A Shark’s Tale (Car Wash, anyone?)

21 Jan

And so a new boat… I’ve been sorry to leave my friends behind.. and of course it’s difficult to integrate into a new group who are still forming.  Over half of the divers are German on this boat, but I’ve fallen in with some very cool divers who are pushing my breathing limits even more (I am on 65 minute dives now.. twice as much as I was before). Rachael, Christoph and Rene are pretty experienced divers, although Rachael has only been diving since October. But they are very good at looking cool and in control.

Rachael has been hospitalised through diving. A scratch on the coral led to an infection in her lynphatic system, and coral was actually trying to grow in her skin. Yeek!

During the dive, though, something magical happens. I’ve always felt at home in the water – although I know that only the air tank and regulator lie between me and drowning, it has always felt very natural. But somewhere, suddenly, the perspective shifts. Suddenly I am not underwater, but soaring over an alien landscape, flying above the hills and valleys of a different world. It’s the closest i am going to get to really flying and with effortless ease I can soar over the coral hills, and then dive over the other side, leaping off the cliff and floating down to the valley below. A few kicks of my fins propels me forwards, and I rise and fall as I shift my breathing. It’s so tempting just to stick my arms out like I’m flying….

But even more treats are in store, and I am so glad I have stayed an extra day. We find a cleaning station – just like in ‘A Shark’s Tale’, fish turn up to be cleaned by the cleaner wrasses, who dart in and out of the fish’s gills and mouth, cleaning off particles that have become lodged there. The client fish will sit there and stick its fins in ‘Park’ while it’s being cleaned. A yellow striped sweetlips is having the full treatment (although it didn’t stay around for a wax and polish).

Diagonally Banded Sweetlips

A shoal of bumphead wrasse (yep, fish with a bump on their head, of course) sail above us in the silver of the surface. A pair of barracuda sit, impassive, observing us, while a slender yellow trumpetfish (more like a clarinetfish, I think) glides past me.

TrumpetfishMoorish Idol

We have to fight the return current (not, perhaps, the best planned dive) which leaves me low on air through the exertion. I share air with one of the other divers to make sure I have enough when I get back on board, while hanging off the mooring ropes. The sea has got incredibly rough while we’re out, although we know nothing of this in the calm and silence under the water.

Later in the day, on the night dive…we find a Moray eel hiding in the shadows, like a dog barking as we pass. We share some moments gliding on the current with turtles, and watch a Napoleon Wrasse, huge and docile, float past. The current on the coral wall is strong, and when we stop swimming, we sail past without effort. Now, suddenly, I am starting to look cool.

Maori Wrasse (2)Moray

It’s a beautiful sunset on board boat – the sky lights up like fire again, and I am awed by the sight…

Sunset on the Reef (11)Sunset on the Reef (10)

Up again early for the morning dive (why did I volunteer for an extra day???) but I’m up before everyone else and in time for the sunrise to reprise last nights display

Sunrise on the last day (15)Sunrise on the last day (17)

 

More diving, then – this time it’s more frantic as they have three dives to get in before 11:30 – short surface intervals mean limits on the depth we can go (to make sure all the nitrogen gets out of our bodies and doesn’t build up

But there’s turtles to be seen…

)Turtle 2

and giant clams a metre across, and different sorts of anemonefish, and boxfish (bet you can’t guess why) and puffer fish (who can only repeat that trick a few times before they die)

Giant Clam (2)Spine Cheeked Anemonefish 2Black Box fishScribbled Pufferfish

And then the final dive… another blue spotted ray slides past me, its wings flapping slowly – and another Moray hides behind a rock, trying not to be seen.

It’s a short dive, but still a very beautiful one, over a low, flat plain. We find Nemo – or, in fact, a pair of clownfish called Tiger and Chicken, for all the reasons you might expect them to be called that.

True Clownfish

And then, we’re back on boat. It’s like being at a cleaning station itself, as we are stripped of our tanks, BCDs and fins (although I wasn’t sure how I should respond to ‘give me your sausage’). The experience is over… but the memories are stored away. An incredible four days, and I cannot wait to dive again – although I have a feeling it’s going to be hard to beat this. Four days. 16 dives. 16 tanks. 5 fin blisters (my toes really, really hurt!). A total of over 6 hours underwater. Millions of fish. Lots of characters from Finding Nemo (and, come to think of it, ‘A Shark’s Tale’). One very happy Timmy.

And it’s a strange place to be, you know, many miles from land, yet the water is only a few inches deep – and nearby foam breaks over the reef, and we know that just beyond there, the sea bed drops away many miles – and it feels like being at the very edge of the world….

Gt barrierimage

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