Congratulations to Ala Jadooa, certified as a PADI open water diver today, and also Elizabeth Peters, who successfully completed her first two dives for the course!
Al Mahara is a diving center recently started up by my long-time friends in Abu Dhabi Kathleen and Alistair Russell. We've dived together often before but this was my first time with them under the new dive flag, http://www.divemahara.com/.
We went to Delta Buoy which I hadn't visited in some time. Alistair moored NE of the gully I used to visit often when I would drop in between there and the buoy itself. I would approach from just east of the buoy (west of the gulley) and I used to know pretty spot on where it was, and I left some poles propped upright there to help me find it, so I used to go there my every visit to Delta Buoy, but this time, coming from the opposite direction, I wasn't able to find the spot I was looking for, though we did find some significant ridges with angel and banner fish, black spotted yellow grunts, and a few hamour lurkng about, with snappers spilling over them in a dense rush.
It was pleasant diving. The ladies both did very well. Ala started off with a well-executed CESA from 9 meters, and back at the surface, after resolving minor weighting problems, we all descended together into pleasantly cool water, vis about 10 meters, 10:44 on my watch. Ala had to hover and removed her mask and replace it, and Elizabeth's task was just to enjoy the dive. We meandered looking for fish (me trying to locate that certain gully, in vain), 10 or 11 meters max, until at 11:25 Ala signaled low on air and we came up some distance from the boat. This gave us a chance to run through Ala's remaining surface skills before the boat reached us and we climbed back aboard.
For the second dive Alistair dropped us at a nearby reef I'd never visited before, called Phil's Reef I think, after someone who had found several bamboo sharks hiding under a rock there (why not bamboo reef, I wonder?). At least that was the story. There was a stiff surface current that complicated entry though once we headed down the anchor line at around 12:30 it wasn't too bad at the bottom. I used the anchor to fix a point for Ala's compass out and back, her last skill to complete her course. She started into the current and then got carried by the current past the anchor on the return leg, but she was keeping track of kicks so she managed to turn and look around before she had gone far, well done for a novice. I had Elizabeth do her module 2 skills in the same spot and then we were ready for a look around. I tried to keep to a square but the current combined with curiosity to exam outcrops here and there blasted that away. I tried to head us into the current more or less on the assumption that would keep us at least in the vicinity of the boat, but it didn't work, and when Ala went low on air we surfaced where we happened to be. This time it was Elizabeth's turn to do surface skills while we waited.
That dive was 10 meters (or 11, max) for about 35 minutes.
Lovely day out in Abu Dhabi out of the heat and traffic. I'm ready to revisit the wrecks!