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.