Monday, June 28, 2010

Rays at Lima with Discover Nomad June 25 and Freestyle diving June 26, 2010

My dives #994-996 Friday; Saturday #997-999
Diving with Nicki, standing in as dive mistress
Certified Marika Backman and Natalie Naysmith, open water, June 25, 2010
Jonny Ing did two advanced dives (underwater naturalist and peak buoyancy) June 25, 2010 and completed his advance course with a Deep Dive June 26, 2010

I got up before 5 in the morning in order to pick up Nicki and Marika and drive them across the UAE to the Discover Nomad dive center on the east coast, getting them there just before 9:30 in the morning.  A sixth diver in our group had canceled at the last minute, so when we arrived we discovered we had been given two other divers named Bijal and Mooyad (according to the list on the whiteboard) but they never turned up, so at 10:30 we were given permission to head to port.  Nomad were kind enough to assign us our own boat as usual, which is a great advantage in planning the best possible diving for your group.  We got on the boat, the amicable driver Hassan joined us, but we didn’t leave, waiting we were told, on two more.  Because we were just over the border in Oman our UAE phones didn’t work so I had to drive back to the dive center to ascertain that no more were coming and get them to communicate that to the handlers dockside so we could finally leave after 11:30.

My o/w students were a little anxious about the prospect of diving in the real ocean but when at 1:01 they were dropping into a sea of clear vis, with very little current, waters so tepid I was wearing only a .5 mm lycra, concerns vanished with the schools of batfish and fusiliers and jacks.  I quickly ran my students through their exercises (just orally inflate bdc, mask flood and clear) and we were off on a lovely dive.  Buoyancy was fine, air held out, we finned a little into the current at first, found the calm spot, moved into the side where the current started gently easing us toward the east corner, and turned around.

We caught up with the French pair with rebreathers doing their two-hour dive on the reef at that moment.  Because they dive for so long they take their time in the water.  They take photos and one of them likes to get himself positioned wedged into the coral, and since they dive that spot almost every week, I hate to think of the damage they would do if they rest on the coral often.

I was ahead of my divers.  Jonny had gone high, low on air.  Nicki was engaging Marika and Natalie in some form of display.  They were enjoying themselves, but whatever it was it was preventing me from getting their attention, because in the next valley down there were three eagle rays cavorting as they pleased.

The rays sort of split off as I approached them.  I asked Nicki later how many she had seen and she said two, so one had already split off and I was swimming after the other two when the ladies noticed what I was up to.  They were slightly different coloring, the dark spotted one was the same we had seen last week I think, as he didn’t mind my trailing not far above him until he headed out over the sand and then they were all gone.

We saw no whale sharks this day but we ended the dive in utter comfort, spending at least 5 minutes rising up through schools of fish, thoroughly enjoying the wildlife so much that I had the ladies remove and replace weights and bcds there so I would have an excuse to snorkel more at that spot.

We went over to the north side of the rock and had our lunch of dubious canned meat wraps.  Nicki scarfed down three of them and mentioned regrets later.  Nicki wanted to dive that side, I agreed, and the others didn’t mind.  We descended onto a large crayfish well exposed in an alcove, and I handed the ladies a pipefish to fondle.  We came upon a number of morays, a large honeycomb in a hole, a green one under a rock, and a yellowmouth grey one feinting fiercely from his habitat.  We had worked out on the tables that this dive could be 14 meters for 72 minutes or 16 for 51, and the rocks bottomed out in that range.

I was heading out alone over the sand sometimes, but keeping high off it looking for rays, always returning to the wall without seeing much more than sandy bottom.  However my last time out like that I found a school of devil rays.  The water here was brown and murky where the thermocline started, and the rays were concealed in it.  I called the others over and when my team joined me 7 devil rays passed in formation just below us, a lovely end to that dive.

Because they had thought more people were coming, at the docks they had given us plenty of tanks, and my group got me to ask the boatman if he would mind dropping us by Wonder Wall for a third dive.  Usually the boatmen complain about this, but I think it was my polite Arabic, Hassan agreed.  We liked him!

The dive on Wonder Wall was not all that great because it was late in the day and as it was our third dive, I'd calculated we could do ten to twelve meters for 40 minutes max.  Due to this limitation we couldn't explore the sand where we sometimes see rays, but we found small morays in the rocks, including a black and white banded one that Nicki got pictures of.  Three dives in one summer day, lovely conditions, we enjoyed the ride back in the warm breeze.

Next morning we were up early and across the border where I had arranged to take Jonny and Nicki on an Inchcape wreck dive using Freestyle Divers at Dibba Rock.  It was only the three of us on the boat, but there were two others at the Inchcape already when we arrived, so we took our time kitting up and managed to go down the rope to the wreck as the last of those divers were coming up.  It was Jonny’s advanced o/w dive at 30 meters so I had him do exercises on deck and then we dropped into the cargo hold and found one of the huge honeycomb morays there.  These ones had grown; the other one was in the sand trying to hide under the hull.  The wreck was thick with fish as usual, though we saw nothing else of unusual interest. We headed up the line at about 17 meters, Jonny having completed the diving portion of his advanced course.

Back at Freestyle we collected the ladies for their first dive as certified divers. Nicki had a headache and didn’t join us, and when she dropped out I was thinking that would relieve me of deciding whether to do the front or the back side.  Nicki likes to go out to the back, but if there’s a current sweeping across the back side it can be uncomfortable for beginners and I wanted to show them a good dive on the shallow reef.  The water was clear where we dropped in; however, there was silt on the reef, which was not looking all that healthy.  We got dropped in at the green buoy which means a long westerly swim to reach the reef, where we managed to find some barracuda.  I brought us to the north and then east off the reef to the aquarium.  Here there were pretty fish in the rust colored coral, and decent vis, but nothing to write home about, so I returned us to the east and back over what used to be raspberry coral but what was now becoming a little skeletal.  We found no sharks, no turtles, not even cuttlefish there.  It had started out looking like a good dive but ended in disappointingly hazy conditions on the main reef.

So it was not that interesting a dive for us, and imagine our surprise to find that all the other divers on our boat had gone to the front side and were raving about the whale shark they had seen there. Doh!

Natalie and Jonny were keen to head home after that dive, and Nicki wanted to join them.  Andrew told me they’d never seen the whale shark there on two subsequent dives, but Marika wanted to see if we could find it, so I agreed to stay for the three p.m. dive.  It was just Marika and I and two other young lady divers who had come down on an afternoon lark out of Dubai, plus their dive guide.  The guide was talking up the chance of seeing the whale shark, but to make a long story short, we didn’t see it or much else besides.  I hung out at 7 meters thinking if it did appear that’s where it would be, but I looked for rays and jawfish in the sand and morays in the rocks, and really found nothing.  And then when I got home at 10:00 I was up till 3 a.m. writing  At least the diving was pleasant; it’s always worth it, and you never know what you’ll see, or won’t see ;-)

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