What a wonderful December we have had, weather was hot and sunny with a few rainy days to cool things down a bit. Sea conditions were excellent for most of the month with visibility averaging at around 18-20m and often sitting at 25-30m. We had one bad spell mid month when for five days we experienced thermoclines and the viz dropped to 8m! Not sure where that came from but we were all glad to see it go again when conditions returned to normal and water temperature was back up to 26-27 degrees Celsius. Father Christmas certainly knew where to find us, in the ocean! We were spoilt with many wonderful gifts this December.
There were lots of turtle sightings at Aerial Reef; one was when Luca was enjoying the first dive of his PADI Open Water course. We were busy looking at some clown fish in an anemone when we saw a loggerhead turtle swimming slowly in our direction, it came closer and closer and even closer, and it looked as if it had not seen us at all. We stayed right where we were and eventually it saw us and turned away, only to do a full circle and come back to see us again, we looked at one another and had a good chuckle. Josh was also doing his first open water dive when he got to stroke a hawksbill turtle, it was munching away on the reef and almost swam right into Josh, so he reached down and gave it a tickle, the turtle did not even flinch, in fact I think he enjoyed it! An unusual turtle sighting was of a loggerhead that had a satellite transponder stuck to its back; it was stuck on with bright blue glue, so it could be seen from far away. (This turtle was seen at Elusive a couple of days earlier). Another wonderful turtle sighting at Aerial was a brief and frantic chase to see a leatherback turtle. Judy saw a big black shape across the sand and swam closer to have a look at what it was, when she realised it was a leatherback she signalled frantically to everyone and they swam to catch a fleeting glimpse as it headed off out to sea.
Other great sightings at Aerial this month have included a leopard shark resting on the sand at the edge of the reef; a guitarfish which actually followed us for the entire dive, every time we looked across the sand, there it was; two manta rays which also seemed to follow us along the reef, we first saw them on the northern end and then later as we had crossed to the southern section they came in time and again, circling and sweeping along the sand, whilst feeding. We watched them even while at our safety stop and did not want to get out of the water.
We had a magical dive at Brewers Garden, 30m viz; fish everywhere, a spotted eagle ray, a big school of about 15 bull rays and 4 bottlenose dolphins! We even got to snorkel with the same 4 dolphins after the dive; they were just hanging around in no rush to go anywhere.
Elusive was also magical this month with sightings of a green turtle, a female loggerhead turtle who was tagged, crayfish, schools of snappers, 6 huge honeycomb eels, paperfish, black cheek eels, 2 blue spotted rays, fire fish all over the reef, some hiding under ledges, some out swimming across the sand, in one area there were 6 of them all in a row – this was all on one dive! And as if that was not enough, as we were doing our safety stop I looked down and saw a manta ray, we hung there and watched it and then another one came across the sand and joined up with it before they both swam away together. Lynette, from Singapore, said it was the best dive she has ever done.
The following day produced more gifts for the divers in the form of 2 whalesharks! The first one was about 5m in length and while everyone was snorkelling with it, Clive spotted a second one that was about 8m in length, they were crossing paths and everyone got to see them both.
Snorkelers enjoying Ocean Experience trips were also spoilt with opportunities to snorkel with bottlenose dolphins, a manta ray, whalesharks, white tip sharks, grey reef sharks, potato bass, a free swimming honeycomb eel and not forgetting all the wonderful fish life.
One of the most memorable dives of the month was on the 31st, the sea was flat, warm and the viz was about 20m. We went to Pineapple Reef and as we worked our way along, Catherine signalled that she had seen a shark. We all looked around and saw the grey reef shark. But there was not just one, there ended up being three of them! We were surrounded by slinger, 3 sharks, 3 potato bass and a huge honeycomb eel that was free swimming. We did not know where to look! The eel had been injured and by the bite marks it looked like it had been fighting with another honeycomb eel. It was swimming along, looking for a good hiding place and as it did, the potato bass were hot on its heels, with the sharks circling on the outskirts trying to see what all the commotion was about. We just sat and watched this action packed show, sharks, potato bass swimming through us, schools of fish, we could not have asked for a better last dive of the year!
Looking forward to the New Year!
Wishing you all the best for 2012.
Congratulations to the following divers:
Kombo Magara, Daniel, Benjamin & Andrew Sparks, Charles & Jaques Celliers, Anthony Wilton, Tania Temlett, Byron Losch, Michela Gioia, Gunnar Wach, Hannah Rosling, Rolene & Florian Bauer
for completing their PADI Discover Scuba Diving course
Luca Buzak, Neil & Jason Lumsden, Craig Oehley, Daniella Ellis, Josh Potgieter, Andy Openshaw,
for completing their PADI Open Water Course
for completing her PADI Advanced Course
Yours in diving
Darryl, Clive, Michelle, Mandla, Sipho
The Rocktail Dive Team