Author: Mike B
The whatsapp message came though from ‘Candy”, the Dive Manager on Saturday morning to the lucky group of divers “Don’t forget sin [sic} cream, there’s not much cover on the boat, the weather is sunny / clouding intermittent so prepare for the sun.” He was right about the weather. We were all eager to kick start the SCDC dive season again, after 7 weeks since the last trip due to Covid-19 and the six of us felt privileged and felt sorry (not) to those that to sign-up.
The 10th May had been selected in the dive calendar because it was a spring high tide with a height of 2.4m, and its usually a great time for the good visibility, and the water warming up. We were departing from the San Mun Tzai fish farms, travelling on speed boats up the Tolo Harbour and beyond. The speed boat gives a bigger distance range allowing for more dive site options and a chance to explore new sites which very few divers can visit. Preparing for off at the fish farm, we could see the bottom clearly with visibility at least 8m-10m.
The speed boat gives a bigger distance range allowing for more dive site options and a chance to explore new sites which very few divers can visit.
On this trip, for the first time this year, there were more wetsuit divers (4) Vs drysuit divers (2), giving the clue the water was warming up. And it was, sort of! On the way out, we stopped off at the ARs (artificial reefs, made up of deliberately sunk, confiscated old fishing trawlers) to test the visibility. Lessons learnt from experience, good vis on the surface at the ARs, doesn’t extend down to the bottom due to the location of the wrecks in the bay. We’ve done a number of dives, literally crawling on the wreck in zero vis for a hour wishing we hadn’t picked the site. On some occasions the vis has been good, making the dives on the ARs very special. However, its pot luck and so the plan on this trip was for a guinea pig to jump in, check out the viz on the bottom, then report back. The guinea pig was me, 2 minutes later, I came back to the surface saying no-go, noting that it was also freezing below 6m.
Photo credit: Mike B & Cath C
We headed further out to a dive site that has been good to us before called Sha Pai. This site is a sunken pinnacle of sort, a few meters below the surface, very long and narrow shaped rock with a max depth of about 15m. Visibility from the boat looked good, and it was, above 11m depth, below that it was 2m. Best option in this situation was to stay above 11m and enjoy the daylight. My buddy and I opted to go anti-clockwise round the pinnacle, seeing lionfish, loads of damsel fish, soft and hard coral, eels and some quite rare type (for HK) butterfly fish. Towards the end of the dive, Candy and Aurlien passed us, bringing with them a small remora fish which decided to stick around us. For those that have never had the “delight” of diving with these pesky fish, they like to attach themselves to large animals in the sea for a free ride, and that can include divers. I had a buddy next to me once, who won’t be named, quite enjoying the feeling of large remora sucking on the inside thigh of his leg while on a long deco hang in the South China Sea. However, if not prepared, these fish can give a fright when they decide to attach themselves onto you. It was also fun, after your buddy has seen the remora, to then touch your buddy’s leg to simulate a remora, usually it’s a knee jerking reaction, a punch and a look in the eye through the mask, saying dare do that again. I did it once on this dive, proved it still can cause the intended reaction and decided it was best not to create more trouble! After 60 minutes, dSMBs up and popped up to see how far we missed the boat anchor.
Video credit: Andy N; For more good photos from Andy N, check out the PDF below:
Everyone back on board, we opted to head over to another dive site called Rob’s knob, so called because Rob didn’t listen to instructions, became lost after a dive while the we searched for him, and when we did finally see him marooned on a tiny patch of sand on the island, decided to call him a knob!. The actual name of the dive site is Round Island. When conditions are good, it can make for a great dive whereby the divers just swim in one direct, as far as possible around the island while the boat follows. It can also be a very easy dive for those that find underwater navigation difficult. So with Andy on the boat, we decided this was the best plan, ie, jump in and just keep swimming with the island on the left shoulder all the time, until down to 50 bar. A prize to the dive pair that travelled the furthest round the island. The boat anchored and we could clearly see the bottom in 6m of water.
Jumping in, Cath lost her camera after the strap broke. A frantic 2 min search on the bottom found the camera, helped by the clear water.
Jumping in, Cath lost her camera after the strap broke. A frantic 2 min search on the bottom found the camera, helped by the clear water. We first headed over to the brown Sargassum seaweed beds which come up 2m from the bottom to the surface making great photo opportunities. Then turned to start swimming this time clockwise around the island. Taking the bearing before jumping in gave reference to the direction change in turning round, and indicating how far round we were going. Along the way managed to see big shoals of damsels, a few nudis, puffer fish, wrasse, and towards the end a shoal of pomfret fish, amongst a group of snappers. Also noticed it was 26 degrees water temperature in the top 6m, but below that, dropped to 22 degrees!. Hence we were wised to stay shallow. After 75min, with a safe 50bar left in a tank, we resurfaced to find ourselves travelling about 2/3rds round the island. The boat was perfectly placed 15m away and as planned, had followed us all the way. Before we managed to get back on the boat, another dSMB popped up, just 5m behind us. Candy and Aurlien showed up underneath it and we claimed victory. Another 5 minutes later, no sign of Andy and Tai so started making ourselves back round the island on the boat, to discover them close to Rob’s knob beach. We heard the same old excuses why they messed up, and we didn’t care. All in all, a good day out, a great SCDC dive team and good water conditions, hope it continues!