The viz wasn’t excellent… it was AMAZING! I have to admit to a guilty little secret. A few of us in the club know this, and it only comes from having dived in Hong Kong for many many moons. And here’s my confession; I knew in advance that the visibility on this dive was going to be really good. And how did I know this? Well, this time of year is when the ocean currents in the Taiwan Straits change direction and start to bring warmer water towards southern China. For a brief period of time during early to mid-May, the water temperature starts warm up as fresh water from the south floods in around the territory. This fresh water is untainted by the sediment of Hong Kong shoreline run-off, so it is about as perfect as it gets in Hong Kong.
As Dive Manager, I wanted to pick a dive site that I knew was good for fish watching. Again, looking at my dive log and seeing my notes, I picked a site that was as far outside of the channel where there is some current and (as I realized) nearby reefs where fish like to go. If the wind permitted, we were headed to Kung Chau. A few days before the dive, the weather report suddenly looked grim. Scattered thundershowers and force 5 winds were predicted. But as we loaded the boat and started heading out, the seas were perfectly calms and there was just a hint of cloud in the sky. Perfect conditions, thank you Observatory! I was anticipating a 90 minute ride out to Kung Chau with at least some swells to knock the boat around, but it was nearly glass smooth and we made it in under an hour. Andy Niven, our trusty safety snorkeler and resident ‘merman’ slipped into the water quickly and confirmed what I had suspected. The visibility wasn’t excellent… it was AMAZING!
And we could see that he was right. The seafloor was visible in towards shore, and the water had a lovely blue hue. Today, we were in for a treat! I told the divers that we have plenty of time and all day to enjoy, so relax and take as long as you want on these dives. But that didn’t slow down the first wave who prepared quickly and jumped in with excitement. I checked my watch and marked the time at 9:40am on the dive log, which is probably a record start to the day. And we had many more hours to enjoy. Candy and Cath were first, followed by Chris, Gu and Tam. James and the Merman were given the ‘go signal’ 20 minutes later. Once the first divers were up, Cath and Ting were off followed by me and Andy E (a.k.a Randy). The diving operations were perfect clockwork with this team; barely a thing for a DM to do with so many experienced people onboard. When it was my turn, Andy and I dropped straight down under the boat where it was 20m deep. The water was a bit green, and it did have some particles floating about, but it was still clear up to about 10 meters. We headed due south towards the island where, at about 10 meters depth, the visibility improved a bit more and then gave us an amazing sight. There were fish everywhere. Large schools of silver fish zipping around our heads, spotted groupers darting between rocks, pairs of large sweetlips sweeping by, and what turned out to be large clams that looked like technicolor footballs. Soft coral dotted the rocks where crabs of all sorts were scurrying around, sand perches stood guard on rocks, lion fish fanned themselves out, and rock fish were nearly invisible to the eye as they melded into the scene . It really was an eyeful to behold. After 50 minutes, we surfaced and headed towards the boat. When we got back onboard I could see that everyone was wearing big smiles and chatting about their dive… except for Chris and Gu who had seen nothing more than rocks and sand. We asked where they went, and they pointed east, and the boat collectively pointed the opposite direction as if to say ‘Go west, young men, and you will find your fortune!’
Tam took over the DM responsibility for the second flight (thanks, Tam!) while I enjoyed my monster salad (aka digestion reboot, thanks to Sin Wah!). All was peaceful and I was getting ready to dive when suddenly Tam alerted me that Chris and Gu were not yet back and it had been over an hour. We started looking for bubbles on the surface and spotted one bubble cloud, but there were two pairs of divers in the water. In the back of my head I was thinking, ‘there’s nothing to worry about because these guys are totally diggin’ this dive!’ Sure enough, five minutes later we saw the DSMB pop up followed by Chris’ familiar head. We knew that all was Gu’d. Andy and I dropped in for our second dive, with the agreed plan of ‘let’s pick up where we left off!’ Which we did. And it was more of what we saw on the first dive. Lots more. And it was better.
But I won’t bore you with more fish description, so I will add as a final part of the story that when it was time for us to head back to the boat, we checked our navigation bearing and changed direction. And wouldn’t you know it, we found the drag line of the anchor, which led to the anchor, which led to the boat. Perfect navigation! We thought we had the gold medal until Catheryn’s DSMB popped up next to the boat. She wins…. again! Once back on board, it was like a zen garden. Everyone was deeply sated with calm looks in their eyes and perma-grins pressed to their mouths. I have to say that it was a ‘top 3’ Hong Kong dive for me, and definitely the best of the year! I hope that we have at least a few more of these perfect dives coming up, because honestly, this is what diving is all about!