Friday, December 4, 2009
November 28-29, 2009 – Vance, Bobbi, and Glenn off Trou aux Biches, Mauritius, my dives #934-936
We weren’t sure what to expect about diving in Mauritius. We had the impression from reading up that the best diving would be off the islands in the far north and we could have gone there if we had left Mahebourg early after sleeping over there our first night on the island, where our son Glenn flew in from Qatar and joined us at Le Bambou Guest House. It’s a small island, and if you rent a car you can reach almost anywhere in an hour, unless you get behind a cane truck, in which case allow an hour and a half (you’ll likely encounter several cane trucks, so better allow two hours).
But we lingered the following morning in Mahebourg and had crossed the island on the trunk road to Port Louis but had only reached Grand Baie by 11:00 next day. That was a tourist town in the north with lots of dive centers. Our Lonely Planet said the dive centers had moved a few kilometers away to Trou aux Biches at the northwest corner of the island so we gravitated there. Somehow we ended at Pro Dive where the aging owner Kevin, with luxury boat and frizzy blond hairdo, convinced us there hadn’t been sharks on the north islands since the last tsunami and the best diving was right there off Trou aux Biches. To top it off he got us a remarkable deal at the Casuarina resort where he was based. He quoted us a price so low we had to argue it with the manager, since Kevin had mentioned a very special group rate, but eventually the hotel honored the quoted price, which included breakfast and dinner plus free use of kayaks, paddleboats, windsurfers, and laser sailboats at times we weren’t diving. So we got to stay a couple of days at a luxury resort at a price so low I had to promise the manager I would not divulge it, and because we were guests at the resort we got discounted diving as well, $400 for the nine dives Bobbi, Glenn, and I ended up doing, fully equipped (with new 5 mm wetsuits, much appreciated, since the water temperature was 24 degrees at depth).
The diving was decent. We really liked the viz off Trou aux Biches. Our first dive was a little odd simply because we had been briefed for a wreck dive between 21 and 25 meters but ended up with a divemaster and a beginner and told to follow them, so we dived a shallow reef called Japanese Gardens, in the vicinity of the wreck that everyone else was diving. It wasn’t a bad site. We saw a cowtail ray in the sand and garden eels, and lots of the usual reef fishes. The beginner had trouble descending (ear problems) and the divemaster, Vivian, was testing a mask with a camera mounted on it, and both of these caused some delays as we meandered on the same part of the reef waiting for the student to join us, and for Vivian to take test photos.
Twenty minutes into the dive we had only reached 11 or 12 meters, far short of the 25 meter depth we were expecting, so we were a little confused. No telling what was happening exactly, but I had mentioned the day before when we were discussing possible dive sites that I was not impressed by wrecks per se, and I guess they wanted to check us out and needed someone who wasn’t that keen on wrecks to dive with the beginner. In any event, because of the odd outcome of our morning dive, for the afternoon, they reversed their groupings and took Bobbi and Glenn and I to the wreck while the others did their second dive of the day on the shallower Japanese Gardens where we had dived in the morning.
The wreck 'Japanese Trawler' was a nice one. Due to the great vis the wreck loomed at us as we approached, about 8 meters tall at the bow. At the stern we found another cow-tail ray, and in one of the funnels there was a green moray we were all encouraged to pet. The cargo holds were open, I dropped in to one (being sure to keep overhead clear so as not to technically penetrate) and the engine room was similarly exposed. Again it was full of fish and made a very pleasant dive. Glenn was somehow unable to switch his underwater camera from video to still photo mode and so videoed the entire dive, which we he's finally put up at YouTube.
The following day was a Sunday but because there were others who wanted to dive Kevin opened his shop for a morning trip to Coral Gardens, a site with gorgon fan corals off Club Med. The dive here was interesting at first, there was a big green momma moray we could stroke, being careful not to disturb her baby in the process, just as toothy as her momma. There were lots of scorpion fish and other small things hidden in the boulders, but eventually it became cold and redundant, and I was glad to surface and be on our way.