Diving–Cambodia Style

25 Apr

So, what to do in Sihanoukville for a couple of days? What about diving? It’s a bit of a fledgling pastime out here, but there are a few dive outfits in town. There’s a couple of liveaboards, but they’re not going out til later in the week. What if my passport arrives before then?

So, Eco Sea Dive Cambodia it is then. I’ve booked for four dives, and one night’s stay on Koh Rong Samoen in their eco-lodge there.

Koh Rong Samoen (28)

The boat’s certainly a bit different from the Fijian and Australian diveboats.. a real chugger of a wooden vessel with Captain Bobo at the wheel, a few expats in tow – so with around 10 on board, we’re off to another Cambodian island. Mind you, it’s throwing it down on board the boat with torrential rain, thunder and lightning.

It’s a bit of a mixed ability group, some of them nursing injuries including a recent snowboarding incident. Recent? How can it be recent? I haven’t seen cold weather since April 2010! The divemasters are good, though. and the equipment’s fine. One of the girls dives in as a quick test, and realises to her dismay that she’s wearing her weight belt but no buoyancy aid. Fortunately, she’s quite a strong swimmer, but no marks for intelligence there.

I soon find out that diving here is a bit murky, compared to Oz or Fiji, but there are some interesting fish around. Apparently, if you can’t eat them, they grow to be huge. If you can eat them, then the Khmer probably will.

The rain hasn’t stopped, and neither has the lightning. Dropping below the surface sorts the rain and the thunder out, muting the rumble to a muted distant growl – but the lightning lights up the sea like an overactive photographer. So, what’s down there. The reefkiller, for one – the dreaded Crown of Thorns starfish. Non-one is worrying about this in Cambodia yet – but it could destroy their reefs if they’re not careful.

CrownThorns

Little nudibranchs in various colours, flapping their way across the rocks. Adult batfish (I’d really like to see a juvenile.. such cool fish until they grow up!) and shoals of trevalley, damselfish and more. The visibility isn’t great, but it’s still fun to fly over the crazy terrain – huge sheets of purple coral, green and mauve vase coral.

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Everywhere there are spiky sea urchins, menacing black stars that look like left over antisubmarine mines.. get one of those spikes in your hand and you’ll know about it. They seem to be watching me at every turn, with little white dots like eyes in the darkness just waiting for me to make a wrong move.

sea-urchin

The afternoon yields even more treats.. sea snakes, a family of gorgeous banner fish, purple lipped clams, every sort of sweetlips under the sun, it seems. The water is a balmy 29 degrees – coming to the surface it drops to 26, and we’re shivering – even though I know I’ve taken colder baths.

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And back to the resort. Basic, but nice. Just me and one of the dive crew staying, so not much likelihood of a party. Time for a walk through the village though, and on to the deserted beach at the end – just listening to the waves lapping the shore, and gently bouncing off the rocks. The generator kicks in as dusk falls, and the geckos come out to eat the flies while the cats and dogs rough and tumble around the dinner table. Kids paddle across the bay on boats made of polystyrene packaging.

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And that evening, after the generator shuts down at 9:30, the sky lights up like the gods are at war, bouncing lightning back and forth from cloud to cloud as first of all the sky lights up with the glows of distant warfare, and then bolts of lightning are hurled back and forth, jagged shards of electricity that rip the molecules of air apart as they light up the blue and pink of the sky behind.

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The rain continues through the night, bouncing off the tin roof – I throw the windows wide so I can watch the downpour.

Up early for some snorkelling – not much about, but nice to see the shoals of tiny fish follow me around. Time to sit on the jetty (one of my favourite places) with a friend . . .

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And then back on the boat. Our Cambodian divemaster, half man, half dolphin, leads one of the trips. We find the largest (and ugliest) boxfish I have ever seen at over half a metre long, electric blue stingrays hiding under the rocks, giant shrimp skulking in crevices. There are more crown of thorns sucking the life out of the coral, while shoals of trevally swim round us and huge purple and yellow emperor angelfish pretend to ignore us. Giant shrimp hide in crevices, and pink anemone fish hide in…anemones.

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There are cowrie shells and hermit crabs on the rocks, as we glide across a strange alien landscape dotted with shards of old coral and the ever present sea urchins.

And all too soon, I’m down to 50bar in the tank and it’s time to get back on the boat. A two hour ride back to shore, and another adventure is over.

Let’s hope the passport is on the way soon!

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