Saturday, March 12, 2011

18 Feb 2011 - Dive 1 to 3 at house reef and white beach

Dive 1 - Blue Abyss House Reef

Dive: 83
Duration: 60 mins
Avg Depth: 11.49m
Max Depth: 18.6m

Our first check out dive was at the house reef. Initially we thought of doing the first boat dive but it’s a little rush and we couldn’t make it in time. But that’s not a bad idea either for some of them to have the checkout dive at the house reef to get used to diving again.

But that was just as well as a number of them have not dived for a while and a check out dive at the house reef is not a bad idea. And indeed the first dive started quite funny, particularly also because it was the first shore dives for some of them. The topology of the land was quite unlike the other place I’ve dived at. From the shore, it’s a long shallow bottom of knee/waist high water which stretches out perhaps around 50-100 metres, followed by a wall with a sharp drop to a depth of around 50-60 metres.

It took a while before GT and NE got their fins on and off we go, slowly finning out on very shallow waters. Then at one point when I turned back, I saw GT holding one extra fin in her hand. Apparently one of NE’s fins came undone and GT picked it up. Okie, we stopped and got that fixed. Then GT suddenly realised she dropped her camera. So me, GT, NE and RL turn and fin back towards to resort. No luck. I thought we’re finning off to the side. Fortunately I seem to recognize the patch where we put on the fins and head back there to begin finning out again towards the drop off. And wala! Saw the camera entangled among some corals just a couple of metres away, right in my path. Hoho.  I’m now a “search & recovery” diver. :p

Phew! With all that behind us, we finally start our dive. By the time I assist GT and NE to descend, VT, VA and SC is already long gone. But the DM, G is still around waiting for us. And off we go! The reef was teeming with life and there are a lot network pipefishes and ringed pipefishes around. Gives me the feeling of déjà vu where I saw the two network pipefishes on the first checkout dive in Sipadan, except that there were much more of them here. It just 10 minutes into the dive before the DM pointed out one orangutan crab on the bubble corals! Awesome! It’s one of the creatures that I’ve been hoping to find for so long. Also saw various different nudibranches and a painted frog fish. What a great start!

About halfway into our dives, we saw VT and gang heading back. GT and NE then proceed to ascend with them and for some reason, the DM also signals to RL to ascend with the group. And then it’s just me and the DM for the rest of the dive. Cool!! I’ve always dream of having a “personal” guide. Really the most ideal way to dive, with the DM spotting stuffs nearby while you’re busy shooting your photos. Awesome!

On our way back to the resort on the really shallow water, I also saw a couple of razor fish and ended up following them around a little. And just when I’m about to get up and walk, we saw a snorkeler getting some photos of a nudibranch. Woah! This is yet another species which I’ve never seen before. *Click click click*

Razorfish (Aeoliscus strigatus) at Blue Abyss House Reef (2m)

Slender Roboastra (Roboastra gracilis) at Blue Abyss House Reef (0.5m)

Dive 2 – White Beach

Dive: 84
Duration: 68 mins
Avg Depth: 9.72m
Max Depth: 20.7m

Our second dive was at White Beach located not far from our resort. Apparently that is the only stretch of beach around Moalboal where you get a fair amount of sand but for us, it’s all diving on the wall. The water was quite calm for some relax diving along the wall. After the morning checkout dive, most of the divers in the group have gotten more comfortable and didn’t have any major issues with the diving.

Like in the first dive, I was delighted to find out that the pipefishes (Network and Ringed pipefish) can commonly be spotted along the wall. Prior to my last Sipadan trip, I’ve hardly ever saw them. Then I saw two in Sipadan and now they’re all over the place here! Perhaps they have always been around except that I never notice them previously? But despite their commonality here, I haven’t managed to grab any good shots of them as they’re usually swimming around. Oh well, lots of opportunities to try I hope. 

Network Pipefish (Corythoichthys flavofasciatus) at White Beach (17m)

The DM pointed out an anemone that was host to quite a few tiny commensal shrimps. As I’ve always like crustaceans and other tiny macro stuffs, I spent quite a bit of time at the anemone.

Peacock-tail Anemone Shrimp (Periclimenes brevicarpalis) at White Beach (15m)

Twinspot Blenny (Ecsenius bimaculatus) at White Beach (11m)
At one point during the dive, somebody pointed out a nudibranch which I’ve never seen before nor am I able to positively ID it from my references. It seems like a rare find and is certainly not from the various families of nudibranches that I’ve commonly seen. It’s not difficult to see, from how closely the nudibranch matches its surrounding, why I’ll likely missed this if it was not pointed out.

Towards the end of the dive, our DM waved me over from a distance. As my mask was somewhat flooded, I didn’t saw what he found before I accidently spooked the creature into its hole and it doesn’t seems to reappear. I went off after waiting for some time. But it looks like lady luck is on my side after all and it pays to stick around. Just before I’m going to ascend, I saw a few divers around the hole taking pictures. Awesome, it’s a golden mantis shrimp and my first time seeing this species of mantis shrimp. 

Golden Mantis (Lysiosquilloides mapia) at White Beach (5m)

Dive 3 - Blue Abyss House Reef (Dusk dive)

Dive: 85
Duration: 63 mins
Avg Depth: 7.86m
Max Depth: 13.7m

Instead of the scheduled 4pm shore dives, we went in the water slightly later after 5pm for a sunset dive. In the first dive, we explored the right side of the reef (wall on the left) and we’re exploring the left side for this dive. There has been quite a number of spotfin lionfish and many pairs of toby all along the reef. The tobies here were larger than the ones I’ve saw previously. I have always find them very beautiful and the ironic thing is I didn’t get a single shot of them in this trip despite their commonality! :(

Saw some nudibranches and one flatworm. Unlike the nudis, it seems like I hardly see the flatworms around. Along the way, I saw the sailor’s eyeball algae and finally remember to grab a shot of it. I’ve seen these algae all over the place in my previous dives at different location but never really bother taking a shot. I still remember when I first encounter them, I was thinking to myself why are there so many metal or lead shots dumped everywhere on the reef, and if they were from the boat crews. It’s only subsequently when I read about them did I realised that each of the “balls” were a single cell algae. I never knew a cell can grew that big. :)

Script Flatworm (Pseudoceros scriptus) at Blue Abyss House Reef (14m)

Sailor's eyeball algae (Ventricaria ventricosa) at Blue Abyss House Reef (11m)

Towards the end of the dive, somebody spotted a green sea turtle resting on a ledge near the top of the wall. It didn’t take long before it was surrounded by all the noisy bubbles blowing divers. Before I got a chance to shoot, it decides to take its leave graciously. Was it Sammy? It was a friendly turtle! Finning along the reef in a relaxed pace that’s just slow enough for us to keep up. Without much thinking, I switch to video mode and start filming. As it was getting very dark, I try to aim focus light onto the turtle while I fin along. Haha! I was wondering how I managed such a good job lighting up the turtle with that light until I realised after the dive that the rest of the divers in the group is slowing turning on their torches and aiming it at the turtle as we fin along. I must say I had great fun with the video. Never have I multitask that much at the same time to fin sideway and trying to keep pace with it, trying to keep the camera aimed at the turtle, checking the dive comp in case I accidently followed it to the surface and checking the front to avoid crashing into rocks or corals. That’ll be real nasty if I ended up sticking my face into some urchins or ramming into a huge boulder while shooting.

After a while, I stop following and say good bye to the turtle. By then it was almost totally dark and we slowly head back towards the resort. For once I’m feeling a little chilly and definitely hungry.

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