Dive #39 and #40, diving off Mount Lavinia with Colombo Divers, Boatman Ravinda , Divemaster Jehan, and instructor Shaf.
Cargo Wreck: Bottom time – 44 minutes; Depth – 31 meters
This was a dive with a couple of old hands at the game, Shaf and Jehan, and the plan was to spend as much time underwater as possible without going into ridiculous deco times. As we hit the wreck, bait balls boiled out of the blue, Fusiliers exploding past us as they surged silvery in the water. There was more of a current than usual hence the activity of the Fusiliers. On the body of the wreck there were the usual suspects roaming around, a school of Blue-lined Snappers, a phalanx of blue and yellow swimming along.
Shaf peeled away from us to go explore the innards of the wreck (please note that wreck exploration and solo diving requires very specialized training and as such should only be done by suitably qualified divers). I finned down to one of the lifeboats lying disconsolately on the bottom, ghosting the sand. Even this small rusted hulk on the seafloor provided an excellent habitat for ocean organisms, bristle stars poked out of the openings and as I explored more, I was delighted to see two minuscule Pipefish, brown and white splotched which were apparently having a tryst on the top of the lifeboat. I excitedly waved Jehan over to show him the romantic twosome before swimming over the lifeboat to investigate the yellow-white sand around the boat.
That was where I had some slight misgivings about the dive. The sand was peppered with Gobys who poked their heads incongruously out of their holes to watch me warily. As I watched the fish, two merged into one and then split. Blinking a couple of times I stared again in disconcertion as the Gobys continued their party trick, two then one, two then one. That’s when I realized that the late night I had had before had caused me to get narced. There was little danger though as I had not the slightest desire to do anything like taking my reg off and attempting to skip along the ocean bottom. I gestured to Jehan that we should go up and level off at the top of the ship so that we could get more bottom time out of this dive and moved slowly up the wreck.
At the lip of the wreck, the surge was apparent and riding it was quite fun as the underwater wave pushed us up and under the edge of the top of the ship. Some caution is needed with this however as if the surge is too strong and you’re distracted (which is very easy given the preponderance of life on the wreck) you can either be slammed into the wreck or suffer an uncontrolled ascent to the surface from 20 meters, neither option being a good one. After enjoying the underwater surfing for a bit we ate up the rest of our time taking a closer look at the rubble of the ship scattered around its deck and mid ship. Having sunk in a storm, there were signs of a violent demise everywhere on the ship, giant tires and twisted metal littered the ship. The savage beauty of what nature can do to man’s creations is very much in evidence on this wreck.
Barracuda Reef: Bottom time – 52 minutes; Depth – 23.2 meters
Buddying up with Shaf can sometimes be an exhausting activity. While I like moseying around a reef, poking my head into crevasses in the hope of finding some interesting macro stuff to gaze adoringly and possibly have my head bitten off by a testy Moray Eel, Shaf like to swim….a lot….
So we swam along, taking some time out to check out the usual Phyllidia ocellata which were actually the two resident ones which are always present near the GPS point that we anchor on and a Chromodoris geminus that we chanced on, quite a beautiful specimen almost glowing blue and yellow. And we continued swimming along, me pausing occasionally to stick a head in a crevasse, only to look up and see Shaf disappearing determinedly into the blue yonder. Of course Jehan was right next to me the whole time so I wasn’t exactly solo diving but Shaf in addition to being quite active under water has the sharpest eyes I have ever seen underwater. So I didn’t really want to miss out on anything he happened upon so we swam along, keeping an eye on each other.
We took a break from exploring the reef to have our hands cleaned by a zealous cleaner shrimp, beautifully red and yellow striped with ludicrously long white antennae. If you ever come across these critters on a dive, you can get a good manicure done by them in no time at all. Shaf entertained himself by playing with a see-through ghost shrimp while we had our manicures done. Moving on we noted that our no-deco time was ticking down and as Shaf and I exchanged signs that we needed to level off, a sudden movement from a ledge looming over us to the right grabbed our attention. A stunning, extremely large Batfish burst from under the reef, spooked by us and moving fast, a round, silver, black and yellow blur. What a way to end a dive!
While Shaf may enjoy swimming fast while diving, he does also like to be the most chill person I have ever seen ascending, hanging motionless and coming up at a snails pace with just his breathing. I quite enjoyed the experience as well, keeping him company, floating in the warm, blue embrace of the ocean, watching the tendrils and filaments of little sea creatures drifting by. Coming up from such a meditative trip is always tough for me as I break the surface and the sunlight is no longer filtered through the Grand Bleu.