Dive #46 and #47, diving off Mount Lavinia with Colombo Divers, Boatman Ravinda , Divemaster Jehan, Dive guide Nishan and buddy whose name I cannot remember.
Cargo Wreck: Bottom time – 49 minutes; Depth – 31.3 meters
It was a dark and stormy morning as I moseyed down to the Dive center greeted by Nishan, Jehan and our buddy who were sitting solemnly in a row outside the center. My heart quailed a bit when Nishan said the dive for the day was cancelled due to rain. I hadn’t dived for over a week and a half due to a trip out of Colombo to see whales in Mirissa (more on that later) and a hectic schedule had kept me in office. I was starting to hallucinate at my desk with the white wall in front of me suddenly turning into deep blue with a trumpet fish dancing temptingly in front of me. As you can see I needed to dive (though I am wondering with some trepidation as to what the heck will happen when dive season ends).
Thankfully Nishan was just having me on…well to a certain extent. We did have to wait to see how the conditions panned out and what Ravindra said about going out since he was the boatman with all the experience. We sheltered under the roof off the dive center as the rain seemed to go on interminably. Finally getting a break in the rain we loaded our gear into the boat and stood ready to go as the waves crashed and surged around us in the surf. Ravindra though, played the waves adroitly with superlative skill, waiting for just the right moment, the right break in the waves and we got out with barely a splash.
The first time I went out to the Cargo wreck it was a grey morning as well, but that time the sea had been as flat calm. Today it was as grey but an angry, white tipped grey with monsoon like swells. We even had trouble hooking onto the wreck due to the surge but eventually we hooked on after a few tries. Rolling in and moving down the greyness of the morning turned into the blue of the Cargo wreck. The visibility wasn’t the best, 8 meters or so but the fish life was profuse.
As I hovered above Nishan as he equalized a sudden movement caught my eye. I looked down hurriedly and was greeted to the somewhat comical sight of Nishan obliviously and diligently pressing down on his nose while a few meters below him Elvis or Priscilla (one of the two resident giant Sting Rays) pelted hell for leather across the sand heading for the safety of the wreck. Hooting excitedly through my regulator to get Nishan’s attention I exhaled and finned down to rest in the sand at 30m and stare delightedly at the Sting Ray as it flurried the sand, burying itself in it, white flakes drifting down around its bulbous eyes. Nishan wagged his finger at me as I took my leave off the Ray, shamefacedly scattering the sand as I regained my forgotten buoyancy.
As we swam around the wreck at 30m I had a strange sensation. Drifting over the familiar lifeboat on the sand it felt like the mother of all head rushes. Trying to figure out what the heck was going on, I suddenly came to the realization that I was probably narced. The late night out before was apparently causing me to experience the rapture of the depths, something I had never had before even at 30 meters. Making a mental note(s) not to go out before dives, keep my reg in my mouth and avoid conversations with any fish that seem so inclined I moved up the wreck to a higher profile and things seemed to calm down.
The surge conditions had apparently brought a bucket load of nutrients to the Cargo along with the somewhat limited visibility (well limited to those spoilt by tropical conditions) and the fish life was abundant. Shoals of bait fish surged above the wreck as we hung taking it all in. The silvery fish moved as one as a Surgeon fish suddenly rose and hit the shoal for a quick snack. Things got more exciting as five Bonitos flashed by on the hunt, hitting the shoal again and again, the epitome of speed and grace in the water. Large Yellow Backed Fusiliers were also in attendance getting cleaned by Cleaner Wrasses which in their enthusiasm for their job went headfirst into the Fusilier’s mouths. Nishan ever the comedian took his regulator out of his mouth and mimed the Wrasses doing a cleaning job on his teeth.
As our non-decompression time came to an end and we swam to the anchor line, the Bonitos zipped by right under us, concentrated silver streaks in the blue. Nishan and I exchanged happy grins as another brilliant dive on the Cargo came to an end.
Barracuda Reef: Bottom time – 46 minutes; Depth – 23.5 meters
The cut-cake, square-sectioned wonderland of Barracuda Reef rose up at us, the crevices sure to provide us with a lot of fish and macro life. Apparently the resident Lionfish had been busy over the past week and a half I hadn’t dived and reproduced quite happily. A few young lionfish drifted through the rocky canyons, looking ethereally beautiful with long delicate fins, pale white and brown. I called Jehan over and borrowed his torch to look at a goby like fish that was the same colour as the red and yellow coral on the rocks hopping around in the beam.
A couple of Phyllidiopsis phiphiensis nudibranches were present while the regular Phyllidia ocellata were present as well, resplendently dark orange and yellow. As I drifted over the reef I suddenly came across two Goatfish on a patch of coral having a quiet moment together, the looks of outrage from them were apparent as I beat a hasty retreat leaving them to their own devices. There was yet another surprise as we moved over the reef as I noted a white, pointy head poking out of a hole in the reef. Swimming over thinking it was a Moray I was a bit perplexed by what looked like some sort of thin white headed fish hiding in the hole and staring at me beadily. No-one seemed to have any idea what it was though it could quite possibly have been a Snake Eel judging from the shape of the head.
I was so absorbed in the intricacies of the reef that I failed to notice my ultra conservative computer had decided I needed 10 minutes of decompression time. As I slowly ascended, Jehan pointed excitedly into the misty blue as another Giant Ray flapped gracefully away about 20 meters away. Two dives and two Giant Rays, life certainly was good despite the extended deco stop screwing with my sinuses.
Unfortunately the conditions topside weren’t as forgiving as they were in the Big Blue, the surge still pretty big, stiff winds and intense surf on the beach. Ravindra waited; hand on the throttle, eyes intently watching the waves before judging the perfect break and gunning us onto the beach as smoothly as silk. A truly professional boatman.