There though we found plankton and green, murky water, so AB recommended we move down to Lulu Island for our first open water dive of the course. This is sometimes a challenge for many students. The water was colder than expected, and ear and buoyancy problems kept us in the shallows for the first ten minutes, while poor visibility split our group temporarily (but AB is an instructor, so they were with him, and he returned them safe and sound). We eventually got our dive in, all of us underdressed, me in lycra and rash vest, and the two guys in shorties, so it was cold, visibility poor, but there were moray eels, and fusiliers and jacks as we rounded the island south to north, and the group stayed together and ascended well.

I didn't take any videos on that dive and I changed into 5 mm for the next one, which we did after a surface interval that included a 30-min siesta on the boat in the sheltered waters off Lima headland north. Everyone found a place to stretch out it seemed until AB barged forward and brought us out of our dreams. He offered us our choice of spots, so I selected Lima Rock north, so AB would have a chance to see the big fish with the initials WS, and Daniel could dive with him and maybe see it too. I checked the current on snorkel before agreeing to the spot, but the depth here was not ideal for our group of beginners, as sand there begins at 11 meters, and we would have to go there to do our skills. All divers had made it that deep on the first dive, but ear problems forced one to stay shallower than that on the second one, so in the end I took the three to the sand who could make it there and will plan a shallower dive for the other next time.

We didn't see the big fish with the initials WS but we found better visibility and more life on Lima Rock. I found a crawfish in a cave as we were descending, and Bobbi found a couple of cuttlefish that didn't mind us coming close and filming. There were lion fish and moray eels, and while doing skills with one of the students, I saw a disc move into view just at the edge of my vis and settle on the sand, looked like a ray of some kind. I finned to check it out and found a torpedo ray (these are electric and will jolt you if touched). He moved about and rippled around for me and this rounded out our videos.

It's only the second time I've not been able to complete a course at Nomad due to weather in many years of working with them, but I'm looking forward to having this group back in a couple of weeks, and signing them off as open water divers.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Fun diving with Whalesharks and other impressive creatures in Musandam with Nomad Ocean Adventures

I've been doing a lot of diving lately but I've been working on an article for TESL-EJ which I just finished and this has put me behind  in my dive blogging. Meanwhile I've got videos still backlogged from the previous week's dive trip in May. Oon Friday / Saturday May 15 / 16 I conducted an advanced course on Dibba Rock at Blue Planet Diving.  I'm hoping to get these posts and videos up shortly, but for the record, these would be:

My logged dives #1365-1368

But this past weekend the diving was quite special, and with that article out of the way, I'm posting

May 15-16, 2015, my logged dives #1364-1367

This weekend I had long planned to conduct an open water course but one of the students had an ear problem that the doctor would not sign him off on, so both students postponed their course to June.

I went ahead to Dibba and crossed the border to the humble yet dynamic compound of Nomad Ocean Adventure. Happily and coincidentally, I chanced to meet some good friends there from Al Ain, divemaster David Muirhead, and experienced instructors Bruce Ora and Gerry McGuire, and I was invited onto their boat. We departed next day for Lima Rock, which we dived on both Friday and Saturday. There had been whalesharks spotted in the vicinity the past few weeks and when the whalesharks are around, there's always the chance we will see one. The visibility was as good as I've seen it for a long time. Check out this video:

This video is a compilation of a stunning dive conducted on Friday, when we swam with a whaleshark, and one on Saturday where we saw an eagle ray but no whale sharks (though there was one seen that day nearer shore on the headland opposite Lima Rock, off Ras Hamra).  

Our first dive on Friday May 14 was on Ras Sanut, what we also call Wonderwall. On this day the visibility was remarkably good. The video starts with Gerry McGuire easing through the water with no wetsuit, and me in my 5 mm !!!, followed by his buddy Bruce Ora and then by my buddy, David Muirhead, who joined me in a selfie at the start of the dive. From there the diving was full of marine life, as can be seen from the video:

Below is the video from our dive on Octopus Rock May 15. Visibility was excellent and current benign. David Muirhead and I followed Bruce Ora and Gerry McGuire to the east of the rock down to where the seahorses were (or as we observed, the seahorse was). David and I worked our way back up to where Abdullah was taking photos of flatworms and nudibranchs (he'd found several in a 10 meter square area). We found lots of moray eels, and batfish being cleaned by their blue wrasse friends. The dominant fish here are the blue "red-tooth" triggers, but there are jacks schooling in shallow water near the top of the rock, and I ended my dive amidst a large school of beguiling batfish. See for yourself:

Saturday, May 9, 2015

PADI Open Water Advanced Dive Course for Jo Meads at Blue Planet Diving, DIbba

My logged dives #1359-1364

On Friday May 8 I met Jo Meads and Roger Norkie at Blue Planet Diving, Dibba, for two days of PADI Advanced Open Water dive training for Jo. Blue Planet Diving is a friendly and easy place to run courses from. It's right on a beach protected by a seawall so for open water courses we can usually use the relatively confined water for pool skills there. The owners run three dives a day and are well equipped for accessing equipment and walking it down to boats that pull up close to the beach. Most dive trips are to Dibba Rock just a 5 min boat ride, and the equipment cleaning tanks are clean and at the end of the boat ramp. Prices are reasonable and the owners are flexible with instructors running courses.

Having the option of doing three dives a day is good for an advanced open water course, since the course comprises 5 dives. On our first day we did all our diving on Dibba Rock, which also has varied options for dive planning. The island is just a couple hundred meters in length, lying roughly west to east as you look out to sea toward the north, which we call the "back side" as viewed from the beach. Dive boats can tie up to buoys moored at either end, west and east. The west end is my favorite as it drops to just 6 meters of water and puts you at a part of the reef I call the aquarium, which is shallow with coral bommies swarming with schools of fish usually seen in good light. On the east side, the mooring there drops to 8 meters, and if you start there you can go further to the east and look for rays. You never know what you will see here; we dropped in on sharks here and found more along the wall toward the back side on a recent PADI Open Water course for Molly Alice,

On our first dive, on the 8 meter mooring, we found one of the rays had come to us, and stayed put as we explored the vicinity of the mooring line anchor. On this dive, which I conducted as a PADI advanced boat dive, we looked around for more rays but then did the dive around the back side of the rock to find pipefish, moray eels, schools of fish to stick our Go Pros into, playful cuttlefish, and even a turtle toward the end of the dive. 

Back on shore snorkelers and divers were reporting that black tip reef sharks were active in the very shallow water on the "front" or south face of the rock. We dropped again at the 8 meter spot. Imad had given us a good description of where the rays like to hang out so I led us east over sand but had to push into the current to get back to the rock. On this leg I lost Roger and Jo so I looked around for a minute and surfaced to find they had done the same. We regrouped and Roger reported that they had seen a huge ray ripple past them in the water (the reason they had lingered and lost me) but at that point Roger found also there was no SD card in his GoPro. Since we were doing a third dive that day, I was using the same GoPro I had had on the first dive, which can be a stretch on its battery.  So we re-descended and moved to the south side of the rock and conducted  our navigation exercises there. When done we pushed to the north east to get as close to the rock as possible and indeed we saw several sharks quite clearly in great overhead sunlight in water only a meter or two deep. However, my GoPro chose that moment to lose its charge, and with Roger's having no SD card, these sightings are recorded only in text here.

We tried again to find sharks on our last dive of the day, but this one was at 3 or 4 in the afternoon when the light coming in at that angle reflects more off particulate matter in the water, so conditions were not as good for spotting them, and I don't remember so much from that dive apart from a large barracuda lurking off the south face of the rock. We also got a unique shot of a nudibrach edging determinedly toward a pipefish, who moved out of the way just in time to avoid the coup de grace. Check it out in the video.

Next morning we joined Blue Planet Diving for their morning dive on the 30 meter wreck Inchcape 1, Jo's PADI advanced deep dive (more information on this wreck here:

The wreck was interesting as always, swarming with fish, a honeycomb moray hiding in the tires at the bottom, lion fish performing in interesting tableax on deck, and a scorpion fish lurking nearby, trying to blend into the encrustation. It's a short dive, just 20 minutes, and one that is choreographed as a set piece for PADI advanced open water and deep or wreck specialty divers.

For our last dive of the weekend we returned to shark hunting at Dibba Rock. We put in at the deep mooring and I spent most of the dive trying to find the shallows where the sharks were. A combination of currents and having to approach it from a spot other than the aquarium confounded my navigation, but when we were shallow I could pop my head above water and reconnoiter. In any event I got a shot of a gopie protecting a hole which his partner pistol shrimp was excavating (it's quick in the video, look closely). We found a flounder, or moses sole scooting along the bottom, a puffer in the shallows, and a turtle emerging just around the corner from a school of silvery jacks. And at the very end, I spotted a shark and you can just make it out as it moves off camera if you replay that part of the video several times (at the end of the Dibba Rock sequence, before the Inchcape shots).

It was a very enjoyable weekend. Nice to see that Dibba Rock continues to bounce back from the ravages of cyclone Gonu and red tide 8 years ago, and congratulations to Joanne Meads on certifying as a PADI Advanced Open Water diver.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Fun diving Dibba Rock and Inchcape 2 with friends Jay and Robin Fortin

My logged dives #1357-1358

On May 2, 2015, I joined my friends Jay and Robin Fortin for a day of diving with Divers Down. Jay and Robin were staying at the Miramar Hotel on Al Aqah Beach, UAE, and that's where the dive shop was. We did two dives, one on Dibba Rock, and the other on Inchcape 2. These are my GoPro videos of the two  dives.

I went down on Friday and met Jay and Robin for dinner at the Miramar and then drove over to a nearby beach where I had scoped out the parking / sleeping possibilities on the way down. Nights were reasonably cool and I had the back of my 4x4 made into a bed so I could just park and crawl in it. But I had to move from my first spot because people were driving up and down there all night, even though I was parked a few hundred meters off the beach. So I moved to the beach right next to the Miramar, parked down a track leading to the beach, and slept fine there until in the morning I was awakened by the sound of car engines. This turned out to be fishermen who were using wenches on the front of those cars to haul in their nets. The net they were hauling in surrounded me on both sides of my car, I guess I was parked in their favorite fishing spot. In any event when I made ready to move they let one rope slack so I could drive over it.

I was the first customer at the Miramar for their buffet breakfast where I was joined eventually by Jay and Robin. We passed time at breakfast till time to go diving. Divers Down were making trips out and back at 9:00, noon, and 3:00, and we went on the first two trips. Visibility had been good at Dibba Rock the day before so this was their first destination. It's a place I have dived often over the years, in good times and bad, but life is bouncing back there now and it's one of the best sites again on that coastline (which really speaks to the deterioration of the other sites in the area, compared to what they used to be). Still the dive shops are packed with people wanting to go diving.

Here is my video from the Dibba Rock dive -

We returned to Divers Down base at the Miramar Hotel and switched tanks for our second dive, this one planned for the Inchcape 2. I had explained to Robin and Jay that I planned to dive this one in an unorthodox manner. We would spend about 20 minutes on the wreck, which would give us time to peruse the deck for whatever critters might be hiding there. The encrustations are home to scorpion fish, nudibranchs, seahorses, and lots of small things good at camouflage.  But after 20 minutes you'll find most of the crocodile fish and rays in the sand that are lurking there, and you'll have covered the deck from bow to stern, time to head for the coastline.

Before we went in the dive guide conducted the boat briefing which was to spend the entire time on the wreck. As people were kitting up I told him we would finish up in the bay. What I really like about diving in UAE is that you are not guided if you don't want to be. The dive guide said fine, thanks for telling him.

The wreck is slightly deeper than Robin's open water depth max so we spent little time at the bottom, but to head for shore on a s/w heading we had to stay a bit off the sand until the bottom came up to meet us. After 5 min on compass I looked around for jawfish and caught a glimpse of one just popping back in his hole because one of the other divers didn't see him in time and they are quite shy of people overhead. They are incredible creatures, live in holes, have long eel-like bodies, but the most most people see of them is their heads, which are like, as David Muirhead says, whack-a-moles. They will turn side to side checking out divers surrounding their holes. They have great mouths swarming with cleaner shrimp. When divers get to close, they go way down in their holes.

We continued into the bay finding the ubiquitous moray eels. At the back of the bay, in shallow water brilliant with light, there are some lovely table corals. It's a pretty dive, here's the video:

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Fun Diving Musandam at Nomad Ocean Adventure: Lima Rock, Wonder Wall, Octopus Rock, and Morovi Island

My logged dives #1353-1356

Here are some videos from a pleasant dive weekend back on home turf, or waters, or whatever that stuff was, wth Nomad Ocean Adventure, the weekend of April 17-18, 2118. We went as a group comprising Nicki Blower, Chris Gawronski, Kelly Harris, Bobbi and I, and one of my open water students, Bonnie Swesey. We were possibly diving with Bonnie for the last time for a while, since she is heading off to a new life in Honduras, where the diving is superb (so we hope to visit her there one day).

It's always good to be back home with Nomad, good food and sound sleeping, especially when our responsibilities are nothng more than to conduct safe dives. Our sites and dive times were negotiable, no one telling us where to go or when to come up, and the last day I suggested to our Nomad Pro Cedrick that we do our last dive on the outside ocean side of Morovi Island, where currents can be interesting, but there's lots of blue coral and blue triggers on a 20 meter wall with no telling what's in the sand (and he agreed, so we got to choose a rarely dived site, and Cedrick seemed quite happy with the choice - he's working at Nomad temporarily, commissioned to paint a mural of a whale shark on one of the walls there). We didn't see much on the wall ourselves, but we certainly enjoyed these dive sites:

April 17 - 

  • Dive 1 - North side of Lima Rock, decent vis and lots of interesting creatures there
  • Dive 2 - Wonderwall (Ras Sanut) poor vis, chilly, and a couple of giant rays (worth seeing)
In the video posted here, all shots are taken on Lima Rock, except the video of the huge ray at Ras Sanut, in poor visibility

April 18
Nicki was sick last day and we were joined on our dives by a lady from Finland, a petite (but tatooed) guard on the Ukraine / Russian border, down for a first visit to UAE, and discovering the diving is not bad here :-)

  • Dive 1 - Octopus Rock, always a great dive, only a slight current, great vis, great fish life

  • Dive 2 - Outer (east side) Morovi Island, good vis, tricky currents especially where we ended at the south corner, but a pretty dive. It's especially nice when you can move back north in the channel itself. We saw some baraccuda there today (they love current), and at other times rays, including eagle rays. But today the current prevented our northward progress and we had to end the dive on the corner.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Fun holiday diving in Raja Ampat Indonesia April 5-9, 2015

My logged dives #1343-1352

I'm writing this on the restaurant veranda at Raja Ampat Dive Resort on an afternoon of pouring rain. Fortunately it was sunny and bright this morning for the most awesome day of diving we've done in a long time, and we even managed to get our dive gear in out of the sun as the first drops fell. But we didn't expect an hours-long deluge. My 1 GB data roaming package just ran out while we were stuck here, and we have to get our gear from where we parked it under a thatched roof up to our room so we can pack, pay up, sleep, and be off in the morning for the long haul back to Abu Dhabi. That seems to be our biggest concern while the world is dripping water outside, but hopefully the rain will pass.

We'd been looking forward to this holiday for a long time. Bobbi has become a good travel agent in her retirement. She spends weeks prior to my holidays finding the most appropriate dive locations for us and booking us into them, and this time it was Raja Ampat, just off west Iryan Jaya, a place from where many of our friends have been sending back glowing reports.

It was hard to book a place because it's Easter holidays in many parts of the world, many are traveling at this time, and in Raja Ampat most resorts expect you to stay with them for a week and don't want to talk to you if you can't meet their once-weekly pickup date. Of the few who are cheaper and more flexible, RADR boasted 24 hour electricity and flexibility on dates, and turned out to be friendly and accommodating. Their accommodation was basic (wooden cabins, no locks on doors, fan-cooled) but comfortable (beds to melt in, quiet apart from jungle noises). Food was great, and diving was as-you-like-it. They had a modem with blinking lights but no Internet the whole time we were there, but I managed to use my cell phone as a data hub for as long as my 1 GB pre-paid roaming lasted.

Unfortunately my body clock had wound down by the time we got to Raja Ampat. I was in Toronto the last week in March, in freezing temperatures. I delivered 4 presentations, and flew home soon after the last one, arriving home in Al Ain after midnight, purposely overslept work but got there as soon as I woke up, dealt with end of semester reports in addition to covering other people's classes through to end of week, came home exhausted, packed dive gear, etc, and got 4 hours sleep before having to get up to drive 1.5 hours to the airport in Abu Dhabi.

With so little time to recover from jet lag, my body protested in earnest the morning of packing the car at 5 a.m and I started to feel feverish, so I grabbed a thermometer, discovered I had a slight fever, and brought it with me to monitor my body for the rest of the trip. We drove to Abu Dhabi, parked at a sister college, took a taxi to the airport, and then caught a flight to Jakarta, delayed due to the previous day's severe dust storms in UAE. We reached Jakarta around midnight but had to get our bags through customs and sit with them in a coffee shop for some hours before boarding domestic at 5 a.m. So we missed the night's sleep and by now my fever was over 38.

It didn't help that we had to change planes in Makassar before catching one to our destination airport Sarong. That was tedious, but went ok, and RADR had sent a meet and greet to collect us on landing, but it was only to pack us in a car for a drive to the harbor, because we still had a 2-hour trip by boat to Waisai, the port on the island where the resort was. The resort was actually full the day we arrived so it had been arranged for us to be taken to a hotel in town to sleep and await pick up for diving in the morning. The hotel was basic and almost empty, but comfortable enough for a tired traveler, and sleeping there was really all I wanted to do, so worn out from the trip and feverish. However, we couldn't help but notice it was next to what looked to be a main mosque and we knew what that meant. That is we thought we knew what that meant. We thought it meant that although we were too tired to stay awake till sunset, we might be disturbed in our sleep. But our heads had no sooner hit the pillow and had wesuccumbed to the stress of the trip when at 6:05 p.m. the prayer call began on highest volume. We try to be understanding about these things and we know we are in another country, another culture, and we must be tolerant visitors, but this lasted for 1 hour 30 minutes, and we just lay through it, too weary to do anything else, even go out for food. It's probably a good thing we didn't because when it stopped we shut down as well and slept. We slept for 9 hours when at 4:30 the call resumed for morning prayer. This one lasted 45 min, by which time we needed to get up because our ride was coming at 7:00.

By now my fever was 38.5 and I knew I was not really fit for diving, but we had booked three dives for that day and I had found a web site to say that there was no need to seek medical help until a fever reached 103 F or 39.4 C. So we soldiered on despite a continuation of errors. We were greeted at the resort, moved into our cabin, handed forms to fill out, and shown onto a boat. The odd thing was we never saw any other divers there until the day we left, we had the dive shop and resort to ourselves. The only other divers we encountered there were the manager and his visiting daughter. However, the people in the accommodation the day before had gone on a trip that morning and taken all the weight. That was the first thing we noticed, we had to go to another resort to get more weight. When they got the boat started, that is, two 40 hp motors they tried one after another but the boatman knew his equipment and finally managed to squeeze enough gas and oil into the right places with the lid off both engines to get one puttering and we were off to pick up weight and rev out to the dive site.

We did the two morning dives at places called Mioskun and Friwen Bonda, good ones, with our first ever glimpse of wobbegong sharks. When I saw my first one under a rock, our dive guide Rocky reached in to grab its curly-queue tail and pull it out where I could get better pictures. I got a great shot of him doing that but another thing going wrong that day was the SD card in my camera was failing and my computer later refused to read it, nor could the GoPro recognize it after that, so all our shots were lost on our first dive. We have two Go-Pros though, each with an SD card and we usually use one the first dive, and then the next one the second. So we have the shots from our second dive, second GoPro. And after that we just kept switching the cards over so we had a camera working and fresh batteries every dive.

But my body batteries were in serious discharge. When we returned to port for lunch, I managed to get my equipment washed but it was all I could do to get back up to the room, find my fever was now 39.3, just a notch off critical, and take the decision to call off diving till further notice and go to bed. Forget the third, dive, I didn't even have lunch. Nor dinner. Nor breakfast next morning. Someone brought bananas, I didn't eat those. I only drank the cokes Bobbi brought me and I stayed in bed for 24 hours, monitoring my fever which hovered in the 38 range through the morning. Finally next afternoon, the fever broke in a sweat. I went to dinner. The manager Andy suggested we join him and his daughter for a three dive trip the next day. It would be an all-day outing, not sure if I was up for it yet, but manager's choice of dive sites sounded tempting, so we agreed.

They were great spots, starting with Manta Sandy, where there was a manta on hand to entertain the swarm of divers who were positioned behind a line of rocks in the sand. It was wonderfully entertaining, and at the end the manta came right at and over us, granting us the Facebook shot of the day. 

Back on the boat, we stopped for coffee at a shelter under construction or under dilapidation, hard to tell, on an otherwise empty beach. The idea in such stops was to not only consume coffee, but to vent nitrogen for at least an hour to have safe levels of absorbed gas in our tissues in preparation for the next dive, which at that moment was on West Monswar, not far from Kri Island. I don't remember much about that dive, will have to check the videos (ah, now I see, sharks :-), but it was Bobbi's favorite of the day because it was so full of fish. Lunch was passed on a ridiculously white sand bar with blue-green water all around, our launching point for Kri reef. Kri was reputed to be one of the most colorful reefs around, probably superb as a morning dive, but afternoon vis and light took its toll, I was coughing during the dive, and for my first day after serious illness it was one dive too many.

Rocky, our first-day guide, proposed another three dive day for a us next day, but I was concerned about having another 3 dive all day outing. So again we accepted when the manager invited us to accompany him and his daughter on a trip to the passage next day. The Passage ... We envisaged a channel between islands full of pelagic fish drawn to the current on the thriving reefs there. What we found instead was a landscape of mushroom islands funneling into something like a river that separated two separate land masses which, if you didn't know that, could have been two banks to a fast-running stream. There was current, but silt as well, in a flow largely devoid of fish. There were nudibranchs and flatworms and small creatures that our guides delighted in pointing out to us, on each of the two dives we did there. And both dives started in caves, which were easily silted and not all that interesting. It was muck diving and possibly worth seeing if you were getting bored with the sharks and mantas on the truly remarkable reefs in the wider ocean there. 

Bobbi and I were so disappointed with it that we agreed to a third dive after all that day just so we could see some fish. For this we were taken just 5 or 10 min from the dive resort to the 5 Rocks marking the harbor on the island opposite. Vis was not so good but we saw some sharks and rays and at the top of the reef there were beautiful colorful soft coral swim-throughs that I got on film.

Again that third dive knackered me. Bobbi and I didn't even bother with Internet. We had dinner and went to bed around 9 and slept solidly till 7. Sleep as always was fantastic at RADR.

And that brings us to today, the most remarkable dives of the week. Blue Magic and Sardines. At Blue Magic we dropped in on a black tip, a good sign, found schools of barracuda, tunas running among them. White tips lounged on the sand bottom. Wobbegongs rested where they wanted or scurried here and there. Jacks frolicked. Tiny crabs inched across anenomes. On Sardines, our dive ended in barracudas and esp. bump headed parrot fish gnoshing as much coral as they could. Relentless robot destroyers of coral, they move like a herd of hump-headed bulls circumnavigating reefs and lagoons taking days or however long they need to get from one end to the the other and start over, somehow justifying it through being one with the ecosystem.