Dive #19 and #20, diving off Colombo with Colombo Divers and divemaster (instructor in training) Jehan.
Barracuda Reef: Bottom time – 42 minutes; Depth – 23 meters
Sinking to the bottom off the reef, I was torn between being annoyed at myself for scraping my knees on the reef as I amateurishly tried to maintain buoyancy and be amazed at the shoal of barracuda in the near distance. As the yellow barracuda faded into the blue I righted myself, put a bit of air into my BCD and regained some dignity.
Barracuda Reef of course lived up again to expectations with Fusiliers swirling, a couple of baby Sri Lankan Hogfish and Timor wrasse putting in appearances. The latter fish is exceptionally beautiful, bluey greeny in colour with bright orange markings all over it. It was also only around 10cm in length and was thus easily overlooked. Having finally gotten some measure of neutral buoyancy I was thrilled to view the Timor Wrasse close up as I hovered above the reef.
As we moved along the reef, more and more fish turned up and swirled past More shoals of glassfish insisted that we swim through their iridescent forms. A Scorpionfish nestled in a gully as I swam respectfully past, giving it a wide berth. Jehan excitedly pointed at a tiny fish that I could only describe as a minute, multicoloured, iridescent leaf. Another time we hovered over another fissure in the rock as tiny golden shrimp sheltered within, jetting out every now and then to entertain themselves.
As we turned around and swam back to the anchor line we were hit by a strong current. In the deep blue as we moved forwards fighting the current, a small, yellow and black striped fish peeled off the reef and decided to adopt us. It was extremely endearing, circling around us, peering into our masks and acting almost like a tiny aquatic inquisitive puppy. The more I dive, the more I come to think fish do really have personalities (alternatively the pressure might be getting to me). Finally giving up the fight against the current we took leave of our little yellow friend and surfaced to be picked up by the boat.
Formosa Reef: Bottom time – 62 minutes; Depth – 12.7 meters
Yes this dive was long, very long! Formosa reef has plenty of attractions despite its rather shallow depth with a Giant Moray curled up in one of the holes in the rock, gaping rather timidly at us. There were also a number of Lionfish that had apparently decided to take an afternoon nap, one hanging on the side of a rock, looking slightly macabre, like a dark red, aquatic deadly bat. It was in such a deep sleep that even our bubble blowing interest in it didn’t disturb it and we drifted off leaving him in peace.
Two huge Blue Ringed Angelfish kept us company, hovering the reef in search of food. We passed a pair of adult Oriental Sweetlips, yellow and black in their finery and hovered over some beautiful nudibranches. The highlight was a pair of nudibranches, white and delicate purple in colour, which appeared to either be getting it on or following one another very closely. The one behind had its mouth (?) firmly latched onto the tail of the one in front as they proceeded along the reef, all of about 5cm of delicate beauty.
After we hit half a tank we swam back to the anchor line, the visibility reducing significantly as the current streamed brown and green particles behind us. The last bit was pretty tiring for me, having spent almost one and a half hours under water and I was for once, quite glad to hang in the water for our five minute safety stop, drifting through another cloud of small jellyfish, before finally clambering back onto the boat. Exhausted but content.