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.

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