Dive #26 and #27, diving off Mount Lavinia with Colombo Divers, Boatman Ravinda, Divemaster Jehan, buddy Ricardo and Instructor Paris for the second two dives of my Advanced Open Water Course.
Cargo Wreck: Bottom time – 40 minutes; Depth – 31.3 meters
This dive combined my Deep, Multilevel and Wreck dives for my Advanced Certification together. The deep blue over the Cargo beckoned as always as we moored over the site after my briefing about narcosis, wrecks and a diveplan drawn up for the Multilevel dive. This was only second visit to the Cargo and I was excited (there’s my understatement for the year). Roll off and down to the wreck, my descent controlled with my new found buoyancy skills. The usual shoal of fusiliers was missing but as the white speckled ship rose up out of the blue the usual explosion of fish life dazzled.
My old friend the trumpetfish was in attendance but a bit skittish this time as we drifted along the wreck. This being a Deep dive, we bottomed out and 30m as we moved towards the back of the ship. I rather nervously looked around to see if any effects of narcosis would manifest themselves. I figured if Paris or Jehan’s heads suddenly expanded to the size of beach balls or if a Snapper started having a conversation with me that might be a small sign that I was being narced.
Things however remained normal, well as normal as it can be 30m under the sea, swimming under the propeller of a giant sunken cargo ship carrying your own life support system with you. More amazing that normal I guess and the superlatives failed me as I turned on my back as my bubbles streamed past the coral encrusted propeller and we glided under and in between the keel of the ship and the sand.
We took a break for Paris to show me his dive slate with red, blue and green markings to confirm that at these depths these colours looked the same. After a bit more puttering around at 30m oohing and aaahing (figuratively of course) we moved up to 20m per our multilevel dive plan and continued exploring the wreck until our decompression time started ticking down to zero and we took leave of our fishy friends. I surfaced with 82 bar and the Advanced Water Certification having done my first 30m dive. I made a mental note to start reading Diver Down so I didn’t get too cocky.
Serendip Reef: Bottom time – 62 minutes; Depth – 23.1 meters
Don’t let the bottom time shown above fool you. I screwed up on this dive and misread my damn computer which was a bit of a damper end to what was otherwise a brilliant first trip to the outer reef for me. Thus I ended up with something akin to a 20 minute decompression stop at 3m after the last deep dive. It was a rather sobering reminder that I was still very much a beginner diver and I had a fair distance to go with regard to familiarizing myself with my computer and really getting to grips with managing my dive times. I kinda felt bad for Paris, Ricardo and Jehan as they hung around at 3m waiting for my computer to tick down.
Diving Serendip Reef is somewhat akin to swimming in a giant fishtank, albeit one that is over 20 meters deep and full of wondrous life that no fish tank could ever emulate. A small shoal of blue and black surgeonfish swirled as we descended, the white sand contrasting beautifully with the blue, 20m plus visibility water. Specks of coral littered the ocean floor, some alive but some dead (not sure why) Blue Lined Snappers whirled while Gobys peered out from their holes.
The undoubted stars of Serendip however were the Anemone Fish. About 10cm long one defended his Anemone vigorously, swimming up to both Paris and I and chucking at us. This fish had some serious balls, sort of the equivalent of me charging up to a T-Rex and hooting at him (no I don’t have that much balls, show me a real live T-Rex and I’ll need a change of underwear, several changes probably).
After exploring the reef and on our way back I noticed a crab sheltering in the Anemone. Drifting down to investigage, the Anemone Fish was nowhere to be seen. As I moved off however I was treated to the comical sight of the fish poking his head out indignantly from the Anemone with an expression of YOU!!! AGAIN!!!
True characters of the reef, the Anemone fish and it’s a shame that their boldness leads them often to be captured for the aquarium trade, where most die in transport or due to poor care from their erstwhile but often uninformed owners.
Incidentally this was also my last dive with Paris who had to head back to Greece, so I packed him off with a bottle of Old Reserve and an offer to take him on safari to see some leopard if he came back. Here's hoping to see him back in sunny Sri Lanka again!