Tung Ping Chau, Crescent Island (Wu Pai) and Round Island
I love the smell of petrichor in the morning, it smells like wet diving. We had an early start, meeting up at Sam Mun Tsai just before 8am. It was dry at 0700, but began to rain the more vans turned up. Gear and 36 tanks loaded, we headed for the floating pontoons and some high level faffing. I can only assume having lost equipment recently, the chief protagonist had added additional string and clips to avoid a repeat. In any event whilst most people had finished kitting up and loading the boat, grand champion dalliance had time to be awarded an trophy for his efforts.
Chief DM allocated divers to the three boats, with plans to try three dives on 2 tanks. The wind was light, but sunshine and showers were forecast, which turned out to be persistent and heavy rain at times. Not a problem in the water, but felt like someone throwing gravel in your face, zooming along on the boats. All loaded we set off to dive one at Tung Ping Chau.
The boat trip took around 40 minutes and allowed some relaxation and shut eye on the way out. If you had been looking at the rain and passing scenery you will have passed some of the oldest rocks in Hong Kong on either side of the Tolo channel. Sediments laid down in the Devonian period contain fossilised fish. However you may have also seen some odious hand signals from some vile individuals on other boats.
On arrival we headed towards the pier and were advised there is a strip of coral running east of our stopping point. We all entered the water at the same time and began patrolling. The site is around 4-6 metres over the coral and runs a fair distance, maybe 500-600 metres of coral clusters of different types. This is probably one of the biggest areas of coral left in Hong Kong. There were several grouper and Jo saw a particularly big one that disappeared. We had flute fish, lots of Cromis hiding in the coral a plenty of crabs of different types. The striking thing was the amount and variety of different corals at the site. I would like to thank Alex for his excellent eyesight (despite activity and close up work that may have impaired it over the years) in finding my compass which went for a float just as we started to return.
We then set off for Crescent island and the small rock that is surrounded by coral. This was a short and bumpy ride, but took place after several sandwiches in the rain and liquids. On arrival however the pelvic floor of an entire boat appeared to have collapsed as everyone jumped in or was pushed into the water. The synchronised slashing was appalling on yet another pristine site. It was unclear if one elderly gentleman was taking a run at the activity increasing the PH value of his wetsuit before being pushed into the water, but one boat was simply uncouth. Rumours ware unclear but this was nothing compared to other easing at various states of nocturnal repose. I can only offer a few words. The only difference between a duck with a cold and James is one is a sick duck –
Through the warmer waters the dive site was coral from around 2 metres down to 6-7 where it met sand. Again a large variety of coral, lots of crabs and a variety of fish including sweet lips, different butterfly fish, grouper and odd eel. There were large shoals of cromis and a fair amount of rabbit fish. It was so good, we managed 2 laps and a 72 minute dive, me on the same tank. Doing a lap of the island seemed to be a good idea, if the rock is about 20 metres across, provided you keep on shoulder on the rocky bit. All back on-board and we had a short run to Round Island.
A short surface interval and a reverse profile and we headed for the northerly corner and a deep drop off. Being brave and with a new tank, those with air went for the drop into nothing and a navigational challenge to find the island. At about 14 metres it was cold, 23 degrees (surface was 26-27 on the day) so it felt nippy. It was also milky cloudy and a lovely soft and silty bottom. Vis down to 50 cm we headed on a correct bearing and it started getting warmer and more shallow. Heading clockwise we headed around the island. There is a bit of coral, but it is mainly sandstone rock and a fair amount of fish life. We got a big cuttlefish early on, before Maddy showed us two small octopus hiding in a hole. We turned the dive and headed back, more fish and great rock formations at 3-5 metres viz, better in a band from 8-12 metres down. Just before the bag went up, we found a huge octopus and hung at 5 metres in a big shoal of Cromis. Probably sensible after around 3 hours under water. We still managed around 50 minutes on the last dive.
On the top, there was a degree of hanging round, but we were missing two divers. We headed off to the south end of the island and heard what we thought was a Plover, (in Plover Cove??) what else could it be. It was apparent that lapping the island was a bad idea and the fragile pelvic floor was grumbling. Two anonymous divers were rescued having relieved themselves on the Devonian sand stone. They were soon reunited with their fellow divers and several pictures were taken.
Everyone was happy with the day. We sped back into Tolo, signalling hand gestures, some drinking beer. Tanks unloaded, then washed and changed on the fish farm and all finished for 5pm. Vans full, bags packed we headed home. Mostly, unless you were blocked in by some inconsiderate personage.
Thank you Alex from all of your diver friends. Thanks to everyone making it a great day, we hardly noticed the rain, well mostly. Can we do it again, can we, please, go on, I will behave. A great day.
(Petrichor – Is the smell of rain on the ground – Not to be confused with the smell of p1ss in a wetsuit)