We started our weekend of diving at Dibba Rock, with Freestyle Divers, Friday February 19, 2010. Our Divers were Bobbi and I, Oliver and Susi (getting certified that weekend), Keith and January (just starting her o/w dive course), and Daniel Sobrado, whom I had certified last trip to Dibba, on January 23 (http://vancesdiveblogs.blogspot.com/2010/01/january-22-23-2010-diving-dibba-rock-my.html)
Bobbi and I participated in the Terry Fox run in Abu Dhabi on Friday morning while January and Keith were running the half marathon in RAK, so we met in Dibba for just one dive at 3:00 p.m.
January's first o/w dive and Susi's second, and my logged dive number 942
This turned out to be a nice dive, but it began oddly with our wearing 5 mm wetsuits against the cold, most for the first time, so buoyancy became an issue on the dive. Everyone checked their weight first and ascertained they could descend, but in reality, when we began our dive, people were bobbing back to the surface. I had a mix of people, including January on her first dive and Susi on her second for the course, though she had dived with me several times by then, all but one, fun dives. Bobbi was trying out her new 5 mm wetsuit for the first time so even she was slightly underweighted. And me too, I was using for the first time a 3 mm overall / longsleeve jacket combination to give me 6 mm on my body core, so though I carried 3 kilos extra for students, by the time I'd given two away I was blowing hard to stay down. Oliver and Daniel were thankfully overweighted, so we all managed to do the dive, barely.
Vis was not great, there was a bit of brown algae around. There was a slight current moving us east over the reef so I had to keep calling January back where Susi was gamely doing her o/w #2 skill set, tossing regs away, partially flooding her mask, simulating alternate air source breathing. Eventually we were ready to move out and I let us drift over the reef, hoping the certified divers among us would keep to some kind of formation. Some dvers were high in the water, some were moving ahead of me, so when the reef ran out they didn't realize it and so some were out of sight as they drifted too far into the haze overhead, and I could just see their bubbles. All became gradually aware that they needed to turn and fin into the current. January stayed right at my shoulder and we came on a turtle which everyone eventually passed over. By now people were settling better into the dive and keeping their buoyancy closer down on the reef and it got interesting as now the current was nudging us north and we could just hold position and depth and let ourselves be moved along the reef, teeming with fish.
There was nothing to see out of the ordinary until I noticed a flash of grey, a bulky blacktip shark moving at the edge of our peripheral vision. I turned and swam toward it and caught up with it just as it veered toward me. It came in close, presenting a clear view of its snout, until it realized that I was in its path, and then it turned away and headed off over the reef. Most divers in our group saw it and exclaimed as we boarded the boat how close it was, "It went right under Daniel," and yada yada. We ended our dive at about 50 minutes, me holding a rock between my knees to stay down, some divers bobbing to the surface, all lighter with loss of air, needing more weight to compensate for the extra padding against the cold.
We enjoyed the sundown on the Freestyle veranda until our gear was dry enough to pack away, Then we drove across the border and arrived at Discover Nomad where Chris had rooms for all of us, and his new manager Bonnie was fixing dinner. Chris's mom and dad were away so it wasn't the exquisite Mauritian cuisine we had come to expect, but Bonnie did a fine job of feeding the dozen or so divers settling in at the Nomad hostel for the night.
February 20, 2010 - Susi's 3rd and 4th O/W dives for CERTIFICATION and January's second (plus a fun dive)My logged dives numbers 943-944
Next morning we were up and away in one of Chris's speedboats, putting out to sea at 10 a.m. An hour after that we had arrived at Ras Morovi where I got Waleed, the boat captain, to drop anchor after some minor mis-communicaton in Arabic. With the anchor line in place Susi and I slipped into the water and she did her controlled emergency swimming ascent while Bobbi helped January and Keith kit up, buddy check, and enter the water. With that delay Susi managed to rescue me with cramp removal and tired diver tow back to the boat.
By now everyone was in the water and we all descended, January and Keith and Susi on the anchor line, Ken (Finnish doctor who'd rolled up at Nomad the day before; whom we'd dived with on a Yellow Dhow liveaboard, http://vancesdiveblogs.blogspot.com/2009/09/sept-4-and-5-2009-logged-dives-913-919.html) and Bobbi already down, and Daniel and Oliver hanging out somewhere in the gloom. My focus was on the two students in training, and I had Susi orally inflate her BCD and remove and replace her mask while January was settling in and establishing neutral buoyancy. By the time I had run January through her module 2 skill set, the other divers were milling all over the place. I had buddied Susi and January so they were with me and they were my prime (and only, really) responsibility, but I had buddied the three guys so the one who would be low on air first could ascend with the second lowest, and the third could continue diving with us (so everyone would have a buddy), so I wanted to keep them in our group. Bobbi wanted to stay with us as well but she and Ken were experienced and not a huge concern.
At the start of the dive it was a little difficult to keep the three guys together and keep track of where they were. They were at different depths, one in front and overhead, two a little out of sight but bubbles just visible following along. But soon they all settled in and we started to see animals on the rocks, and it became a really good dive after that. We started seeing morays. Then there was a cave full of beguiling batfish which we swam amongst. A lone barracuda briefly entertained Susi and January and I, and I swam up close to it. Susi led us on a compass heading west to our maximum depth of almost 16 meters and did a straight shot back to the rock she'd started from. There were lovely teddy bear purple and orange corals here. I ventured over a shoulder at around 9 or ten meters and came on a huge bull ray covered in sand. He saw me, shook the sand free, and escaped quickly in a cloud of dust. I'm not sure if anyone else saw him, though Ken and Bobbi came on a pair of bull rays lying one atop the other. Bobbi saw them clearly and tried to get Ken's attention, and he looked just as they were flying away (she reported later ;-).
Meanwhile, 35 minutes into the dive, Oliver indicated 50 bar so I led everyone to shallower depths and checked everyone's air. Only Oliver was low, so at 38 minutes I indicated to Oliver that he should surface alone, since we were at only 5 meters and the boat was nearby, but as we were shallow, and wearing those 5 mm suits, almost everyone else found themselves rising to the surface, and next thing I knew I was staring up at legs kicking from the surface overhead. Susi and January had both surfaced inadvertently so I joined them. Bobbi and Ken were fine wherever they were, and Daniel and Keith didn't appear, so I assumed they were fine. Susi was low on air and decided to join Oliver on the boat. January and I both had 100 bar left, and she was game, so we descended to resume our diving.
We were now in the cabbage coral patch where we found a couple of turtles. Further up ahead we came on Bobbi and Ken. Ken was photographing gobies as they emerged from their holes and as that takes patience January and I moved on. The area was full of fish life, though there was nothing exciting left to see in our dive. It was just pleasant and getting a little cold, so at 57 minutes I signaled a 3 min safety stop, and after an hour underwater, we surfaced. Everyone was by now back on the boat, talking about what a delightful dive it was. January was kind enough to assist me to the boat via a tired diver tow.
Waleed motored us over to the Ras Lima headland where we stopped out of the wind for lunch. Clouds were by now brewing overhead, robbing us of sun, and seas were becoming choppy though where we were, it was calm. Susi and I did her last remaining surface skills while we vented nitrogen, and when we got back on the boat I sat with the ladies to determine that we could do a next dive at 14 to 16 meters for 45 minutes (safely and with plenty of margin for error). Keith had developed ear problems and decided to simply snorkel, so it was easy to pair divers now, Daniel and Oliver, Bobbi and Ken, and Susi and January with me. We backward rolled over the side and descended using visual reference of the sloping wall and all made it to the bottom in good order, just 7 or 8 meters.
This was a fun dive for January since she hadn't completed the last two modules of the course, so it was just Susi to remove and replace her mask and then hover. There were a lot of tunicate coelenterates in the water and vis was not the greatest, divers seemed to be doing their own thing, hard to keep them all together, Susi and January and I drifted off, no one followed, we went out to some rocks in the sand and kept going to 14 meters, looking in vain for rays. We headed back into the rocks and found some boulders that invited exploration. We meandered in and out and up and down. The rocks were teeming with fusiliers over the rust colored coral carpet, and bigger jacks in the alleyways. We headed to a maximum depth of just over 14 meters, and on the way back from that foray, encountered a huge honeycomb moray that fascinated the ladies, who were seeing one for the first time (Bobbi and Ken saw one, maybe the same one, with a cleaner wrasse that entered the moray's mouth and cleaned way back in the throat - gulp! I saw a wrasse around the mouth of this one, might have been the same one).
Eventually we reached our agreed end of dive time of 45 min and I suggested a safety stop. We hung out at 5 meters enjoying our last 3 minutes and at the surface Susi declared that this was her best dive ever. For me it was just another day in paradise, though it was a comfortable, enjoyable dive, and the ladies had handled themselves like champions. And congratulations to Susi on completing her course.