3/18/2010

Dive Log: Hatare Gala and Meda Gala (27/12/2009)

Dive #11 and #12, diving off Bentota with Thambapanni Dive Center.

Hatare Gala: Bottom time – 31 minutes; Depth – 22 meters

I needed to get out of the hotel, Taj Exotica, despite the nice rooms was vastly overpriced for what you got, especially in terms of food, but we had come there for a short break before the end of 2009 none the wiser. With the lunacy dripping out of the back of my skull I called reception and requested they put me in touch with a dive center. Another phone call and I was booked for bright and early in the morning for a two tank dive.

Then next day a gentleman named Sri who looked liked he was built out of a tree trunk picked me up from the reception and took me to get my equipment sorted out (me being too lazy to bring my BCD and Reg to Bentota). Geared up and meeting another couple who were going to be doing their last two training dives for their Open Water License we headed to the dock. Heading out to the dive sites was an interesting experience as we had to breach the Bentota River, the green-brown, white tipped waters roiling as the fresh water of the river met the saline solution of the sea.

A relatively short ride and we were ready to roll off. My divemaster was an old grizzled Lankan hand, having had many stints at commercial diving in the Middle East under his belt. The back roll was a bit disconcerting since it had been over a year since I’d done a back roll into the water and six months since my last dives in California.

Gurgling down to the bottom, I was greeted by gigantic rock structures amongst white sands. I believe this site is listed on Dive Sri Lanka as the Canoe Rock site because the pictures look pretty similar to what I saw…which I guess is not saying much given the vastness of the ocean. Snappers and fusiliers flitted in and out of the rock as I adjusted to having a BC on and breathing through my mouth again. Equalizing a bit more and coming to terms with the mask pressing against my face, we headed off around the rocks.

The biggest moment of excitement on the dive was when a huge grey shape loomed out of the murk, visibility being a somewhat mediocre 10 meters (what I’m spoiled?!). For a moment a mixture of fear and excitement gripped me as I thought SHARK! But marginally disappointingly it turned out to be a rather good sized Seer fish alternatively known as an Indo-Pacific King Mackerel. Not quite a shark but still exciting stuff.

Medagala: Bottom time – 35 minutes; Depth – 20 meters

The second dive was somewhat similar to the first. More big rocks and sand. I believe this may be the site called the South Reef on Dive Sri Lanka or possibly even vice versa with the previous dive.

The Bump-head Parrotfish were the most obvious of the initial sites as we bottomed out at 20 meters, regulators hissing reassuringly.  The fish were feeding heavily on the coral encrusting the rocks and the crunch, crunch of their heavy beaks breaking into the calcium was a constant background symphony to the dive. The big fish seemed to like me in Bentota because a few minutes into the dive a Great Barracuda  joined us for a bit. Not wanting to frighten him off I tried to breath as discreetly as possible but on the first bubbles escaping from my reg, the Barracuda (actually a juvenile so relatively small) inched closer in curiosity, silvery black against the black backdrop of the hulking rocks.

After the Barracuda took his/her leave the dive was relatively quiet apart from a couple of giant lobsters pirouetting in a cave. Tried to peer under the ledge into the cave, I realized that I still had a long way to go with handling my neutral buoyancy as I bounced up and down probably scaring the heck out of the lobsters. Back on the boat as we headed back into the Bentota River, the waters looking a lot surlier with the high tide, my divemaster gave me a spiel on how delicious lobsters are freshly caught from the ocean.

As I dried off in the hotel, I looked at the menu.

Rs.3,000 for a lobster

For that price I would expect the lobster to serenade me before dinner as well so I stuck to an overpriced piece of slipper that masqueraded as a burger from the room service menu.

Give Taj Exotica a miss if you are ever in that area, if you like value for money that is.

2 comments:

Chavie said...

3K for a lobster?! :O

So, speaking of sharks, have you come face to face with one here? Or in California?

Offthebeatentrack said...

Steer clear of Taj Exotica for sure! Food used to be really good but not anymore.

Haven't seen any sharks, they're all fished out here:( Really want to do cage diving with Great Whites though one day!