Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Diving off Pemba, Mozambique, July 6th and 7th, 2009

Here's what I wrote about our diving in our travelogue. If you want more information about Wimbi Beach in Pemba, like where we stayed and how to get there and away, you can find the paragraphs below embedded in what is written here:

Vance’s logged dive #900 July 6, 2009 - Saw a SUNFISH

Pemba Dive opened at 7 a.m. and was write across the road from the Complexo Touristico Caracol, where we stayed. When Calvin, the young instructor from South Africa, came down and told us there was no diving that day, only training, but next day we could dive. So we agreed to go back there at 7 next day.

The other shop, CI Divers, was just down the beach. They opened at 8, so we had breakfast on the hotel veranda while waiting. Eventually we saw the door being unlocked so I went to ask about the diving. Here I met Pieter, the owner, who told me very well, we could go diving at 9. So we finished our breakfast and returned at the appointed time.

The local staff readied the engine and kitted our tanks for us. There were some equipment problems, like an alternate air source without a mouthpiece, quickly sorted. The gear was carried onto the boat, a wooden skiff, fine for diving in calm seas at a not-far-off location. Pieter directed us via GPS to the ‘tunnel’ a 35 meter hole in the reef about a quarter hour from Wimbi. We had with us a recently trained open water diver Pieter would be going with so they would not be going that deep. Pieter didn't seem to mind if Bobbi and I did our thing as long as we got back to the surface within an hour or so.

First impressions of Pemba were, decent vis, perhaps 20 meters, descent onto coral rubble (I was surprised to see that, hoping for coral gardens), and it was several minutes before we saw any fish at all. To make a long story short, it was a decent dive, pleasant temperature of perhaps 26 degrees, I got to 35.5 meters, the entire dive lasted 47 minutes plus the safety stop, Pieter pointed out an interesting leaf fish we would never have seen and …

At 20 meters depth almost at the top of the wall Bobbi and I encountered a sunfish, a mola mola, a huge fish about 3 meters across with no tail, but fins pointing up and down dorsal and abdominal. This thing was hulking in the water just off the reef and made little effort to evade us. In fact when it did move away it was only to circle back and return. I was able to touch it right underneath its blinking eye bulb. It felt like sandpaper (whale sharks, in contrast, are billowy smooth). In 40 years diving it was my first time to see one (also first time to see a leaf fish). The sunfish was on my list of things I really wanted to see before my time is done, and I finally saw one on July 6, 2009.

Vance’s logged dives #901 and #902 July 7, 2009

We dived the next day as well, this time with Calvin at Pemba Dive. Calvin was a bit more controlling than Pieter and although he was perfectly safe, he had a student with him and kept our dives shallow and rigorously monitored to 40 minutes, though he was flexible if anyone still had half a tank at that point and 15 min no deco time left. Our first dive was at Monty’s Fingers, a shallow reef dive. I used a 15 liter steel tank with only 3 kilos weight and I was still a touch heavy but comfortably buoyant most of the time and my air lasted for 61 minutes including the safety stop. We began the dive in at 20 meteres in an open water aquarium with lion fish and later saw two kinds of leaf fish and some nudibranchs. It was a pleasant and pretty dive for me but nothing to write home about.

The next dive was to what Calvin called the Garden of Eden, which was the top of the wall where we’d seen the sunfish the day before. This time we descended through a school of brown jellyfish which Bobbi found interesting. She was more comfortable on the second dive and enjoyed it best, but I was sorry we didn’t go looking for the sunfish, but stayed in the bommies back of the wall. The scenery was again pleasant with lots of small fish life, more nudibranchs, but again it was mainly more of an excuse to be at Wimbi beach in Pemba on a holiday rather than a thrilling great dive.

June 29, 2009 - Diving off Bazaruto Island, Vilankulo, Mozambique

Here's what I wrote about our diving in our travelogue. If you want more information about Vilankulo, like where we stayed and how to get there and away, you can find the paragraphs below embedded in what is written here:

Vance’s logged dives #898 and #899 June 29, 2009

Diving off the Bazaruto Islands in winter blustery conditions was not great but turned out to be a wild African adventure, the kind that makes travel on the continent unique. We wandered down to the dive shop at 8 where 6 tanks were kitted and put on one of the South African style inflatables with the tanks lashed in the center, and we set off with two strong engines to the Bazaruto Islands to the north with the wind at our backs, so we didn’t really notice the high seas and strong wind till we reached our destination and needed to shelter inside a bit of exposed reef. We dropped one passenger there who had just wanted to visit the island park, and set off again into the chill wind and against the seas which by this time were now wild with white horses and throwing cold spray onto the boat. We cut through the waves between Bazaruto and the next island over and then headed for the reef still some distance off but marked by a distinct surf zone. We found waves several meters high when we reached the reef but got through them to the relative calm at the other side. Relative means just that and we were still dodging waves as we kitted up, but we soon had our gear on and dropped over the side of the rubber boat. Once down it was calm apart from a bit of surge.

Meanwhile up top the boat hands were having a rough time of it following Denis’s buoy and they complained of fearing to repeat the experience for us to do a second dive. Denis was talking to them about the prospects in the small cove where we had again sheltered to eat our sandwiches and get out of the cold wind as best we could. There was a huge dune there at this place called Ponta Dando which Bobbi and I climbed, sand peeling off to an improbable drop at the mounting edge. The view from the top was sauvage, rough seas all around between castaway island vistas, il n y a que du vent et de l’eau as the French had said on the last ride out.

Denis managed to calm the fears of his boatmen and conditions had at least not worsened by the time we set out for our second dive, though two divers declined the return trip and opted to wait on the island. The second was similar to the first. On these dives we dropped over coral down to sand at 20 meters. There were turtles in the rock outcrops and morays here and there, in particular some free swimming honeycomb ones, graceful. There was also a bull ray or what they call here a marble ray, also graceful as it swam away. We also found a blue spotted ray buried in the sand. Bobbi remembers the trigger fish of all kinds, blue ones, mean looking tritons and white speckled picasos. Surgeon fish looked tranquil in schools. Denis pointed out crabs in the anemones. These were not spectacular dives, just decent ones, requiring some competence in breathing to stay at depth for 45 minutes. These conditions did not warrant our diving another day but back on dry land we felt we had earned our beer and meal for the coming evening.