Saturday, March 19, 2011

20 Feb 2011 - Dive 8 to 11 at Tuble, Pescardo and house reef

Dive 8 – Tuble Reef

Dive: 90
Duration: 49 mins
Avg Depth: 11.92m
Max Depth: 22m

The sky was relatively clear compared to the morning before. Water wasn’t too choppy and the visibility was quite decent. This should have been a beautiful dive along the wall of a healthy reef. But as it turns out, it ended up quite an awful dive for me and hence nothing much to report for this dive. For that matter, except for a short video clip of a moray, my camera turns up empty!

It started quite alright. I begins my descent by just a huge exhalation without even needing to vent air from my BCD (there wasn’t much air in the BCD to start with anyway). And I routinely add some air to maintain neutral buoyancy as I get deeper. So far so good. But strangely as I went back shallower, I seem to be having difficulty releasing the air from my BCD. Though the Dive Rite Transpac with Voyager wing was relatively new (2nd trip using it), I never have issues with it previously. I’ve tried releasing via the inflator hose and both dump valves, wiggling and squeezing in all manners I can but somehow I still seem quite buoyant with trapped air in the BCD. No, I didn’t accidently drop my weights or anything that makes me more buoyant than usual. Fortunately it wasn’t bad enough to get me floating up to the surface but it did irritate me enough. Well, it just feels weird and it wasn’t really enjoyable having to breathe with an emptier lung to stay down at shallower depth (2-3 metres with 50 bar left in the tank). Usually towards the end of our dive, we’ll stay around in the shallows near the boat. But it just wasn’t much fun for me and I decide to call it quits after a while. Hopefully the next dive will be better.

Dive 9 – Pescador Island

Dive: 91
Duration: 82 mins
Avg Depth: 6.52m
Max Depth: 15.5m

Oh yes, we’re heading back to find the sardine bait balls! The sea was still somewhat choppy but was certainly much brighter with the mid-afternoon sun. This time round, we’re heading straight for the sardines without any marathon finning. Before we jumped in, the DM briefed us that the sardines are just slightly further up from the boat. Woah, great news for us! Oh boy, I can’t wait to get into the water.

And the moment we descent to the top of the wall at around 5-7 metres depth, we saw all the sardines right ahead of us! The number of them is just mind boggling and beyond what I can accurately describe. Just settling down somewhere on the reef on top of the wall, we can see them practically everywhere around us. You can literally see a whole wall of them in front, to the sides and/or behind you most of the time. And if you lie down relatively flat and still against the reef, they can literally swamp over you, stretching almost to the top of the water and blocking the sun out. Imagine a "solar eclipse" by the sardines! As we move about on the reef, often we end up not being able to see each other as our vision are blocked by the sardines. Apparently these are the slightly smaller sardines that move in closer and over the wall in shallow waters to seek better protection from the predators. 

School of Goldstripe Sardine (Sardinella gibbosa) at Pescardo Island (8m)

School of Goldstripe Sardine (Sardinella gibbosa) at Pescardo Island (6m)

And in addition the already huge schools of smaller sardines over the wall, there’s also many bigger sardines away from the wall out in the blue. For a while, I did try going down deeper down the wall to try seeing where the ball of sardines end but without much success. Even when I was down at around 15 metres, there was a lot more of them down in the deeper abyss but because my buddy is up over the wall, I didn’t really want to venture down too much on my own. Similarly, I’ve also tried to see if I can venture out and penetrate through the sardine balls into the blue without much success either. There was just too many of them and the visibility was rather bad with lots of particulate in the water (which I suspect many of which were the excrements from the gazillion of sardines around me). Hence even at just perhaps 10m or so out from the wall, I could barely make out the wall when I turn around (and the sardines still stretch out as far as my eyes can see into the blue). I didn't want to get lost out in the blue and thus I quickly turn around and heads back to the wall. Interestingly on the way back up the wall, I saw a big opening in the wall with a number of divers sitting inside it. There’s some kind of a ledge at the front where it may be possible to rest your arms or legs on when sitted inside. Thus from outside, it looks like a bunch of people watching some performances from the theatre box office. Unfortunately I didn’t have my tickets (the hole was already full) and I had to settle back up the wall in the circles seat. :p

School of Goldstripe Sardine (Sardinella gibbosa) at Pescardo Island (6m)

School of Goldstripe Sardine (Sardinella gibbosa) at Pescardo Island (6m)

School of Goldstripe Sardine (Sardinella gibbosa) at Pescardo Island (6m)

So essentially, we spend the whole dive watching in awe at the huge number of sardines in constantly changing formations. There were some tunas hunting them in the blue. And over the reef, there’s also some barracudas hunting them near the water surface. Towards the end of the dive, the current starts picking up. Me and RL was still staying around as we saw some other divers (which I realised later that it was from another boat!) still around until I check the time and realised we’ve over shot the maximum of 70 minutes given by the DM. There’s some problem finding our boat as the view is blocked by all the sardines and we surfaced up at the wrong boat. Phew. And down we go again and fin hard against the current which is starting to make it quite strenuous to fin against. I ended up almost sucking my tank dry with all that extra work but this dive was definitely worth all the effort. This was just such an awesome dive!

Dive 10 – Blue Abyss House Reef

Dive: 92
Duration: 55 mins
Avg Depth: 11.24m
Max Depth: 16.1m

There weren’t much people on this 4pm house reef dive. GT had her grand finale and finished her last dive with the sardines while RL decide to make use of Blue Abyss WIFI to get some work done. Most of the rest probably have enough of the house reef to do another shore dive so it’s just me and VT, each with our DM. How nice is that!

The boss, KG, had earlier spotted 2 leaf scorpion fish in the morning and decides to return with his video camera for some shooting. VT and KG went ahead first for the dive while I waited for our DM, G. When he’s finally ready, we head straight into the water and make a dash towards the northern side of the wall. After some finning, we finally saw them in view. Looks like they’ve found a white warty frogfish and is doing some shooting there. After we arrived, VT and KG then continue further up north while we do our shooting. Unfortunately the froggie wasn’t quite cooperating and was always facing into the coral in the opposite direction. After some time, G signals to move on.

And again some more hard finning, we saw BT and KG ahead again. Awesome! Looks like KG managed to relocate the leaf scorpion fish that he has found earlier that morning! There are two of them, one white and another black. I’ve saw the white and pink variation before but it was my first time seeing one in black variation. This was just great. Just around this huge rock and coral, there’s two leaf scorpion fish on two sides of the rock, and a rather cooperative common lion fish beside the rock. Just about nice for each of us to have our turns to shoot/video the creatures. Great! :)

Leaf Scorpionfish (Taenianotus triacanthus) at Blue Abyss House Reef (13m)

Leaf Scorpionfish (Taenianotus triacanthus) at Blue Abyss House Reef (13m)

Common Lionfish (Pterois volitans) at Blue Abyss House Reef (13m)
When I’m done, G and I heads back towards Blue Abyss while VT and KG continues with the shooting. It was a long way back and I was desperately trying to stay up with G. Phew, we’re both using jet fins but he was just so much faster. And suddenly at one point, he stops and fins downward. Oh boy, he’s stopping by at the earlier uncooperative frogfish again. It still wasn’t cooperating so I’ve just quickly grab one or two shots as a bonus as I didn’t actually expect to see the froggie again. After the dive, G told me I can try to look for it again in my night dive and there’s a table coral to the right and some other stuffs to its left. Phew. I didn’t even remember the froggie position in the day so I doubt I can recognize the spot for the night dive. I guess that’s why he’s the DM and I’m the leisure diver. Really need to brush up more on my navigation and recognition of the reef structures should I ever want to try being a DM in the future. :p

Warty Frogfish (Antennarius maculatus) at Blue Abyss House Reef (13m)

Dive 11 – Blue Abyss House Reef (Night dive)

Dive: 93
Duration: 56 mins
Avg Depth: 10.81m
Max Depth: 15.9m

It was our 2nd night dive and this time round, it was just I, RL, VT and NE going for the dive. Without our eagle eyed DM, we spotted slightly lesser critters than the day before but it was still a wonderful dive with plenty to see. Like the night before, we started the dive heading towards the northern side of the wall.

VT spotted a number of moray eels in this dive. Looking back, I realised we didn’t really see much moray around in this trip so far. Besides the morays, we also saw quite a number of various crabs, shrimps, prawns and some other critters which I couldn't identified. At one point I saw some “tentacles” moving from under some crevices and was getting excited, thinking I found an octopus or something. But what emerged was a brittle star. It was my first time seeing one of these interesting creatures. All along, my impression of sea stars is very slow and hardly mobile creatures but with its very long arms, this brittle star is literally “running” along the reef. Unfortunately I wasn’t quite prepared for its sudden movement and it quickly ran off and disappears before I remember to grab a video of it.

Anne's Chromodoris (Chromodoris annae) at Blue Abyss House Reef (14m) during night dive

Hydroid Decorator Crab (Hyastenus sp.) at Blue Abyss House Reef (13m) during night dive

Hermit Crab at Blue Abyss House Reef (10m) during night dive

A gentle current started picking up a little halfway through the dive but it didn’t really bother us too much. On the contrary, the growling stomach is urging us to head back to dry land for our dinner.

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